David Lauman

What do court reporters and court interpreters have in common?

In Court interpreters and court reporters on April 3, 2013 at 9:26 PM

By David L. Lauman

20/20 Translations, Inc.

Court reporters and court interpreters both play vital roles in a number of legal proceedings.  While there are obvious differences in the tasks performed, I am under the impression that we have quite a bit in common.  Because we often work in the same settings, I believe that it behooves us both to better understand our respective roles and challenges.

First of all, the fact that we do not take “center stage” at proceedings seems to create the impression among some that we play a passive role in the judicial process.  However, we know all so well that without us there are a number of situations in which due process would be hindered.  It could be argued, then, that because of this perceived passivity and a certain degree of misunderstanding about the complexity of our work, it is important that we advocate for our respective professions to ensure optimal working conditions that allow us to put forth our best.

Without a doubt, our tasks are easier when parties speak one at a time in loud, clear voices and regulate their rates of speech.  Conversely, it can be a struggle.   Simultaneously interpreting an “average” rate of speech of 150 words per minute into Spanish during a court proceeding is always a challenge, but 200 wpm or higher can be blisteringly difficult.  Finally, although we must be as non-obtrusive as possible, we sometimes have to interrupt the proceedings to ask parties to slow down.  As we know, whether or not such requests are fulfilled is another story!

In my experience, although out-of-court proceedings such as depositions can involve somewhat different mechanics, many of the abovementioned challenges also apply.  While the reporter might occasionally have time to pause while waiting for the interpreter to render the foreign language speaker’s statement into English, when things get heated between attorneys the reporter might be “flooring it” again just to keep up.  For the interpreter, one of the many significant challenges is recalling the entirety of a witness’s 2-minute long response and rendering it into English without adding, deleting, distorting or embellishing the original message.

Throughout my career as an interpreter I have enjoyed camaraderie with dozens if not hundreds of court reporters.  I welcome your thoughts about any other challenges you believe that we have in common, as greater mutual understanding is of benefit to us all.

Bio: David L. Lauman holds an M.A. in Translation and Interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and is a federal and state court certified interpreter.  He specializes in Spanish translation and interpretation for the legal, financial and medical industries and can be reached at david(at)2020translations.com or 303-667-6082.

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are exclusively the author’s.

©David L. Lauman, 2013

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