Language Interpreters and Examining/ Cross-Examining a Foreign Language Speaking Witness

More often than not, international disputes that make their way to the U.S. courtrooms involve live testimony by a foreign language-speaking witness. In order to effectively examine or cross-examine this witness, a foreign language translator or a foreign language interpreter is needed. However, whenever a third party- namely, a court interpreter, or a court translator,- is brought in to translate sworn testimony, specific rules of evidence apply. When dealing with a witness testimony, which will be interpreted/ translated into English by a court translator, keep these tips in mind:

  • The Court always has the right to appoint a foreign language interpreter of its choosing.
  • The Court Interpreters Act dictates the process of securing a foreign language translator. The Act comes into play whenever the Court determines either sua sponte or on the motion of a party, that the witness’s testimony is restricted due an inability to fully speak or comprehend English
  • A foreign language interpreter does not create an additional level of hearsay. US v. Koskerides, 877 F.2d 1129, 1134-35 (2d Cir. 1989).
  • Even when a foreign language interpreter is appointed, the interpreter does not need to provide interpretation of all the testimony but can be used on an as needed basis. United States v. Frank, 494 F.2d 145 (2d Cir).
  • At the judge’s discretion, it may be permissible to examine a witness through a foreign language interpreter with leading questions.
  • Failure to object to the performance of an interpreter’s service is a waiver of objection. US v. Guerra, 334 F.2d 138 (2d Cir).

To read our earlier court interpreting and legal translation blog entry “Instructing the Jury on Using Translated/ Interpreted Foreign Language Testimony”, click here.  And to read “Language Interpreting & Translation, and Excited Utterances in a Foreign Language”, click here.  And to read our legal translation blog entry “Legal Translation Online, Attorney Translation Services and International Depositions”, click here

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