Deposition Needs Interpreter? Be Mindful of these 4 Points

When an interpreter is required for a deposition, preparation is key for success and efficacy. Remembering the following recommendations will help avoid common problems that can occur when using interpreters.

  1. Notice of Deposition: Although certified court interpreters are proficient in language and knowledgeable in legal terminology, they don’t know everything. Would you send a labor attorney to try a civil medical malpractice case? The more information they have about the case ahead of time, the better they can prepare and look up terminology specific to the case. Sending a copy of the Notice of Deposition to the interpreter as soon as possible will allow him to request needed information to properly prepare.
  2. Certified Interpreter: Promoting the use of certified interpreters isn’t self-serving, it makes sense and is the best way to serve the needs of professionals who require interpreter services. Attorneys appreciate that in order to practice law, they must pass the bar. Not every lawyer is a great lawyer, but imagine how bad things would be if anyone could practice law without at least a minimum standard? The same reasoning applies to the reason why certified interpreters who must pass both a written and oral proficiency test should be the first and only option used. That doesn’t guarantee a great interpreter! It just means that you are assured that that person at least meets a minimum standard of proficiency in court interpreting.
  3. Time: Whenever using a certified court interpreter, expect the deposition to take longer (perhaps twice as long, though not always). Professional interpreters will relay what is being said accurately without omissions or additions. They cannot summarize or express personal opinions. Not only are certified court interpreters obligated to accuracy, but also, they must use the same register as the speaker. When relaying the attorney, the interpreter should sound like an attorney in the source language. Likewise, if the defendant has a third-grade education, the interpreter should reflect that in his rendition. Because the interpreter is conveying the complete message in both the source and target languages, build in extra time than you would if you were doing it all in English.  Do not necessarily expect it to take twice as long.  If an interpreter is scheduled for a three-to-four-hour deposition, finishing in two hours results in lost opportunity wages for the interpreter.  My wife has done workers’ compensation depositions for a particular attorney.  This attorney never takes more than an hour on an accepted claim deposition, and never more than two hours if it is a denied claim.  Nevertheless, if you do hire any bilingual person without training, it may take more than twice as long.
  4. Speaking in First Person: Don’t forget that everything is being recorded and must be understood when the transcripts are read. Certified professional interpreters will always speak in the first person as if they are the person being interviewed. If an interpreter begins by saying “he said,” (big rookie mistake!), then there will be a real problem when reading the deposition transcript.  Additionally, the confusion will frustrate the court reporter! Typically, professional interpreters are very good about speaking in the first person. However, lawyers who are not accustomed to working with interpreters are often awful about not speaking in the first person. They often look at and speak to the interpreter instead of the person being deposed. They say things like, “Ask him this question,” or “ask him when he was born.” Those third person comments can result in a ruined and confusing record.  Speak directly to the deponent.

In summary, when you require the services of an interpreter for a deposition, remember these key items for success:

  • Retain a certified court interpreter
  • Send the notice of deposition as soon as possible
  • Provide any information requested by the interpreter
  • Program extra time
  • Speak directly to the deponent

Do all that and you will totally rock that depo!

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