Court interpreters

Court interpreters are always up for a challenge

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Naruemon Ariyapitipan is also one of the smart and strong women in court. She started her career as a Thai-English-French court interpreter and an interpreter in the Thai judicial system after returning home from Paris in 2003. She was doing professional training as a court assistant in the Court of Appeals in Paris. 

Naruemon’s first case in Thai court was a criminal one in which one party was a South Korean businessman who speaks French.

“I remember this case very well when an interpreter from the opposition party stood up and challenged my interpretation saying the French tense I used was wrong,” Naruemon said.

Court interpreters from time to time experienced undesirable and unexpected incidents. Only professional court interpreters would be up for a challenge. Professional court interpreters will not feel offended when being challenged but respond to the challenges professionally.

Professional court interpreters and challenges

As a court interpreter, I am always summoned by courts directly. Usually, I have no clue about the case. I have to be present at the court 30 minutes before everything starts. By arriving at the court early, I can check at the information desk what case is it, who are the defendants and plaintiffs, and what’s going on. I don’t have much of a problem because I have legal vocabs in my head already. With a lack of proper information about the case, I normally don’t accept the case for fear that I would ruin it during the trial.

Doing an interpretation to make both parties understand the same situation can also be challenging. When each side would like to tell what they want to say, I have to convey the correct messages.

Knowing only the languages that need to be translated is not enough to be a court interpreter. In the case of stock speculation, for instance, I have to know about stocks and how they work. Otherwise, the interpretation could go wrong. If the case is about aviation, I have to have a basic knowledge of aviation that can help drive my interpretation of success.

Court interpreters with legal background

Some court interpreters are also from a lawyer background. Many understand what an interpreter is and perform the duties well. Meanwhile, some interpreters with their lawyer background fail to meet the expectations of being a professional court interpreter.

A court interpreter has to be neutral. He or she has to work in the line of their duties and won’t cross it. No legal advice is made for any parties. Interpreters only deliver the message from one party to another.

Advice to new court interpreters

My advice to those who want to be a court interpreter is to start practicing translating judges’ sentences of easy cases. New court interpreters may need to do a lot of homework before they can perform duties as a court interpreter.

Another best way to practice is taking down short notes while listening to news stories from YouTube.

To become the best in court interpreting, an interpreter needs to develop note-taking skills. When the speaker speaks more than five sentences, it will not be easy for an interpreter to remember everything.

On top of that, court interpreters need to learn “legalese” through court case samples in both source language and target language.

Tips when performing court interpreting

It will not be easy for new court interpreters to deal with speakers who have no idea how to use interpreters effectively.

Skilled and experienced court interpreters can do simultaneous interpretation while the judges deliver the sentences. But during any interrogation or questioning, only consecutive interpreting works best as all messages can be recorded completely.

In the interrogation process before the court, speakers who are not familiar with working with interpreters can make the proceedings worse by continuously giving statements to the court. Court interpreters need to ask the speakers to pause a little or ask questions if things are not clear. More practice will help interpreters make it perfect for the next cases.

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Naruemon Ariyapitipan is now living in Bangkok. She is a very experienced court interpreter, a legal counselor, and a freelance speaker in the legal field.

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