Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Interpreting in the Gray Zone: Where Community and Legal Interpreting Intersect

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Interpreting in the Gray Zone: Where Community and Legal Interpreting Intersect

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to review, contrast, and compare non-courtroom legal interpreting practices conducted in the U.S. and Canada and to propose guidelines for legal interpreters who perform their duties outside the courtroom. Following a brief overview of non-courtroom legal interpreting in both countries and a review of the challenges that face interpreters who perform legal interpreting in community settings, the authors will introduce a U.S. project that was created to guide both community and court interpreters who work outside the courtroom. The article will close with a discussion of the impact of interpreter certification on non-courtroom legal interpreting in both nations.

It must be stated clearly that this article does not attempt to promote a programmatic re-categorization of the interpreting field, or a reassignment of the sub-categories into which the interpreting profession may be divided. It is also not an attempt to apply new standards and definitions. It does not address sign language interpreting in detail. Finally, its discussion, comparisons, and recommendations are based solely on the realities of life in the interpreter's workaday world. For the purposes of this article we will accept the premise accepted in many quarters that legal interpreting and community interpreting are in many ways different, though sharing many commonalities.

Section 2 will provide some general definitions, and section 3 will describe the gray zone that is the focus of this article. In section 4, U.S.specific definitions will be provided, and in section 5, Canada-specific definitions. Section 6 will compare and contrast the U.S. and Canadian definitions and practices. Section 7 will introduce a program of training for non-courtroom legal interpreters and section 8 will draw some conclusions.

2. Definition of terms

While the following terms are uniquely defined by laws surrounding them in various countries, we propose generalized definitions which are widely applicable in many countries:

* Legal interpreting is a broad field that encompasses court interpreting as well as interpreting for any other legal process or proceeding.

* Community interpreting is an even broader field that, in many countries, encompasses and includes the field of legal interpreting. Community interpreting has many other names around the world, (e.g., public services interpreting, liaison interpreting, or dialogue interpreting) and is the interpreting sector that enhances equal access to public and community services for individuals who do not speak the language of service. Under this definition community interpreting excludes conference interpreting and most business, media, military, and escort interpreting. Although no single definition of this sector is common to all countries, community interpreting typically refers to interpreting that primarily directly benefits an individual rather than an institution, and thereby allows that individual to gain access to a service.

* In most countries around the world, court interpreting tends to be more established, strict, and professionalized than most areas of community interpreting. Court interpreting is only one area of the broader field of legal interpreting, yet most legal interpreter training in the U.S., and to a lesser extent Canada, focuses almost exclusively on court interpreting. This phenomenon, however, is easily explained. Historically court interpreting was often the first interpreting sector to become organized, and the courts have been the sponsoring institutions for court interpreter training, testing, and certification. Since the courts organized, sponsored, and financed these efforts for their own purposes, i.e., to provide qualified interpreters in their courtrooms, it is obvious--and very understandable--that the courts have focused their efforts on their own institutional needs.

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