The Linguist

The Linguist 52,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 11 of 35

FEATURES LEGAL INTERPRETING Let's get physical In the first of a series looking at the physical conditions for interpreters, Trinidad Clares Flores looks at the challenges for linguists working in a legal setting The physical environment of a legal interpreter can range from a large courtroom to a tiny interview room at a police station, a prison visiting room, a solicitor's office, or even a corridor. This can pose all sorts of challenges, as the interpreter has got no allocated space.1 At police stations and courts there is generally a lot of waiting around. However, as legal interpreters do not have a booth or any other designated space, such as the barristers' robing room in courts or solicitors' waiting room in police stations, we usually have to wait where members of the public wait. This means not having a quiet area where you can check glossaries or read relevant materials, or where you can relax without worrying that the defendant or witness might approach you. There is also an issue of personal safety here. In some police stations, officers are happy for you to wait in the 'appropriate adults' room or even to use the solicitors' waiting room, which also means you have access to a telephone (mobile phones don't always have good coverage). In other police stations, you might end up sitting in a room full of seized cannabis, as was the case for one colleague. In court, the interpreter has to be next to the defendant as they will be working either You might be working with defendants charged with serious offences or who behave in extreme ways 12 The Linguist When defendants are having their charges read to them or are being released, interpreters usually have to stand in the busiest part of a police station, close to the custody suite, where suspects are being taken in and out of the cells. Safety first © RUSSDUPARCQ | DREAMSTIME.COM in chuchotage (whispered) mode or in short consecutive mode. This means standing when the defendant has to stand (for example, when giving evidence) and sitting when the defendant does. As you are whispering in the person's ear, it also means having your body twisted for long periods of time (sometimes whole days), which can become quite uncomfortable. In the consultation or interview rooms at police stations, the chairs are usually screwed to the floor, which means that the interpreter is forced to sit either next to the suspect/ witness or next to the police officer, something that has always made me uncomfortable because it makes it harder to maintain the appearance of neutrality. Sometimes, the only way to avoid this is to stand in the middle of the room, which may not be appreciated by some bossy solicitors or untrained officers. Generally, officers are happy for you to decide where to sit and will make allowances for the fact that you may not want to sit next to either them or the suspect. AUGUST/SEPTEMBER As a legal interpreter, you might be working with defendants charged with very serious offences, or with people who find themselves in extreme circumstances and therefore behave in extreme ways. A suspect who has self-harmed in the cell and is suspicious of the police, for example, might display quite aggressive behaviour. You may find yourself leaving the police station at the same time as a suspect you have just been interpreting for. This can be quite unnerving but, in my experience, police officers are generally cautious and will let you out via a separate door, or even walk you to your car if it is an unsafe area or late at night. Experienced interpreters will avoid the problem by asking if they can wait for a few minutes, or perhaps by pretending to receive a phone call as they are about to leave. Unfortunately, most legal professionals are not aware of the importance of making sure that interpreters are not left alone with clients. This poses some risks to safety but it can also pose a risk to the quality of interpreting, as the client may provide a lot of personal information. A situation when the interpretation is contaminated because the client has shared information about his/her personal situation with the interpreter has been described as the 'red sock effect'.2 I believe that, as interpreters, we should try to educate the client so they understand

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 52,4