Role of a check interpreter in international depositions and trials

The role of check interpreters in international depositions.

We had a deposition on a patent infringement case, where the plaintiff’s attorney was a young and inexperienced monolingual attorney who said he never had a deposition with an interpreter before.

The other party brought a check interpreter who was re-translating everything the main interpreter said. The notorious attorney who worked for many patent infringement cases was making objections to form for every question the deposing attorney asked, and explicitly harassed the interpreter so that the defendant would not give out much information. The deponent was determined to give the minimum information, and intentionally mumbled, probably at the instruction of the attorney. The check interpreter was repeating every sentence, which was a pure harassment, but the deposing attorney did not stop it and just let it happen. In the end, the plaintff got ver little information, as the defendant was determined to disturb the process as much as possible.

It is good to have a check interpreter to help in, but in this case the interruption was intentional and excessive. The attorney should have taken an action to stop it. The experienced main interpreter pointed out what was going on, but the attorney was suspecting the quality of interpreting, just as the defendant wanted. In some trials, the court did not allow the check interpreter to disturb the proceedings.

With the process of globalization, there should be some set standards on the role of a check interpreter. At the present time we just have to rely on the common sense and professional ethics of the interpreter, and when a check interpreter intentionally abandons them, she can greatly aid the defendant by disturbing the deposition. In the courtroom, the judge can make a decision whether to allow it or not.

But in depositions, the attorney should prevent it from happening, which would require that he himself is bilingual. In a worst case scenario, the parties can agree to have a third party interpreter, but that could be more disturbing and the deposition will become a battlefield of interpreters. Some patent attorneys make use of this and make it his first priority to attack the interpreters.

What should interpreters do? The interpreter should remind the attorney of what is going on and ask him to take measues to stop the check interpreter from redoing every translation. The attorney must be bilingual to know what is going on. Since patent cases are usually filed in the U.S., the attorney should check the credentials of the check interpreter and determine whether she is qualified to object to the main interpreter’s interpretation.

And the attorney should remind the check interpreter of the professional ethics of court interpreters in the U.S. However, when the attorney has no experience and doesn’t understand what is going on, the attorney thinks interpreting is not important, maybe our interpreter has a problem in her interpreting, why is she getting upset, why isn’t she friendly, and tries to use another interpreter, who will go through a worse situation.

Some experienced attorneys have won the patent cases just by using a check interpreter, not giving out much information and getting rid of the plaintiff’s competent interpreters by unreasonably harassing them. In order for justice to be done, there is a strong need to set rules for check interpreters at international depositions and trials.  It’s a dirty trick, but in such a case where billions of dollars are at stake, there are attorneys who believe that the end of winning the case justifies whatever means they use.

California courts face interpreter shortage


Federal law enforcement began investigating California’s courts seven years ago after receiving complaints that two Korean-speaking women in Los Angeles had been denied court interpreters.

Courts in other states also were examined and faulted. Along with California, they began working to comply with U.S civil rights law, which bars discrimination based on national origin. Failure to act meant the possible loss of federal money.

But nowhere has the task been so challenging as in California, the most linguistically diverse state in the nation.

At least 220 languages are spoken in California, and 44% of residents speak a language other than English at home. Seven million Californians say they cannot speak English well.

On top of that, California’s court system is considered the largest in the nation, surpassing in size the entire labyrinth of federal courts.

This is not the kind of challenge you can simply meet in three years and then declare victory.


Just finding enough trained interpreters has proved daunting. The state’s courts handle as many as eight million cases a year.

Now two years into its enforcement phase, California’s “language access plan” is pushing courts to provide interpreters for all non-English speakers in all cases.

As of December, 47 of 58 county courts said they were offering interpreters in high-priority civil disputes, including those involving protective orders, child custody and other family law matters, evictions, guardianship and conservatorship and elder abuse.

“The goal is to get interpreters available in all case types,” said 1st District Court of Appeal Justice Terence L. Bruiniers.

“But the reality is we are never going to have enough qualified interpreters in enough languages for every courtroom that needs them at the time they need them,” he said. “That is just not going to be possible.”

California has long provided interpreters for criminal and juvenile cases. The law now says they must offer them also in civil courtrooms.

In the past, non-English-speaking litigants were on their own when they went to court to fight evictions, obtain restraining orders and resolve child custody disputes

Children sometimes interpreted for warring parents. One court employee recalled a woman seeking a domestic violence restraining order having to interpret for her alleged abuser.

