A matter of interpretation: Legal interpretation in Ireland
There is a lack of training and testing of legal interpreters in Ireland, writes Mary Phelan in the April 2017 Gazette.
A demanding role
Legal interpreters should have a high level of proficiency in English and another language. However, the ability to speak two languages is not enough: they also need to master legal terminology in both languages and to be familiar with regional variations in terms of vocabulary and idioms. In addition, they require excellent short-term memory, along with consecutive and whispered simultaneous interpreting skills.
Furthermore, interpreters must be able to preserve the register (for example, formal or informal) used by a speaker. If a speaker makes a false start, or pauses, the false start or pause should be preserved in the interpretation. Interpreters also need to understand ethical principles applicable to legal interpreting. This makes for a role requiring significant training and competence.
However, there is no accredited training for legal interpreters in Ireland, writes Mary Phelan, Chair of the Irish Translators’ and Interpreters’ Association and lecturer in translation and interpreting at Dublin City University. Interpreters are not tested to establish their competence either.
In other jurisdictions where interpreters are tested, the failure rate is high. For example, in Britain, the pass rate on the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting is 20-30%. The assumption in Ireland, where interpreters for the Gardaí and the courts are outsourced, is that anyone who speaks English and another language can be an interpreter.
Given the lack of clear standards, Phelan writes, solicitors and judges need to establish the competence and training of any interpreter, and be mindful of best practice. Phelan sets out useful advice for practitioners on establishing whether an interpreter is necessary, assessing a potential interpreter, and navigating the ethical issues involved.
Read the full article in the April 2017 Gazette