Court Interpreters: Giving Voice to Justice

By: Jack Xu

Legal proceedings are often referred to as legal battles and courtrooms are compared to battlefields where language is used as a weapon.

As language professionals, court interpreters play a fundamental role in providing access to justice and that is the reason why they are expected to bring the highest level of skills and professionalism to their work. Only by having the highest level of competence, can an interpreter provide the highest level of service.

MCIS designed the Advanced Court Interpreter Training Program (ACIT)  to help our learners gain that highest level of skills and respond not only to the challenges of the Ministry of the Attorney General’s court interpreting test, but also the challenges the interpreters are faced with on a daily basis while providing their services in all levels of courts and legal settings.

All of us who facilitate the ACIT course are seasoned professionals and MAG accredited court interpreters and we all focus on providing a positive learning environment where we not only share our professional experience, but also guide the students through carefully designed exercises that reflect the reality of interpreting in courts and legal settings. Court interpreters have to demonstrate the highest level of fluency in both source and target languages, a thorough knowledge of legal terminology, complete understanding of the key players, court decorum and etiquette, the ability to take quick notes and to switch from one mode of interpreting to another without hesitation. To answer to these demands, our students practice consecutive and simultaneous modes of interpreting through audio materials and language labs developed based on actual court cases and do sight translation of most commonly used court documents.

Performing their duties in a highly tense and emotionally charged environment, interpreters face a number of challenges to which they must know how to respond and at the same time adhere to the code of ethics and standards of practice of their profession. For that reason, the ACIT course integrates examples of ethical dilemma scenarios, a mock trial and a voir dire practice that always leads to lively discussions and a lot of sharing in the classroom.

After “getting the feel of it” and practicing in the classroom setting, we take our learners on an organised, guided tour in a Superior Court of Justice, where after a short presentation and Q&A session with a Judge, the learners will have the opportunity to observe real court proceedings and also see experienced court interpreters in action.

I have had the opportunity to be deeply involved in ACIT since its inception, developing content and putting together the materials and facilitating the course and taking my students to visit the Superior Court. All this fills me with so much pride and joy. It has been a tremendous pleasure for me to work with so many highly motivated and dedicated professionals who have decided to join ACIT and expand their professional experience by working in legal settings. My biggest reward is when I see my students become MAG accredited, witness them demonstrate the highest level of professionalism and skills in courts, giving a voice to everyone involved in court proceedings, which provides access to justice.

Meri Petrov

MCIS Facilitator & Interpreter