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About Legal Interpreting 關於法律傳譯

Updated: Jan 28

Legal interpreting is one of the major interpreting services in community interpreting. Interpreters are employed in various legal situations where formality, participants, use and goal of language as well as the role of interpreters are different. Legal interpreting covers mainly four legal situations, or domains:


Police interviews and interrogations

During interviews and interrogations, witness statements or suspects’ records are produced, which form the basis of a case and are crucial evidence in court. If qualified interpreters are used, they can be impartial and produce reliable evidence which minimises the risk of being excluded in court. Not only can this boosts police efficiency, but also ensures detainees’ rights to be respected, messages to be recorded and interpreted faithfully with the focus on communication process.


Lawyer-client meetings

Then, in lawyer-client conversations, interpreters found themselves placed between the formal, legal world of lawyers and the everyday-life world of clients. However, the responsibility of bridging the gap and helping clients to understand legal terms are not on interpreters.


Tribunal hearings

Tribunal hearings, compared to court hearings, are less formal without the need to strictly follow the rule of evidence. Instead, it is in a questioning and answering style. Interpreters are more commonly seen in refugee hearings especially relating to asylum seekers.


Court hearings and trials

Qualified and professional interpreters are essential in courtroom settings as specific courtroom language is applied. Lawyers from both parties use language strategically including question types, repetition, intonation, etc. Also, the content, delivery, manner, register and style of oral evidence will affect the final decisions and judgements.


Indeed, the legal situations are not limited to the aforementioned settings. A qualified legal interpreter should be prioritised, considering that they are well-trained for providing accurate interpretation services for different parties.


The accuracy of interpretation is contributable to the level of trustworthiness of the clients and judges’ impression on the parties. It also reflects the competence of interpreters. The following conditions apply. First, interpreters comply with the code of ethics during the interpreter-mediated interaction, where they are not biased in favour of either side. Besides, upon the provision of faithful rendition, interpreters pay full attention to the preservation of register and stylistic features in order to bring out the most accurate interpretation. In addition, when faced with colloquial wordings or obscure cultural terms, interpreters take the active role to clarify any ambiguity.


Despite its importance, accuracy can be difficult to achieve. Firstly, colloquial and metaphorical language are often culturally-bounded. Not only do interpreters need to give accurate rendition, but also be aware of the cultural implications. Besides, interpreters may be overwhelmed by overlapping speech where everyone fights to speak. Furthermore, clients’ speaking styles may also pose difficulties as not everyone speaks in a coherent, structured and chronological manner due to personality or past experiences. There are more challenges that interpreters might come across such as emotional stress, cross-cultural issues and difficult terminologies.

法律傳譯是社區傳譯的主要服務範圍之一。各種與法律相關的情況均可見傳譯員的蹤影,其正式程度、參與者、語文運用和背後目的,乃至傳譯員的角色都有所不同。以下為四大法律傳譯服務:


警察面談及審訊

首先,證人及嫌疑犯於面談及審訊時的口供是重要的呈堂證供。一名合資歷的傳譯員能保持公正無私,使口供更加可靠,把供詞不獲接納的風險降低,從而提升警方的調查效率。


律師與委託人會面

第二,傳譯員在會面中徘徊於正式的法律用語和日常用語之間;但傳譯員並無責任協助委託人理解法律用語。


審裁處聆訊

審裁處聆訊不及法庭聆訊正式,也不須嚴格依循證據法。相反,聆訊以問答方式進行,其中以難民申請聆訊較需要傳譯員,尤其是尋求庇護的個案。


法庭聆訊及審訊

最後,由於法庭有特定的法庭用語,因此必須使用合資歷的專業傳譯員。各代表律師皆會運用提問方式、重覆和語調等語言技巧。同時,口述證供的內容、表達方式、態度、語態及語氣皆會影響判決結果。


當然,法律口譯並不僅限於以上情境。合資歷的傳譯員受過嚴謹訓練,故應優先聘用,為不同委託人提供準確的傳譯。


準確的傳譯能影響委託人的可信性、法官對其印象,及反映傳譯員的語言能力。首先,傳譯員會遵守職業操守,作為溝通橋樑,不偏頗任何一方。此外,傳譯員會根據委託人的語言風格,提供最精準的傳譯。還有,面對俗語和文化詞彙時,傳譯員會要求澄清,以避免誤解。


然而,準確的傳譯卻十分考驗傳譯員的能力。例如傳譯員不但要先注意到口語和比喻中的文化含義,還要精準地表達。庭上的重疊發言亦可能使傳譯員無所適從。委託人可能因性格或經歷而不能連貫、有條理和順序地表達想法,這也為傳譯員設下難關。除上述問題,傳譯員還會面對情緒壓力、文化差異和術語等挑戰。


Prepared by:

CHAN Chak Hong

CHIN Wing Tung

MAK Wing Hei

YEUNG Wing Ting


Edited by:

Dr. Janice Pan


Reference:

Hale, S. B. (2007). Interdisciplinarity: Community Interpreting in the Legal Context. In Community interpreting (pp. 64-98). Hampshire: Palgrave McMillan. doi:https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230593442_3

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