How My Certified Court Colleagues May Be Sabotaging Themselves

In the past, we had an attorney angrily complain about our independent certified court interpreter. She was furious because the certified interpreter continually paused and reminded her to speak directly to the deponent. The attorney kept forgetting; she kept speaking to the interpreter. After a while, the attorney became frustrated with his constant reminders. She never wanted to work with him again.


I know some uncertified interpreters. I have observed one in action; he is actually a very good interpreter. Though I encourage him to become certified, he demonstrates no interest. He has plenty of work; the courts and attorneys he knows prefers to work with him instead of certified interpreters. These lawyers have expressed to him that many certified interpreters are not only very expensive, but they also are demanding and difficult to work with. The attorneys worry if they speak the wrong way or look the wrong way that they will be rebuked by the interpreter. I have also heard the same complaints.


I understand that certified interpreters have the responsibility to educate others of interpreter ethical code. We also believe that. However, after we explain to lawyers to face and speak directly to the deponent, we don’t keep repeating it. Some attorneys are incredibly absent-minded; dogged reminders of ethical codes only slow down communication, create irritability and bad will. Often, the attorney faces the interpreter and states, “Ask Mr. Rodriguez where he was the morning of the accident.” I would just look directly at the deponent and render, “where were you the morning of the accident?” into his language. Usually, if an attorney continues to formulate questions in the third person, the court reporter will remind the lawyer to direct questions to the deponent.


Many certified interpreters that I have heard complaints about are highly skilled professionals. Maintaining a friendly attitude and being flexible can result in a better attitude toward certified interpreters. The outcome would place certified interpreters in greater demand and other non-certified interpreters would aspire to become certified.


Or is that the case? Next month, please return for the rebuttal to this blog entry by my wife and business partner. If you disagree with me, I appreciate you leaving a comments section. It may offer Emily more fuel for her refutation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 thoughts on “How My Certified Court Colleagues May Be Sabotaging Themselves”

  1. This is an important conversation, so thank you for writing about it! I would assess it as an issue of interpersonal and professional skills, and don’t see it as a dichotomy between demanding, expensive certified interpreters and easy-to-work-with, “affordable” non-certified interpreters
    First of all, from an overarching perspective, I think the tensions you describe boil down to people skills. The root problem isn’t that these certified interpreters repeatedly demand that the attorney speak to the client. The problem is they aren’t reading the room, aren’t doing their job (which is to enable communication), and aren’t letting others do their job.
    You might see this a trend with interpreters who feel entiteled due to their certification; I’m not sure if that’s my experience. I know both certified and non-certified interpreters who are terrible to work with. Lack of professionalism and poor people skills regularly cross back and forth between the certification border.
    My take on the whole telling-someone-to-talk-directly-to-the-client is this: it depends. This is why it’s an interpersonal skill. There are times when an attorney simply will NOT speak directly to the client, and the interpreter should say nothing and just do his/her best. Other times it is completely appropriate to continue to remind. The good interpreter is one who is able to distinguish. It does make me sad that in your experience, it seems that the ones who are mostly unable to distinguish are the certified interpreters.

    1. You know what Andrew? You just explained what I wish I could have said better. Thank you. Next month you are going to see my wife and business partners response. I believe you found the balance I was looking for.
      I did want to mention that I do know quite a few terrible interpreters who are not certified. I just wrote this article because I believe those who are certified should be held to a higher standard and I really do want to see the reputation for them excel so that they stay in high demand and others look to certification a an important goal.

  2. I agree with Andrew. The problem you are describing is not necessarily related to certification, but to skills. It just so happens that you had this experience with a certified interpreter, but it could have been any interpreter who lacks the right skills. I think this post might mislead people into thinking certification is not valuable, or not worth it, as long as you have the skills. I personally find we need to encourage certification, as it raises the standards of our profession, and discourages stakeholders from believing the myth that any bilingual person can be an interpreter. I look forward to reading the next chapter of the dispute 🙂

    Thank you for writing this!

  3. We interpret for those that have not worked with professionals, and and when our pre-session is well done and a rapport is established with both parties, things run smoother. The problem is sometimes that there is ‘no time’ for a pre-session, or is that an excuse for not having one? I believe a pre-session is very valuable and may help in these situations. Of course, those who simply cannot work in the first person may be too focused on their work to understand… and it is up to us interpreters to realize the flexibility required for this work. Each mediated encounter is a different and unique situation. While we do not wish to be disruptive, I believe it is best to act professional and not attempt to become invisible because it is most convenient or less troublesome. It is how most sabotage interpreting. Professional interpreting is not about being quiet and doing as told. It is about being professional and using our interactive skills to be able to negotiate from a place of trust and profissionalism that can only be established in a well-done pre-session. One of the elephants in the room is the level of respect for the interpreter… deal with it head on from the start….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *