When it comes to legal cases, it is important that all parties understand each other and communicate well, especially in depositions. A legal deposition is a scheduled appointment where attorneys are allowed to ask questions of the witness under oath before the case goes to court.
It helps both parties prepare their cases by knowing what the basic testimony of the witnesses will be. Sometimes the witnesses do not speak fluent English. It is very important for the witnesses and attorneys to understand each other, so a professional interpreter is brought in for depositions when needed.
Depositions are usually recorded by professional court reporters. Their keystrokes are only effective for the language that the stenographer speaks. In other words, if the court reporter is taking the proceedings down in English, they are unable to make phonetic strokes of testimony being spoken in Spanish. There are no foreign language keys on a steno machine, so an interpreter is necessary for the court reporter's benefit as well.
Ground Rules Here are some guidelines to follow when encountering professional translators and interpreters in depositions. If everyone follows the ground rules, it will make things easier to understand when viewing the written record.
The interpreter should always be sworn under oath before acting as a foreign language translator in a legal case. Many states require it, but it is also common sense.
When a court reporter is present, witnesses and interpreters should be reminded not to speak when anyone else is speaking. This makes it easier for the interpreter to relay the conversation to the witness. It also makes the court reporter's job easier. They can only take down the testimony of one person at a time and must be able to hear and understand what each person is saying in order to keep an accurate record.
When an interpreter translates the question and answer session between the attorneys and witness, it must be repeated as closely in meaning as possible. For example, if the attorney says, "Tell me what time you went to the store," the incorrect translation would be "He says to tell him what time you went to the store." The proper way would be to begin with, "Tell me."
The witness should simply answer the questions as posed honestly and as straightforward as possible. This is not the time to talk about the other people in the room or ask the interpreter's opinion on how to respond because they don't understand the language. The translator may be asked under oath to repeat all information, even if it does not pertain to the questions.