Publications Interpreting ... in Practice
Interpreting ... in Practice PDF Print E-mail

Including Hints for Interpreters in the Legal Field



The field of Interpreting is very vast and demanding especially in the legal world. It requires a particular person with particular qualities. Here below I’ll try to give you an idea of what is required in an Interpreter and legal Interpreter in particular. I’ll talk about the difficulties one comes across in that field, self-help hints and knowledge about legal systems with the hope that this might help the newly graduates, the novices, the students and perhaps the teachers in the field as well. I’ll not resort to theories, studies or research, but I’ll use conversational language to outline what I want to say. Now come with me through this trip.


Interpreting in Australia:


Long time ago, the government of this country found out that for economic, social stability and equality interpreting services have to be established to help the needy. So the Government established agencies to provide free translating and interpreting services in many languages. People from any ethnic background who could not understand English (the language of the land) may avail themselves with the interpreting services provided.


From that point on, educational establishments have set up academic courses and an authority for accreditation was also established over 30 years ago. As time went on private agencies sprang up in every State.


Since then the I/T profession went from strength to strength with thousands of interpreters and translators now could make decent living


However, first I have to tell the reader that here in Australia we have around 76 Ethnic groups speaking over 60 different languages. This creates a wide-open field for interpreting and golden opportunities for creating high flying interpreters. True, we have thousands of interpreters covering all language strands. Arabic demand is in the top 6. We have also an authority that tests and accredits interpreters and translators up to professional level and beyond. I’m, humbly an examiner and a language board member of the National Authority as well as a lecturer in the field.


In Australia, the combination of our multicultural society and the fact that non-English speaking migrants and refugees are arriving all the time means that interpreters are needed to assist people with many aspects of their daily lives.





The profession of interpreting is a very old one, it came into existence when the first contacts were established between human groups speaking different languages. It is also one of the finest of professions since its aim is to draw people together and enable them to establish a closer understanding of one another.


By eliminating the language barrier that separates them, the interpreter directly ushers men and women into the thoughts of others, and thus performs the function of an intermediary, enabling their minds to achieve intellectual communion.


There are a number of references to interpreters who were present and their services were employed in ancient Egypt when it was dialing with the Greek conquests, and the Roman Empire.


At a much later date, when the languages in which the Bible and other religious writings were written had become “ dead languages” there was a type of interpreting going on day by day in the churches, synagogues, and other places of worship. The Religious texts were in the original language and frequently a simultaneous reading, often in a louder voice, was given at the same time in the local language understood by the congregation.


History tells us that rival rulers could not hold talks without the aid of interpreters. These forerunners of the political interpreting were frequently people from noble birth or people on whom the highest honours were subsequently bestowed. It was well known that at some courts in the early Middle Ages the profession of interpreting was hereditary, and its exponents were honoured and sometimes feared for the knowledge they had in the course of their profession.


The role of the interpreter, however, is normally to remain unsung and unnoticed and unappreciated by all except those who immediately benefited from his services. We know that at some time in history one grateful Turkish sultan did erect a mosque to his “dragoman” , or interpreter, and in my official visit to Istanbul Universities I was told it is still to be found in Istanbul.


At the beginning of the 16th Century a French Lawyer once wrote several pages about the problem of languages. He wrote “…The best method to facilitating mutual understanding between Christians and Moslems is to have a certain number of wise and faithful interpreters, who speak the language of both parties, and who can explain to the one what the other desires to convey” .


After the Reformation in Europe the French language replaced the Latin in diplomatic circles. However at the peace conference which concluded the WW1, it became apparent that the sole use of French at diplomatic gatherings of this sort was out of date. Many American and British statesmen of the time preferred to speak in English, and many of the representatives of smaller countries in Europe were unable to express themselves in French.


As a result, this was probably the first large international gathering at which conference interpreting in consecutive form first became an official and integral part of the proceedings.


