4 Tips for Preparing for a Deposition Where a Translator Will Be Used

Posted: January 15, 2020

If you’ve noticed up a deposition for a witness who’s not a native English speaker, you’ll need to retain the services of a legal interpreter to translate for the record. Obviously, there’s more to the process than just finding someone who grasps the language of your witness. Though there’s a Guide to Judiciary Policy in Court Interpreting published by the U.S. federal court system, the content covers legal requirements and procedural rules. You won’t find much practical advice on how to successfully work with translators and protect the record. As such, here are four tips on how to prepare for a deposition that incorporates interpretation services.

Do Your Homework

Each state and federal court has rules regarding certification and training for interpreters, so review the person’s credentials before moving forward. Besides seeking someone who speaks the relevant language, there are other factors to consider when trying to find the right fit. Translating for a deposition or other legal matters requires strict accuracy, professionalism, and a keen understanding of what transpires at these proceedings.

You may benefit from working with a provider that offers language translation services. Choose one with access to a nationwide network of interpreters that can deliver both fluency in a vast array of languages and the training and expertise to translate specialized legal, medical, and technical terminology.

Prepare Your Client

If it’s your client who will be deposed through the services of an interpreter, explain the process and the role of the translator in detail. You should ensure that your client understands the interpreter is an officer of the court for purposes of the deposition and will not be providing other assistance with testimony. Make sure to stress that the translator is obligated to convey everything your client says, so there can be no “editing.”

Remember Who Is the Witness

Don’t make the mistake of directing questions to the interpreter instead of the deponent. Though you may need to interact with the translator at some points, the focus of your interview should be the witness who’s providing deposition testimony.

Maintain Control Over the Integrity of Interpretation

Depositions proceed according to a formula, even when you’ve retained interpretation services. If you sense that the interpreter is getting off track with his or her role, you’ll need to stop the proceedings and issue a reminder about exacting accuracy. Failure to do so can affect the integrity of the record, since the court reporter will identify the speaker of the words as “Interpreter” rather than “Witness.”

Additional tips for managing the deposition include:

  • Make sure the translator isn’t adding commentary or paraphrasing the witness statements.
  • Facilitate any necessary clarifications to the witness statements.
  • Understand that cultural differences can impact depositions with translators. The best way to handle disputes is to emphasize that the interpreter is expected to translate word for word, cultural principles notwithstanding.

Many of these best practices for working with interpreters in depositions will come easier if you implement one practical tip: Set aside time to consult with your translator and establish expectations. When you’re both on the same page with deposition proceedings, you’ll make wise use of your time, avoid delays, and reduce disruptions. The interpreter is your partner in the deposition process, so treat your relationship with the respect it deserves.