Some judges said they felt uncomfortable when they received a one-word translation from an amateur interpreter even though the litigant had spoken at length in his native language.

Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Steven Austin recalled a Spanish-speaking woman in his courtroom 10 years ago seeking a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend.

“He mean to me,” she had written on a legal form.

Austin needed more information to grant the order, but the woman spoke too little English to explain her fears. He rounded up a bilingual person to interpret.

Later he read in the newspaper that the ex-boyfriend had visited the woman’s home. He had a gun, and she called police.

“It was just by luck I was able to find somebody to help,” he said. “It could have been a tragedy.”

The federal probe came in response to a complaint filed by legal aid lawyers on behalf of two women: a sexual assault victim seeking a restraining order against her attacker and a mother asking for child custody and support.

Los Angeles Superior Court denied them interpreters, even they spoke only Korean, the complaint said.

Los Angeles court officials worked with federal authorities to bring in more interpreters, and today the Superior Court is considered the most advanced in the state in providing language help.

Yet even in Los Angeles there are troubles. Just a few months ago an Arabic speaker went to court to try to obtain a restraining order against her ex-husband.

It took four court appearances and months to obtain the order because of the difficulty of getting an interpreter. On one day, an interpreter promised to return after lunch to handle her case but never came back.

During each visit, the woman was forced to face her ex-husband.

“It was incredibly traumatizing for her to repeatedly have to face her abuser,” said Carmen McDonald, supervising attorney for the L.A. Center for Law and Justice, who related the story.

The push for interpreters comes at a time when California’s court system has yet to recover from recession-era budget cutbacks. Courtrooms remain closed and judges’ positions vacant.

But the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have been sympathetic to the language campaign and provided $7 million during the past fiscal year.

“This is a popular issue,” said Austin, the Contra Costa County judge. “I went to the Legislature to talk to people about it, and it was very popular with both the governor’s office and individual legislators.”

The languages for which interpreters are needed are Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, American Sign, Mandarin, Farsi, Cantonese, Russian, Tagalog, Arabic and Punjabi.

But depending on the location of the court, that list expands. It includes Cambodian/Khmer, Japanese, Malayalam, Hmong, Lao and even dialects of the Aleutian Islands.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Manuel J. Covarrubias recalled using “a relay” in one case.

A defendant knew only Mixteco, an indigenous language spoken in parts of Mexico.

The only interpreter who could be found did not speak English. So that person translated Mixteco into Spanish, and a second translated the Spanish into English, said Covarrubias, who has helped lead the courts’ language efforts.

California now has about 2,000 qualified court interpreters but still too few to handle the demand.

Getting certified is a hurdle. Only about 10% pass the state examination. The job pays up to $77,000 a year.

Interpreters must show proficiency not just in everyday language but in understanding and translating legal jargon and expert evidence.

“It is a big jump between bilingualism and the ability to interpret,” said Tracy Clark, who supervises interpreter services for Ventura County courts.

Being able to convey someone else’s thoughts immediately in a noisy courtroom and word for word “is a whole other level of language competence,” she said.

Clark said she has had to fly in interpreters from across the country but sometimes can’t get one “even if I could have found a flight.”

She sends Spanish interpreters every day into criminal and traffic courts, and hires others as needed.

Describing her work so far in a single week, Clark related that on one day she had to find interpreters for three languages other than Spanish, the next day four languages and the day after that seven.

Ventura, Sacramento and Merced County courts are set to begin a pilot project this month in which interpreters will participate in short hearings via a live video feed.

If the project succeeds, it may be repeated in other courtrooms around the state.

The plan has made some interpreters nervous. They say seeing a litigant’s face is important, as is being able to signal the judge if a stack of papers nearby falls, drowning out words.

California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who emigrated from Mexico as a boy, became a legal scholar and joined the seven-member high court after being appointed by Brown, heads a task force assigned to enforce the language plan.

He ran an institute at Stanford University and worked to develop and enforce policy at the White House under two Democratic administrations.

“This is not the kind of challenge you can simply meet in three years and then declare victory,” Cuellar said. “It requires long-term commitment and vigilance.”

Kevin Baker, legislative director of the ACLU of California and a task force member, said he sees “a culture of resistance in a lot of pockets of the courts.”

Judges tend to be tradition-bound and want to move the court calendar along, he said. Getting interpreters takes time and also delays resolution of cases.