In the years since those peace talks at the conclusion of the WW1 , English has become more and more widely spoken. However, there is still a great need for interpreters all around the world and at all levels in hundreds of languages.






Generally, the term ‘interpreting’ refers to the action of transferring the spoken word from one language ( also called source language - SL) into another language ( the target language - TL) whereas ‘translating’ describes the equivalent activity for written information.





As I have mentioned in previous publications that interpreting is the process of conveying the spoken word orally from one language into another. Interpreting is divided into seven genres:


  1. Consecutive interpreting ترحمة تتابعية

  2. Simultaneous interpreting ترحمة فورية

  3. Dialogue interpreting [also called : three-cornered interpreting, community liaison interpreting ] ترجمة الحوار

  4. Sight translation [despite the fact that it is called translation; it is used primarily in the interpreting field ]. ترجمة عينية

  5. Chuchotage interpreting [ also called whispered interpreting ] ترجمة مهموسة

  6. Telephone & Video Conferencing interpreting [ it is different from conference interpreting that does not use simultaneous interpreting ]. ترجمة تليفونية/ هاتفية وصورية

  7. Voice translation [ also called oral-written translation ] ترجمة صوتية شفهية تحريرية


Consecutive Interpreting:


It is usually used in conferences, courts, group meetings and seminars. Speeches may go from 200 to 400 words at a time. A speaker usually uses conversational language, unless it s a scientific or formal conference. You may use a pad (note-book) and a pen to put down key points of the speech which we call (note-taking). Once you start your rendition you assume the speaker’s personality as well as the para-linguistic features of his speech. Your job also is to grab the attention of the audience and hold it.


Simultaneous Interpreting:


It is usually used in conferences and in some group meetings ( Chuchotage mode) when your client is one person who does not know the language of the speaker. When a conference is equipped with booth for interpreters, two interpreters usually work in tandem relieving each other every 10 – 15 minutes. They use speech control panel that they can switch on and off and on each side so that each of them may take his turn in interpreting. Interpreters are usually seated.


Interpreting in this situation will be simultaneous, i.e. as you listen to the speaker through head-phones and you deliver your rendition instantly. There could be a wait of 1 – 2 seconds between key points depending on the language strand. Usually formal conferences provide the interpreters with the body of the speeches so that terms or unusual expressions and idioms, titles and names of organisations may be researched before hand. If this is so you’ll have such notes handy with you.


If you are interpreting for one person in a group, you’ll be setting next to him/her to interpret simultaneously in Chuchotage mode.


Dialogue Interpreting:


It takes place usually when a client/s, a professional/s are present with an interpreter. It could take place at a school, a police station, a doctor’s clinic, a hospital, a solicitor’s office or any other establishment where a client is unable to use English fluently. This genre of interpreting is also called ( 3-cornered interpreting ترجمة شفهية ثلاثية الأركان / المحاور ) and ( community liaison interpreting ترجمة شفهية للتوا صل بين أفراد المجتمع ) . Here, the interpreter interprets short segments of a dialogue taking place between two parties who do not understand the language of each other. Usually long speeches are not delivered in this type of interpreting.


Sight Translation:


Although it is called translation, the title is misleading. It is mainly used in interpreting situations It is a skilful mode of interpreting. It demands many years of practice to develop this form as an art. It is simply reading a document aloud from one text written in one language into another language. For example, the text is in Arabic, but you read it aloud in …say in English as if it is written in English. Your eyes see the text in Arabic, but your mouth produces it in English.


It is used in many interpreting situations where you are requested out of the blue to look at a document written in language A so you may interpret aloud either the gist of the contents or the whole text into language B. Your rendition won't come in a written form but in a spoken form.


Chuchotage Interpreting:


This mode is used in a situation where you have to whisper to your sole listener whatever the speaker is saying. Usually your listener keeps quiet …does not talk or ask questions. As you listen to the speaker you deliver your version into TL in whispers. There is no note-taking or waiting for the speaker to finish a paragraph or so. This genré is used in courts, in group meetings and workshops when you have one client or so to attend to.



