Interpreter Resources: Legal Interpreters

This guide points to different types of interpreting and library resources.

What is a Legal Interpreter?

The image shows a deaf man answering a lawyer's questions and an interpreter in black standing by.Check out the University of Northern Colorado Project CLIMB  which offers free legal interpreting materials and products created by the U.S.Department of Education RSA-funded grant project. It includes an ASL Legal Dictionary, webinars, mock scenarios, and activities. A link to their website can also be found on NAJIT, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators. 

This is from the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC) website.  Highly qualified interpreters are needed to work in legal settings—particularly in court and law enforcement proceedings where matters involving high-risk and personal freedoms are often the focus. According to several needs assessments conducted by the NCIEC (2007; 2010), there is a shortage of qualified interpreters to work in legal settings. Therefore, one of the goals of the NCIEC is to promote the training and certification of interpreters in this area of specialization.

Interpreting in the legal setting is a long-recognized area of specialization in the field of ASL-English interpreting. The legal setting is broad and includes law enforcement investigations, interviews and interrogations, client-attorney interactions, and a wide range of court and legal proceedings. Tradition from the field of spoken language interpreting and the legal community contribute to the conventional way legal interpreting work is performed. As well, practices have been conceived by ASL-English interpreter practitioners over time through a process of application of theory drawn from the profession’s scholarship. As a result, patterns of practice and best practices have been identified and guide the work of practitioners in this area of specialization.

Working in the legal setting requires advanced interpreting competence—including the ability to fluently execute consecutive and simultaneous interpreting of complex texts, work effectively in teams—particularly the ability to work collaboratively with Deaf Interpreters (DIs), and to adapt language use to a wide range of sign language users. Further, it requires an in-depth understanding of law enforcement and the legal system.

There are unique parameters impacting the work of interpreters in this setting that are the result of case law, legal and evidentiary procedures. Typically, the knowledge and skills required of interpreters to work in this setting are acquired after completion of a solid academic foundation in interpreting, coupled with multiple years of practice, followed by specialized training in legal interpreting and supervised field experience.

Certification of interpreters in this area of specialization is administered by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and requires that one possess generalist certification, and completion of a set number of hours of training and supervised work experience prior to application. The certification process involves a stringent written and performance exam. More information about the Special Certificate: Legal can be found at the RID website.

Check out the Legal Terminology Video Dictionary. and the workbook Highly Effective Court  Interpreting Teams in Action. You can view legal videos at the NCIEC website through registration and log-in. Here is an Annotated Bibliography of ASL Legal Interpreters. We have many of these materials. Use the RIT Libraries Catalog to find book and conference paper titles. Use the A-Z Journal Finder to find journals and articles. Check out this extensive resource listing of links as well as this resource link related to legal interpreting.

Search for Periodical Titles

Deaf Interpreters at Work-Part 1: Mock Trial

Deaf Interpreters at Work Part 4: Mock Trial

Deaf Interpreters at Work-Part 2-Mock Trial

Deaf Interpreters at Work-Part 5: Mock Trial

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