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A Day in the life of a Legal Interpreter

The day to day life of a Legal Interpreter is filled with many challenges, and can be quite stressful, given that the majority of the work is done on the fly, in a live situation. You can’t rewind a live conversation or statement! Courts are required, by law, to appoint Legal Interpreters whereby a defendant, witness or otherwise, is unable to communicate with the rest of the court, either by language barrier, or handicap, such as deafness.

It is an ever evolving role, one in which you are constantly learning. The job can be very rewarding, both personally, and financially, and it is a position that is highly in demand. The seriousness of the job cannot be understated – the interpreter has to ensure impartiality at all times, and will be one of the main cogs in the justice process. There is also a lot of research work that must be done prior to cases, which is conveyed below in the example “case study”.


Let’s take a look at what a day in the life of a Legal Interpreter may involve:

As stated previously, the role that an interpreter has is high pressure – Imagine, if you will: a case comes up that is very high profile, and has attracted significant media attention. This only serves to ramp up the pressure on the shoulders of the interpreter, as his or her every translation will be under intense scrutiny. This case also happens to be a personal injury case, so there will be medical terms and jargon being stated, which the interpreter will need to insure are translated – this is of upmost importance, as if something is “lost in translation”, a case may swing either way, right or wrong, and justice may not be served.

If the interpreter makes a mistake, no matter how small, you can be sure this will be brought to the attention of the judge by either the defence or prosecution without delaying!

The interpreter will need to have done significant research prior to the case starting, reading case notes, and trawling through dictionaries and thesaurus’ to ensure they are up to date on both the source and target languages.

There may also be other factors that need researching also, based on how the injury happened, as there may be “industry specific” terms being thrown about, which the interpreter will have to be able to translate. So, you can see why the preparation in the build up to the case is so important also.

Also, the person who’s speech has to be translated may have a personal flair that the interpreter will need to overcome to ensure that what he or she is interpreting back is the exact translation, with nothing added or taken away from the statement in question.

Another role, other than with foreign languages where an interpreter will be required, is where a witness or suspect is a deaf or hard of hearing, who communicates through the medium of sign language.