Telephone Interpreting & Video Conferencing Interpreting:


A] Telephone Interpreting in brief:


It is an interpreting that takes place between two parties or more on the phone. This genre of interpreting is a community-service oriented. Generally it takes place between a person or persons who need a quick service from an organisation, an institution, an agency or a government department whose business language is different from the language of the person/s needing the service.


This genre is designed to create a channel of communication between the above-mentioned institutions on the one hand, and the client, who is usually unable to speak the language of the country on the other hand.


The interpreter, in this situation, would be in his office or at home, and the interpreting process is conducted through the phone. The interpreter usually interpret short segments of the dialogue between a client [ non-English speaking person ] and a professional [ a Doctor, Policeman, nurse, school master …etc. ]


In this genre of translation the other aspects of interpreting i.e. body language and other para-linguistic features would be absent unless video interpreting (ترجمة شفهية صورية ) is used . A detailed article on Telephone & Video Interpreting will be published separately by ATIDA.


B] Video-Conferencing Interpreting:


It is the latest form of interpreting communication. And I mention it here because , like telephone interpreting, one party is absent.


In Telephone-Interpreting the interpreter is absent from the triangular scene. However, in the video-conferencing interpreting the client is absent from the triangular scene. Communication between the client and the rest of the parties is achieved through the use of visual technology.


Who uses this form:


This form of communication is becoming popular now with many multi-national and international corporations. It is used extensively now by many government departments, tribunals and courts. All TV stations use these facilities also to communicate with their reporters in the field in remote areas.



Voice Translation:


I’ve already given a full explanation of this genre of interpreting in an article on Translation titled [ Translating ….in Practice ] that will be published soon by ATIDA . This genre is also called Oral-written translation. It is used in very limited situations. It takes place when one needs to convey the spoken word into another language in a written form (long-hand, on a type-writer or a PC). The Interpreter/Translator would listen to a speech, newsreel, recorded investigation on a CD or a DVD, or something similar, then he/she translated what he heard instantly in writing. This genre of Interpreting/Translating is used extensively by news agencies, media watchdogs, home-security organisations, secret service organisation. This type is the opposite of Sight Translation. It is also used by movie-makers to subtitle the movies for foreign viewers. I’ve written a separate chapter on this genre in an article titled (Translating ….in Practice).





The basic principles are:


  1. Professional Conduct : Interpreters shall at all times act in accordance with the standards of conduct and decorum appropriate to the aims of their profession and the standards prescribed by their Associations and governing bodies.


  1. Confidentiality : Professional Interpreters shall not disclose information acquired during the course of their assignments in any form.



  1. Professional Competence : Professional Interpreters shall undertake only work which they are competent to perform in the language areas for which they are accredited or recognised.

  2. Impartiality and Objectivity: Professional Interpreters shall observe impartiality and objectivity in all professional contracts.


  1. Accuracy and Honesty : Professional Interpreters shall take all reasonable care to be accurate and honest.



  1. Employment : Professional Interpreters shall be responsible for the quality of their work, whether as freelance practitioners or employed practitioners of I/T agencies and other employers.


  1. Punctuality: It is vital that Professional interpreters shall be punctual at all times as all parties, in an interpreting situation, rely on them.





The interpreter works in many and varied environments. Some are not formal; schools, doctors’ clinics/surgeries, hospitals, accountants’ offices, Real Estate agencies, tax offices, housing offices, employment agencies and community health services. And some are formal; courts, tribunals, conferences ( national & international), customs' HQ’s, security agencies’ HQ’s, in the company of VIPs, dignitaries and statesmen.





