| by Heather Duncan, Esq.

During a deposition it is important that all parties understand each other and communicate well. If a witness does not speak fluent English it may be necessary to have a professional interpreter present at the deposition. 

When an interpreter will be used at a deposition, it is a good idea to keep the following ground rules in mind:  

The intent to have an interpreter present should be included in the deposition notice and/or subpoena and relayed to the court reporter.  It should be recognized that using an interpreter approximately doubles the time it takes to provide testimony.

Government Code section 68561 requires that an interpreter present at a court proceeding be court certified for most languages. Depositions are considered court proceedings under the Government Code. Verification of interpreter certification is the burden of the hiring party and may be waived by stipulation of all parties or for “good cause shown.”

The court reporter should begin the deposition by swearing in the interpreter. After the interpreter has been sworn in the court reporter may swear in the witness.

To ensure a clean record, both the questioning attorney and the interpreter should speak in the first person. In order to avoid speaking in the third person, the deposition questioning should proceed as much as possible as if the interpreter was not there.  

The interpreter is tasked with translating into English exactly what is said in the foreign language and at the same level of discourse as the speaker. The interpreter should not summarize, explain or verbalize his or her personal opinions.

When there is clearly an issue with the interpretation, i.e., after a lengthy exchange between the interpreter and the witness after which the interpreter simply answers “yes” or the interpreter and witness are speaking without interpretation, the court reporter is only to report what is said in English.  It is the responsibility of the attorney to clarify the record.

When a witness uses both English and a foreign language, the record must be clear as to which language is being used. The court reporter may place a parenthetical at the beginning of the testimony such as (All answers through interpreter unless otherwise noted.), followed by a parenthetical noting when the witness answers in English.

See, Court Reporters Board of California “Best Practices for Interpreted Depositions,” 12/5/2014.

See also, California Code of Civil Procedure 2025, et seq.

Network Deposition Services, Inc. provides interpreting and translation services in over 240 languages and dialects. Our interpreters are experienced in all types of proceeding including depositions, trials, arbitrations and medical examinations.

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