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What to Expect from Deposition Interpreters


Over time, multilingual litigation is becoming increasingly common. In fact, most recent statistics estimate that at least 20 percent of litigants in U.S. courts have limited English proficiency. The use of interpreters presents strategic and legal issues that may not be immediately apparent to lawyers who are used to working in a single language. While there is no legal right to an interpreter in civil litigation, in some cases, interpreters may be necessary to acquire effective testimony. For the purposes of this article, we’ll proceed with the understanding that you’ve decided to retain an interpreter after evaluating the specifics of your case.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what you can expect from your deposition interpreter and offer some tips to help you address common concerns.

Let’s get started!

Understanding the Translation Methods

There are three primary translation methods used in legal proceedings. These methods are:

Simultaneous Interpretation

As the name suggests, simultaneous interpretation is a method in which the interpreter translates for the non-English speaker in real-time. This method is best utilized in situations where the non-English-speaker is a passive observer in the proceeding, rather than an active participant.

Consecutive Interpretation

With consecutive interpretation, each speaker will finish their sentence or statement before the interpreter provides a translation. This method is best utilized in cases where the non-English speaker is actively participating in the case, such as when they are giving a deposition or offering testimony at trial.

Sight Translation

Unlike simultaneous or consecutive interpretation, sight translation is only used for written documents, rather than live proceedings. Sight translation is best used to convey the meaning of important documents or transcripts of testimony.

Noticing the Opposition

Generally, the need for interpreters should be raised in the early stages of litigation to allow time for potential disputes. Be sure to specify that you will be using an interpreter in the deposition notice (although you are not necessarily required to do so under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.)

Preparing the Interpreter

After you’ve retained an interpreter and selected the best translation method for your cases, it’s time to familiarize them with any specialized terminology that will be relevant for the case. Take the time to flag important terms and documents that you expect to use. This is a crucial step for attorneys who are litigating highly technical matters.

Alternatively, if you’re working with a deposition service like First Legal Depositions, you can communicate your needs to your Client Services representative and we will ensure that we have booked an interpreter with the necessary specialized vocabulary.

During the Proceeding

Before swearing in the interpreter, be sure to state their qualifications for the deposition record. Commonly suggested language for swearing in an interpreter is:

“Do you solemnly state or affirm that the interpretation you are about to provide from English to (insert foreign language) and from (insert foreign language) to English shall be true and correct to the best of your ability?”

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading! As the country becomes increasingly multilingual, you will likely need to take and defend depositions of non-English speaking witnesses during your career. We hope we’ve been able to give you a glimpse into the experience of working with a deposition interpreter.  If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it on social media!

When you plan your next deposition, don’t forget to take advantage of our plentiful deposition tools. We provide services including remote court reporting, concierge remote exhibit management, remote videography, and full-time tech support for your remote depositions, arbitrations, court hearings, trials, and other proceedings.

If you have questions on any of our services, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

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