Unlike translators. Interpreters employ mainly their Short Term Memory . The interpreter trains himself to place his language knowledge in a cache located in the short term memory ready for him/her to simply click…drag…and drop [ ..if you are familiar with the computer jargon] on his tongue. This process takes place in his/her mind instantly the moment the speaker has finished his point. Files that include vocabulary, expressions, idioms, phrases, syntax and a variety of antonyms and synonyms, jargons, acronyms etc. are stored there at the interpreter’s command. In handling the above the interpreter employs two powers; the power of retention and retrieval.


Retention: is the ability of retaining information for a while in your short term memory.

Retrieval: is the ability to retrieve such information instantly from short term memory when required. The speed of seeing a letter appearing on your PC screen once you click it on the keyboard is like the interpreter’s speed in retrieving a piece of information from his/her memory.


Man usually retains everything in pictures.. like video-tape or a DVD. When he/she hears few words that represent an idea, his/her brain forms a picture of this idea, then looks for an equivalent one from the language cache to draw the same picture but dressed in a different language and keeps it ready for the interpreter in the short term memory until required.


In sight translation the ability of the interpreter helps his brain convert a picture from language A into one in language B in a flash so much so that the process of decoding, analysis and encoding takes place instantly.


Usually the interpreter is not concerned much with the exact collocations, the perfect semantics or syntax. But he/she dresses up the message into a quick attire of the TL to serve the moment. The interpreter has the confidence to believe in the slogan“… first time right” while the translator usually tries many times to check and double check to produce what is in his opinion “…a perfect translation” .


Usually the interpreter uses effective tools to produce effective rendition, namely para-linguistic features; that is his voice production, the way he moves his body, the way he modulates his voice, his accentuation and attenuation, loudness, pitch ..etc.. All these elements help dress the picture (message) in a different and acceptable form. That is because the interpreter has to grab the attention of the audience regardless of the fact that his rendition is a language-perfect or not. After all it is said that an interpreter is 65% performer and 35% cultured linguist.


An interpreter is able to coin expressions or paraphrase an uncommon idiom on-the-go . He/she is able to convert acronyms in their original long titles or names instantly. He/she does not have time to look them up in a dictionary or glossary. If he/she makes a mistakes he has all the tricks of the trade as well as the professionalism to be able to cover them up, forget them and keep going with the same confidence. There is no time to ponder over his /her mistakes.


Interpreters, are able to use the above-mentioned genres of interpreting all at once in one session. That is why training interpreters takes few years, and to become on-top-of-the-heap interpreters will have to practice daily for many years.





Knowledge of languages is not sufficient to make an interpreter. In addition to personal qualities such as (nervous resistance, readiness of speech, etc) must be added both intellectual gifts ( power of concentration, quickness of mind, excellent memory) and moral attributes ( self-command, a sense of responsibility and public speaking abilities).


Even these essential accomplishments could not produce an interpreter were they not supported by a sound knowledge of the subject. It is no exaggeration to say that the value of an interpreter depends to a great extent on the degree of his culture; a culture rendered all the more necessary by the fact that interpreters, whether working on a national or international level, are regularly in contact with the great political, economic, juridical, and social problems of the hour. There can be no question of interpreting in this field without any knowledge of the subject. The interpreter must not only be acquainted with world current events, but possess a general grounding in jurisprudence and economics. He must know diplomatic history and be familiar with all that concerns national and international organisation.


The interpreter is more of an extrovert; he is not timid or bashful. He is more of a PR man, the one who can interact easily with people from all walks of life. He is soldiered on with some psychological insight into the nature of man’s behaviour. He should be light-hearted with sunny personality. He should be familiar with all levels of language; the language of the street pauper as well as the Queen’s Language ( classical ). His pronunciation should be that of an educated, cultured person in both languages


The interpreter is skilful in using instant variety of alternative expressions, idioms and fillers ( to make up for any personal vocal mannerisms … i.e. Umm, Aaah, rr, Oooh…etc. ). Self-confidence and patience are also essential requisites





