Interpreters: Who They Are & What They Do

February 9, 2011  |  Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd.

The United States is the home to millions of immigrants, many of whom do not speak English or have a limited ability with the language. Consequently, an interpreter has come to be of great importance, especially in the legal aspect of a person’s life.
It is not only important that an interpreter be available for a non-English speaker, but that this interpreter be as accurate as possible. There is a difference when an individual is informed during an interview: “you can leave at ANY time during this interview” and then have the interpreter translate as: “you can leave AFTER the interview is done”. It seems like an insignificant difference; yet, you can see that from the beginning of this interrogation this person was not given the accurate information, possibly causing him additional problems.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch maintains a list of Certified and Non-Certified Interpreters, who are available to be hired by the courts and the public. The court system helps coordinate testing and training of interpreters; as well as, oversees the implementation of policies to ensure that these individuals have completed the minimum requirements.
If you need the assistance of an interpreter you can start your search at the Minnesota Judicial Branch website. When you have found an individual that seems to meet your criteria, take time to familiarize yourself with their background. Here are some questions to ask the interpreter:

  • Are they a certified interpreter
  • Education/Credentials
  • Years of experience
  • Country, city or province of origin

Legal representatives should provide the interpreter with as much information as possible regarding the case and the person to be interviewed. If possible, provide the interpreter with the opportunity to meet with the interviewee before the procedure begins. This will help the interpreter become familiar with the dialect of the interviewee.
Having the appropriate Interpreter available when necessary can make all the difference when dealing with the courts and legal cases.