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Why can’t I interpret for my client? I am bilingual.
Language learning is a lifetime long process. It takes work and commitment to developing specialized vocabulary and understanding of linguistic nuances in two or more distinct languages. That is what distinguishes a linguist from a bilingual. Speaking a second language does not make you an interpreter the same way as taking an anatomy class does not make you a medical doctor.
Would you risk your client’s case to save a few bucks on the interpreting bill? In the case of Willie Ramirez, an 18-year-old who became quadriplegic due to an interpreting error, a misunderstanding of a cognate, or so-called “false friends” (the Spanish “intoxicado” and English “intoxicated”), by an untrained bilingual cost him the use of his limbs, and cost the hospital that misdiagnosed him $71,000,000.
Click here to read more about this case!
What are the risks to your case when using under-qualified interpreters?
Using an under-qualified interpreter can open up your case to challenges and appeals. In United States v. Bailon-Santana, a divided panel reversed a conviction based on an invalid jury trial waiver form which was printed only in English, signed by a non-English-speaking defendant, and translated by his defense attorney.
The court found an interpreter needs to demonstrate language expertise and interpretation ability in an objective manner which the attorney, who originally translated the statement, was unable to do. Click here to read more about US vs Bailon-Santana!
Can using under-qualified interpreters cause appeal issues?
Using under-qualified interpreters runs the same linguistic risks to your case as using a bilingual. Court interpreters are highly trained and undergo background checks and complex testing, including knowledge of ethics governing the profession. Many non-legal interpreting settings aren’t governed by the same formal rules and regulations where, for example, medical interpreters may also serve, in a limited capacity, as the LEP’s advocate. A behavior that may have serious consequences to the integrity of your legal case.