Interpreters would require a house-phone, mobile phone ( if not available, a pager would do), a brief case, pads ( note-books). They should also acquire a variety of dictionaries in mono and dual language, a computer with Internet facilities through which they may receive job offers, lots of literature on different cultures, human behaviour, body language studies, national and international political systems, local and national government structures, its organisations and functionalities









The legal system is a network of laws. There is a parliament to make laws ( might not apply fully to Arab countries). Law is rules. Courts make sure the rules are followed. It really is as simple as that. Our law is made for us in parliament, where politicians that we elect (the parliament) are trusted to design the rules that make the country run the way most people want it run. If we do not like the way they are doing it we do not assassinate or launch campaigns of diatribe against them, we vote against them at the next election supported by the opposition parties. This takes place nation-wise (federally) and state-wise. Even local councils (local government municipalities) hold elections and make rules too.




The police sees to it that laws and rules are obeyed. Because the police are trusted to do a special job for the community, they are given special powers that they can use to help them to do the job. Although they are in the service of the people they have the power to lock people up, to take them to court charged with crimes, and also the right to carry guns. Together with these powers come special responsibilities. Since one is innocent until proven guilty, in our system the onus is on the authority to prove one’s guilt.




Hierarchy of Australian Courts



The courts exist to decide what the laws mean, and are also given the job of sorting out who is right and who is wrong when there is an argument or conflict. Courts are also given the job of punishing people who have broken the rules


Because Australia has inherited law from Great Britain, we have what is called ‘the common law’ running alongside the law made in our parliament. This is a system which lets the judge in every case look at how other similar cases have been resolved in the past. This is supposed to make the law more predictable, because anyone wanting to know how a particular case will be decided can look up how a similar case has been dealt with.


There are other specialised courts such as Family Court, Children Court besides High Court and


Tribunals also hear cases. The difference between a court and a tribunal is that a court is more formal, with more elaborate rules about how a case is run. A tribunal, in almost all cases, will be a more straightforward, quicker and cheaper way of trying to resolve a dispute. However, in doing things more quickly, or more informally, a tribunal will not do things less carefully. Instead they save time by using lawyers less and asking people involved in a case to represent themselves.




This court only hears very serious criminal cases, like murder and large disputes over money and business, attempted murder, treason. Supreme court is the final court of appeal. The judges and barristers in this court wear wigs and gowns. It has trial division and court of appeal.


The Trial Division has 19 judges and is presided over by the Chief Justice. Cases are heard in the presence of a jury of 12 people. Civil trials may be heard by a judge alone or a judge and a jury of six.


The Court of Appeal has the Chief Justice and nine Judges and is presided over by the President. It is constituted by 2, 3 or 5 Judges to determine appeals against decisions made by a single judge of the Trial Division




The County Court is the middle level of the court hierarchy, it has a Chief Judge and 49 judges. It hears all indictable offences ( except treason, murder, attempted murder, conspiracy charges) and cases dealing with serious crimes or amounts of money between $25.000 and $200,000, serious theft, drug trafficking and associated offences, sex offences, deception and serious assault. The judges and barristers in this court wear wigs and gowns. Cases are heard by a judge alone or a judge and jury of 6. Either the plaintiff, the judge or the defendant may request that a jury be used.


All the above are divided into Civil cases and Criminal cases.

The County Court can also hear appeals from the criminal jurisdiction of the Magistrates’ Court and the criminal and the family divisions of the Children’s Court.




The Magistrates’ Court has a Chief Magistrate, five Deputy Chief Magistrates and a number of other magistrates. Where the Magistrates’ Court hears the case, it will be either a summary offence or an indictable offence heard summarily.


Summary Offences are minor offences including: traffic offences, unlawful assault, drug for personal use, indecent language.


Indictable Offences Heard Summarily are serious charges including: theft, robbery and burglary.


