Top Four Tips for Attorneys when Working with Interpreters

Language differences should not get in the way of effective deposition taking and good lawyering.  Interpreters are an attorney’s best ally when it comes to bridging this gap.

Here are four key tips to ensure that working with an interpreter will lead to the desired outcome for all parties involved.


1.  Recognize that Interpreters are not Translating Word for Word

Due to grammar structure differences and local word usages, it is a simple fact of language that exact words in one language do not literally translate into exact words in another.  For example, English-to-Spanish translations, and vice versa, have certain words or expressions that do not directly translate.

This is especially true for complex legal questions. What you should expect, then, is an interpreter who will directly translate the meanings and overall concepts in a concise way but not paraphrase.

Legal interpreters are not going to explain the law to the person receiving the translation.  Likewise, the interpreter is not meant to provide an explanation for legal documents.


2.  Allow the Interpreter to Complete the Translation

Pause after each couple of sentences to allow the interpreter to catch up.  Interpreters are required to interpret everything they hear in a way that makes it clear to a non English speaker.  If you ask a question, don’t interrupt and ask a second question before the interpreter has a chance to interpret the first one.  Doing so can create confusion and prevent the process from going as smoothly as possible.

The attorney may have good reasons for interrupting.  It is not uncommon for a deponent to speak English fairly well, making him more inclined to listen to the attorney’s question than the interpreter’s translation.

The deponent, however, may not grasp a key legal concept asked in the English version of the question, which is why it is in the attorney’s best interest to always let the interpreter translate. That way, the deponent will be forced to focus on the interpreter’s translation, which helps ensure the deponent doesn’t answer improperly due to confusion or their attention being dispersed.


3.  Be Aware of Legal Jargon and Abbreviations

A reality of language barriers in depositions is that the deponent may not have a strong command of language, whether that language is English or their native language.

Focus on asking short, simple questions that can be answered in a straightforward way. The legal process is filled with complex jargon and abbreviations that can confuse the deponent.

Even though a certified interpreter may be familiar with this terminology, you need quality answers from the deponent.  Keeping the language simple and concise will help ensure you get the answers you need.


4. Speak with a Measured Tone and Pace

Speak slowly and clearly.  Ask questions at a regular speaking pace to ensure your interpreter gives you the quality assistance you need. This is especially important if more than one attorney is involved in questioning deponents.

Speaking too fast can confuse a deponent, and attorneys talking over one another can hinder the quality of the translation.


Atkinson-Baker Provides Legal Interpreters for Successful Depositions

Keeping these four tips in mind, the takeaway is as simple as this:

Help the experienced interpreter help you by speaking at a measured pace, using short, simple sentences.  The end result will be a successfully translated deposition, avoiding the unnecessary headaches and hassles that can arise due to language differences.

Contact Atkinson-Baker to learn more about our interpreters and other legal support services