| There are many variables || Sep 2, 2007 |
I'm a US federal court interpreter, and the first thing that comes to mind is that every court has its own protocol. Even within the US, each court is slightly different. And inside each courtroom, each judge will have his or her own rules.
If the interpreter doesn't have any equipment, he will be forced to stand fairly close to the person he's interpreting for. I prefer to be right behind them. If there's wireless equipment, the interpreter can actually position himself in the courtroom wherever is most convenient for him, as the protocol allows. If the sound equipment is not wireless, then he is restricted to the length of the wires.
Also, is the interpreter interpreting for the defendant? If so, then everything must be interpreted. It's all done in simultanous mode, except witness testimony (and sometimes sight interpreting), which must be done consecutively since the interpretation goes on the record, and everyone must be able to hear it. What's intepreted simultaneously is only heard by the person the interpreter is interpreting for.
The only time when the interpreter does not interpret everything is when he or she is hired to interpret only for a witness.
In my experience, when I interpret at a trial, for the defendant, I usually sit next to him, or right behind him, while he/she is at the defense table. When he's testifying, I normally stand right by the witness stand. Whenever I've been able to have wireless equipment, I've actually moved around the courtroom to position myself wherever I can see the speaker better. I don't move around a lot, I just find a place that makes my job easier, and move only if someone else is speaking for a long time, and I can't see them. Most judges don't mind this. But, every place is different. I say we should be allowed to do our job the best way possible. For hearings, I usually sit at the witness stand, as long as it's not needed for a witness. If it is, then I sit at the defense table, or I stand on the side, behind the witness stand.
I have friends who work in federal court in the city where I live, who have a place where they must sit all the time, they are not allowed to move. In the next town, we have more freedom to move about, in federal and district court. Some judges are really particular about what goes on in their courtroom, making our job more difficult than it should be with certain restrictions.
I've also interpreted for members of the jury, in which case I sit outside the jury box, so no one is confused, we wouldn't want anyone to think that I was a juror. Whenver the jury retires to deliberate, I go with them, sitting on a chair behind the person I interpret for, again, to remind everyone I'm not one of them. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible.
I also avoid not being too close to the person I interpret for, for many reasons, one of them is that we are officers of the court. At no time we want to give anyone the impression that we work for anyone, I'm not there for the defense, I'm not there for the prosecution, and I don't work for the defendant either, I was hired by the court, and I'm totally impartial. Another reason not to want to stand too close is the obvious one, I don't interpret for civil cases, only criminal ones.
The advice that Eva gave you is excellent. Go observe. I find that if you introduce yourself to the staff interpreters, and let them know that you are studying to become one, they will welcome you. They might even allow you to borrow an extra headset so you may be able to hear the interpretation. That's a really good way to learn, bring a notebook to take notes, and a dictionary. You'll also be able to observe the rules of each courtroom that you visit. Call ahead, speak to the someone at the interpreter's office, and find out when they will have an interpreted proceeding.
Whenever you get an assignment, it would be a good idea to go observe how that particular judge runs his/her courtroom, so that you are familiar with the routine beforehand. If there is an interpreter association in the city where you live, join, it's a great way to network, and get to know your colleagues. Later on, when you go observe their work, you've already met some of them, and that helps.
I hope I've answered your questions, if not, write again! Good luck to you in the future,
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