Types of proceedings in this court are pleads and hearings. Pleads: the defendant admits to the charge and pleads guilty. Hearings: The defendant does not admit the charge and pleads not guilty.






It had two divisions; the Family Division and the Criminal Division.


THE FAMILY DIVISION deals with matters including interim accommodation orders, protection orders, care orders, revocation of supervision orders.


THE CRIMINAL DIVISION hears cases where children aged between 10 – 17 years at the time of the alleged offence. All children charges can be heard in this court except

murder, قتل مع سبق الإصرار

attempted murder, محاولة القتل مع سبق الإصرار

manslaughter, قتل بدون سبق الإصرار

arson, جريمة الحريق عمداً

culpable driving causing death مذنب فى قيادة سيارة مسببة للموت


which are all heard in the Supreme Court.




The Coroner’s Court is presided over by a Magistrate ( حاكم جزاء ) ( all magistrates are appointed as coroners ) who is responsible for investigating all Reportable Deaths. A “reportable death” occurs when a person dies:

  • Unexpectedly;

  • From anything other than natural causes;

  • From an injury or in an accident;

  • Where their identity is not known;

  • While held in an institution, prison, a drug or alcoholic rehabilitation centre or by police; or

  • During an arrest or as a result of an anesthetic





The Family Court, and the Federal Court, hear different sorts of cases.


The Family Court deals with divorce, custody, access to children, property, and some matters closely related to a family law dispute which would normally be heard in another court.


The Federal Court looks after cases to do with the Federal Government, such as trade disputes, industrial disputes including strikes, bankruptcy and so on.





The High Court is the most senior court in this country’s system. It usually only hears appeals, which are cases that have already been argued in other courts, but where the judges either could not agree or there is thought to have been a serious mistake made. The only cases that go straight to the High Court are disputes between governments. If the States are arguing, or the Federal Government wants to do something the states are not happy with, then the High Court can decide what is allowed and what is not.






Being exposed to the public from all walks of life, you (the interpreter) have to look after your appearance especially when you’re on the job. You shall be dressed appropriately as the occasion demands. Formal dress is required in courts, tribunals, formal conferences and when in company of state dignitaries and VIP’s.


In addition, personal hygiene is essential; you should always smell good but not stifling. For female interpreters, they should not be overly dressed. Jewelry and cosmetics should be kept to the minimum. They should wear comfortable shoes; not too high not too tight.


When using a pad (note-taking book) choose one that does not feel or look funny; easy to flip over, it should not be in the way, use it inconspicuously. Have a click-on-click-off pen. Have an easy access to both of those items on you


When an interpreting situation requires you to keep standing, make sure that you do not make funny posture unwittingly. Never show that you are tired or scared or bashful. Beware of making faces at whoever is speaking unintentionally. If it is a hilarious scene act with reservation and poise, If it is emotionally charged scene hold your feelings and be self-composed. If it is sex or sexual deviation matter is discussed, do not show your personal disgust


Act professionally at all times. When you walk about in a court room ( for example) do not look sluggish, move briskly with your head high. Your voice has to be audible to everyone as this para-linguistic feature is vital in interpreting. Your personal opinion, attitude, cultural or religious views should not interfere with your professionalism… suppress them with a smile. Always look at whoever talks to you in the eyes, never with your head down





Interpreters always use the first person in interpreting. Interpreters never say “.. ah the doctor says that such … and such” . They always assume the role of the speakers whether they are professionals or clients, using first person address.





Courts are a very formal environment especially in courts with systems inherited from Great Britain, and interpreters have to be at a very high level of their profession graceful and elegant


Here I’ll give you a live scene from a Court. Lets say it is a Supreme Court scene:


The Set-up


The Court Room is usually a large room ( ..or auditorium), very opulent and ornate architecture inside with two doors separated by a wall. They are for entry and exit of the public, police personnel, witnesses, lawyers (solicitors & barristers) and interpreters. You as an interpreter go in …say through the left one. What will you see?


