Legal Translation and Interpretation: Why It Is Essential in a Fair Legal Proceeding?

Legal translation and interpretation is one of the most complex jobs in the United States Legal System. It requires a strong grasp of English and another language including a varying array of registers or tones that are used within each language by different groups of people. Legal interpreters and translators must be familiar with the proceedings and vocabulary that are typical for a United States Court System. In addition to being familiar with typical court proceedings and vocabulary, legal interpreters must be familiar with the street slang and everyday language that could potentially be spoken by someone outside of the court system.

Accurate and reliable legal interpretation is important for a fair legal proceeding because each side of the case has the right to a fair trial. Webster’s Dictionary defines a trial as “the formal examination before a competent tribunal of the matter in issue in a civil or criminal cause in order to determine such issue”. Using this definition, the importance of the role of a legal translator and/or interpreter becomes obvious. Witnesses, evidence, defendants, and prosecutors are all part of what makes a legal hearing legitimate, and all of these people must be completely understood by the judge, jury, and everyone else involved in the decision making process at the end of the trial.

In a “formal examination” all speakers within the court who speak a language other than English must have both their written and verbal statements translated by an impartial party, in this case, a legal translation services, so that the message does not become distorted for the benefit of either the defendant or the prosecutor.

The second part of Webster’s definition requires all information to be presented to a “competent tribunal”, or a group of people who are wholly capable of absorbing information that is accurately presented by both sides of the trial and later deciding the verdict based on the information given in the trial. Again, this requires that all communication be accurately depicted in English. In order for the tribunal to make a fair decision, they must have received an exact representation of any information that originated in a different language.

The final part of the definition of trial is “to determine such issue”, or in other words, it is the responsibility of the legal interpreter to ensure that all non-English evidence and communication presented in the trial was accurately depicted to the tribunal in a way that they can understand. According to the U.S. Constitution, all persons within the United States have the right to a “fair and speedy trial” and certified legal translation and interpretation is part of a fair trial when one or both parties do not speak English.