Court Interpreters, Consecutive
and Simultaneous Interpreting and Sight Translation

Legal Consecutive Interpreting Services for Depositions

Taking deposition with deposition interpreters requires some basic understanding of the court interpreter’s role in out-of-court proceedings, as well as the understanding of various court interpreting and language translation methods and skills.

Depending on the type of communication being interpreted, trained court interpreters will use different interpreting methods: consecutive interpreting, simultaneous interpreting, and sight translation. To work with professional court interpreters more effectively and to correctly infer why a court interpreter may switch between these methods in the course of single proceeding, attorneys need to have an understanding of these techniques.

The role (active or inactive) played by the non-English speaker during a proceeding determines the interpreting mode used. If the non-English-speaker is a listener and is not required to speak during a proceeding, as may be the case during a trial or hearing (i.e. when the non-English speaker plays a passive role), then the interpreter will use simultaneous interpreting.

In the simultaneous mode, the interpreter contemporaneously conveys everything said in the courtroom – whether by a witness, attorney, or the court – to the non-English-speaking defendant or witness.

If the non-English speaker is required to speak during a proceeding, for example, during direct examination, cross-examination, deposition (i.e. when the non-English speaker plays an active role), the interpreter is required to interpret consecutively. In the consecutive (sequential) mode the interpreter waits until the English-speaking judge or attorney pauses and then renders that utterance into the defendant’s or witness’s language.

The third interpreting mode- sight translation – is the oral rendition of a document written in one language into another. It is used when providing defendants or witnesses with an oral translation of written documents, such as plea agreements or court exhibits.

CAUTION: While some attorneys may view simultaneous interpreting as a way to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a deposition involving an interminable list of questions, please note that the use of consecutive or simultaneous interpreting modes is not dependent upon the attorney’s or the interpreter’s personal preferences. Rather, court interpreters are professionally and ethically bound to use each interpreting mode discerningly. Based on the above, during depositions and during non-English-speaking witness’s court testimony court interpreters are obligated to use consecutive interpreting, rather than simultaneous interpreting.

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