  • Right on the opposite wall is the ornate insignia of the country and justice;


  • The Judge in his colourful formal gown and wig. On his right hand a door where the jury come through. On his left a door where judges and their legal staff come through.



  • The Judge’s seat is placed on a higher platform; the highest one in the room.


  • In front of the judge is his desk, computer, documents and few law volumes.


  • On a lower level, in front of the judge’s desk is his clerk, who is usually a junior lawyer.


  • On the left hand of the clerk is the Witness Stand. On the clerk’s right hand against the wall is 12-seat stand for the jury.


  • There is a microphone in front of all the above mentioned people.


  • In front of the clerk’s desk a space, then a large desk/table where barristers ( for the prosecution and defense) set facing the judge. On their desk a huge number of law books and references and microphones.


  • Behind the barristers’ desk is another table where solicitors (lawyers) set to provide clerical assistance to barristers. On their table all copies of the Acts, case files, reports and legal annotations. Remember that : Barristers are the ones who do the talking for defence or prosecution. Solicitors: are the ones who prepare documents and files for the barristers and brief and take statements from the people involved in a case.


  • Behind all that are some seats for the public.


  • Still behind the public’s seats, against the wall that separates the two exit doors, is the Dock where the defendant stand facing the Judge.


  • There are also some balconies (gallery) for more public around the walls that face the Judge. Remember that Judges are Gods in their courtrooms, they over and above law and governments


  • Witnesses usually wait outside the courtroom until they are called in.



Where would the Interpreter be?


You, the interpreter, are usually booked by either the solicitor or the barrister’s office. It could be either for the defense, prosecution or for witnesses. You’ll be setting beside the person who booked you ( solicitor or barrister). Usually the public do not book the services of interpreters in this country.



A Court Session in Action:


  • You usually arrive early, ask for the name of the person who booked you, introduce yourself before the start of the session. Get the Solicitor/ Barrister to brief you about the case on hand.


  • If the court system in your country is not familiar with how to use the interpreter ask the solicitor/barrister to inform all parties ( including the Judge) that “for a successful interpreting each party has to talk in short paragraphs”. They always respect that.


  • Now, you are setting with the solicitors, behind the barristers awaiting their request for you to start interpreting.


  • Now the Clerk (Registrar … in his formal colourful uniform) of the Judge stands up to announce the entrance of His Honour the Judge saying “…all rise please” . Once the judge is seated he/she motions all attendants to be seated, they never sit down before he does, it is a taboo. Remember that you or any one in the room will have to bow and walk backward few steps before leaving the courtroom should it becomes necessary to do so.


  • In the corner of the room next to either of the exit doors is located a booth for audio/visual recordings. There are usually TV monitors around the room to view some visual evidence, exhibits , or for remote audio/visual conferencing.


  • Once everybody is seated, The judge usually has a chat with his clerk (registrar) in connection with the case. Then he/she talks to the barrister regarding some details or explanations of some legislation or a reference in the common law.


  • The Judge will then explain to all attendants in the courtroom the proceedings in the case on hand. Then he/she would motion you to stand up and repeat your name and the language of your expertise. He would then ask you to swear either on one of the sacred books or use an affirmation as follows:


  • MUSLIM INTERPRETER “.. Do you swear with the sacred Koran in your hand, before Allah, that you will and truly interpret the evidence to be given in these proceedings to the best of your skills and abilities” Please say “.. I do” .


  • CHRISTIAN INTERPRETER “.. Do you swear by Almighty God that you will well truly interpret the evidence to be given in these proceedings to the best of your skills and abilities” Please say “…I do” .


  • AFFIRMATION “…Do you solemnly, sincerely and truly declare that you will well truly interpret the evidence to be given in these proceedings to the best of your skills and abilities” Please say “.. I do”.


  • The witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs are asked to make an oath as well, each according to his/her choice.


