Buenas noches … It´s 10:00 pm and I just started this blog because I figured it was time to start writing about being a court interpreter and the stories that come out of this line of work.
So, what´s a court interpreter, anyway? NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators) has a nice description on their FAQ page: they are people who “… interpret for people who come before the courts who cannot communicate effectively in English. These include defendants and witnesses in criminal courts as well as litigants and witnesses in family and civil courts.”
That´s basically what I do, and my interpreting language is Spanish. (Court interpreters specialize in all kinds of languages but this blog is mainly about interpreting in Spanish.)
The defendant enters the courtroom and appears before a judge. I have to interpret everything that´s said into Spanish, including statements made by judges, witnesses, attorneys, jurors, etc … When it´s the defendant´s turn to speak, I do the reverse. I interpret their statements into English for everybody else in the courtroom. If all this sounds like a piece of cake, it´s not.
One of the main reasons why court interpreting is not well understood by the public is because the court interpreter is essentially an invisible element of the justice system. The interpreter is (or ought to be) a completely neutral entity whose sole purpose is to form a bridge between the non-English speaker and everyone around them. The court interpreter has to “provide a way” without “getting in the way.”