| by Heather Duncan, Esq.
It is important for California attorneys to understand the role the interpreter should play in judicial proceedings, including depositions, involving a party who does not speak English.
California judicial proceedings, must be conducted, preserved and published in English [see CCP 185(a)]. Therefore, the court interpreter is tasked with translating oral proceedings from a foreign language into English. It is not the role of a court interpreter to translate from English into any foreign language.
The interpreter is tasked with translating into English exactly what is said in the foreign language and at the same level of discourse, the speaker uses. An interpreter should not summarize, explain or verbalize his or her personal opinions.
The attorney taking the deposition should address the witness in the first person asking him or her the question directly and then allow the interpreter to translate. The interpreter should translate in the first person only. Any questions asked by the witness or any other party that are to be translated by the interpreter need to be directed to counsel, not the interpreter. The interpreter should not answer any question posed by the witness directly.
Questions and answers are stated twice, once in each language. Objections are also interpreted. It should be recognized that using an interpreter at least doubles the time it takes to provide testimony, whether in deposition or trial.
California Government Code Section 68561 requires use of a court-certified interpreter in any “court proceeding” using a language designated by the Judicial Counsel, except for good cause shown. Sign Language and, the following 12 spoken languages, and sign have been designated by the Judicial Counsel as languages for which there is an exam for certification:
Court interpreters of spoken languages other than those deemed as certified languages are referred to as “registered court interpreters.” A registered court interpreter is one who has successfully registered with the Judicial Counsel of California and is determined to be qualified to serve as an interpreter for a language that does not have a certification program or when a certified interpreter is not available.