  • Now, the Judge may motion you to go beside the person who needs interpreting (witness, defendant or plaintiff). You’ll be given a written oath to sight translate it to the Non-English Speaker (NES) [ more than often the Judge’s clerk would read the whole oath aloud and you’ll have to interpret it after he/she has finished].


  • Now the Barrister for the Prosecution will put to the court the details of the charges and the counts if any. Here you use Chuchotage interpreting, which is a simultaneous genré ( but before that you should tell the person you’re interpreting for that you’d whisper to him and that he should not speak or answer…. Just listen). When the cross- examination starts you will use the straight liaison interpreting mode. Usually cross-examination is longer, harsher with the witnesses because both the plaintiff and defendant have their own barristers to speak for them, they do not need much of interpreting.


  • When the time comes for the display of the exhibits of evidence ( they could be documents, bullets, knives, pieces of cloths, drugs or any kind of weapons…etc.) you’ll be there if the barrister, or the judge addresses the defendant or witness.


  • If it happens that a witness is the one needing interpreting, the judge will motion you to go near by the witness stand.


  • Most of the trial time will be spent on questions and answers and display of exhibits. You’ll use straight interpreting and very little Chuchotage. Remember to have a decent size note-book and a user-friendly pen.


  • Either of the barristers will end his speech with a long finale called "closing speech" ( about 250 – 400 words) here you’ll have to use consecutive interpreting where your note-book and note-taking system are essential


  • By lunch-time ( 12.30 pm) the Judge will announce a break for lunch “…Court will be adjourned until 1.30 pm for lunch) he announces.


  • I suggest you go with your solicitor/barrister to have a decent lunch to replenish your energy and prepare for the second half of the day.


  • A case may go for few days, weeks, months or even for few years. You could be called to interpret in all sessions of a case as court system prefers to use the same interpreter all the way in the same case.


You notice that you may use the straightforward interpreting, simultaneous interpreting

( Chuchotage ) and consecutive interpreting all in the same session.


This is a thumb-nail picture of the role of interpreter in a court case. It is said “…if you make it in court …you can make it anywhere.”



People The Interpreter Deals With in the Legal World.


Bailiffs – حاجب المحكمة

Judges – القاضى

Plaintiffs – مقدم الدعوى/المّعى/المُشتكى

Defendants – محام – خاصة فى انجلترا / أستراليا / أيرلندا / نيزيلندة

Solicitors – محام عام خاصة فى إنجلترا / أستراليا / ايرلندة / نيوزيلندة

Lawyers – محام وكيل قضائى خاصة فى أمريكا

Attorneys – مرافع

Barristers – QC’s (Queens Council) “ highest rank of barristers” – مرافع ملكى

Juries – المُحلِف / عضو هيئة المحلفين

Witnesses – شاهد

Court Registrar - كاتب المحكمة






The reader should try to coin comparable expressions and phrases into his/her native language.


Addiction to Illegal Substance

After the fact

Aggravated Assault

Armed robbery


Attempted Rape



Charge of Man-Slaughter

Circumstantial Evidence

Contempt of court


Court Proceedings

Custodial Sentence

Drink-Driving charge

Drug Dealing

Drug Pushing

Drug Trafficking

Exhibits 1, 2 & 3


Forensic Evidence

Fraudulent Activities

Habeas Corpus


High Treason


How Do You Plead?






Make Oath


Mitigating Circumstances

Money Laundering

Murder of first degree

Murder One

Negative Gearing Fraud

Non-custodial Parent



Remanded in Custody

Session Adjourned

Sexual Assault



Suspended Sentence

The burden of proof

Unconstitutional Superannuation Rollover

V.I.O. (Violence Intervention Order)


Witness Protection Programme

Your Honour

Your Worship



I hope you have benefited from the above snap-shot on Interpreting. It is a vast field and one can not write everything about it in few pages. Good Luck!