Professionals specializing in court interpretation and translation provide an extremely important service during criminal justice proceedings. However, despite these professionals’ best efforts, controversy over the interpretation of testimony or translation of legal documents frequently arises in court cases.
Mark Cohen, a New York defense attorney with Spanish fluency, remarked that interpreters encounter occasional difficulties when interpreting for people who come from a different region of the Spanish-speaking world. For example, Mr. Cohen noted that when a South American interpreter assists a client from, for instance, the Spanish Caribbean, the interpreter might struggle with slang words or phrasing unique to that region. To avoid this problem, it is advisable to secure the services of a court interpreter who hails from the same region as the person requiring language assistance, whenever possible.
Defense attorney Arnold J. Levine noted that a question that crops up during jury selection is whether potential jurors can put aside their personal knowledge of a foreign language and accept the interpretation and/or translation presented by the language professionals involved in the case. Jurors who come to doubt the accuracy of a court interpreter’s performance can have disastrous effects on a trial – including the declaration of a mistrial.
Read more at the New York Times’ City Room Blog.