Many law firms work with clients from various countries. When interpreting or translation requirements emerge, companies often feel obliged to ask their inhouse staff for help, as it is perceived to be cheaper, and easier.

Unfortunately, being able to speak two languages is not the same thing as being able to accurately translate sometimes complex, often critical content. Translation is a very distinctive talent that professionals work hard to perfect.

While it is true that more and more people learn and have a very good level of English– it is worth bearing in mind, that when it comes to interpreting one language into another, especially in legal field, you need much more than someone you think is an expert in a particular language.
An interpreter isn’t just a bilingual person; an interpreter is a language expert. They have a deeper understanding of the way language works. They also have training in professional conduct. The interpreter’s professionalism and expertise makes them more than just a person who knows a couple of languages.

A good legal interpreter ensures properly worded and accurate deposition allowing cases to move forward without delay. They are careful to maintain the same tone, inflections and emotions of each speaker, to ensure the message is understood correctly. A good interpreter remains impartial and treats all information as confidential. They won’t be led by his or her personal opinion or views even if they are different from those of the client. And with a background working in the legal field, a good interpreter realises the gravity of legal translation.

I often encourage my clients to hire a professional interpreter with the following statement: “Let your client say what they want to say, not what they are able to say”.

Your client might hold an important piece of information; however when facing a language barrier, they might potentially spend more time and energy on understanding and formulating their ideas and therefore miss the important part. They might find it more challenging to understand an English native
speaker who speaks relatively fast, using legal terminology with their regional accent. Many clients might miss the subtle points and may feel embarrassed to admit to it at a later date. A good interpreter will know how to solve a problem and when it is necessary they will bring an issue to your attention.
Clients speaking their own language are able to express the whole range of nuances, knowing that an expert – the interpreter – is in charge of conveying their message accurately.

The real importance of good interpreting, translation and proof-reading is most obvious when things go wrong. An interpreting job done by colleagues, friends or family may seem cheap at first, but they could prove extremely costly in the long run. Quality is not expensive, but corrections often are.

To summarise the thought on importance of accurate translation and interpretation when dealing with English lawyers, I will leave you with the following statement: Never assume! Always be certain your client understands the questions and options you present to them. Make sure the information is conveyed in full, by a professional interpreter whose job it is, to facilitate a smooth conversation. Speak to your client in their own language, and you will be certain nothing is left to chance.

Beata Mulvaney

Specialist Legal and Medical Interpreter
Polish English Interpreting Services

Tel. 07894912486

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