Some court leaders also have pushed back on a proposed complaint system for the language plan, he said.

Although state law now requires interpreters in civil cases, some county court websites still limit the languages that will be offered or say litigants should bring their own interpreters, said Stephen Goldberg, regional counsel for Legal Services of Northern California, which represents poor people in civil cases. Some use telephone interpreters, he said.

Interpreters also are only part of the solution.

Court signs must be posted in multiple languages, legal documents translated and court-ordered services, such as a program on alcohol abuse, must be offered in the languages of the participants, judges said.

“The difficulties are real, and sometimes difficulties can be frustrating,” Cuellar said. “But almost everything worth doing is difficult.”


California courts need more interpreters

By: Blaine Correen, Judicial Council

The California court system has 1,883 certified and registered court interpreters on its master list—by far the largest court interpreter workforce in the nation. But it’s not enough.

A recent study conducted by the council reported that 37 of the state’s 58 trial courts said they need more court interpreters to meet demand. The Judicial Council’s Court Interpreters Program estimates that statewide the courts need on average at least 50% more interpreters in most languages.

Language access metrics report - interpreter need - July 2018

Finding the Next Generation of Court Interpreters
Career fairs are one tool for recruiting more court interpreters. Court representatives attend local colleges and chamber of commerce events that attract people searching for opportunities.

“I hear over and over how they didn’t know there was such a profession,” said Sat Franco, interpreting manager for the Superior Court of Fresno County.

Courts even talk to kids in elementary school. In the Los Angeles area, students speak more than one language in 90% of inner-city elementary schools.

“Some kids say they’re embarrassed they speak multiple languages because they want to fit in with the rest of the students,” said Aliyah Hassan, operations manager for the Los Angeles court’s Language Access Services office. “But we tell them their second language is something to be proud of and a skill that could lead them into a lucrative career.”

Many Visitors to Cultural Festivals and Religious Institutions Are Bilingual 
Staff from the courts and the Judicial Council also meet attendees at cultural events and festivals to increase awareness about the interpreting profession. In May, representatives from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County participated in an Armenian festival that drew 1,000 attendees in Montebello.

“It was an opportunity to educate the community about the benefits of learning and maintaining both languages for a potential career in interpreting,” added Hassan. “Many people didn’t know there was demand for interpreters. Hopefully the news will spread by word of mouth.”

The Fresno court has been talking to religious congregations about court interpreting. Religious services often have time at the end of prayers for community announcements.

“I had 20-40 interested people at each location, depending on the size of the congregation,” added Franco. “I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to recruit interpreters at religious events, doctors’ offices, shopping malls, restaurants, or other places where people gather. Wherever I am, if I hear a foreign language, I’ll try to start a conversation about where they’re from and what language they’re speaking.” 

Conferences and Trainings Help Judicial Branch Connect to Potential Court Interpreters
Judicial Council staff sponsor and support training events as a way to help maintain court interpreters’ skills and to reach out to interpreter candidates in other fields.

Earlier this year, more than 200 bilingual people attended three workshops in Los Angeles to become more familiar with careers in court interpreting. The council also partnered with a community services organization in San Diego on mock trial trainings for nearly 100 intrerpreters, and participated in an American Sign Language regional conference in Vancouver, Washington. Other events council staff attended this year included the California Healthcare Interpreters Association Conference in Irvine and the National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators Conference in San Francisco.

Looking to Medical Profession for Interpreters
Like criminal defendants in court proceedings, medical patients are entitled to an interpreter to ensure they understand a doctor’s diagnosis and medical instructions. The judicial branch often recruits those interpreters already working in the medical industry who may want additional work.

“It’s easier and faster to cross-train someone from another industry with interpreting skills than to train a bilingual person how to interpret in real-time,” said Anne Marx, a senior analyst and recruiter in the Judicial Council’s Court Interpreters Program. “Interpreting is much more than just knowing a second language.”

This summer, the council for the first time conducted a crossover training for 40 medical interpreters to learn about the legal field. In addition to trainings, the legal and medical professions have teamed up on many other crossover events and recruiting efforts to help identify qualified interpreters that could serve both industries. (Who said doctors and lawyers can’t get along?)

More Ways to Get the Word Out
The judicial branch has invested in other promotion tools to reach potential interpreters, such as online information, Youtube videos, and ads for print, television, radio, and the Web.

But even if the branch creates interest in becoming a court interpreter, there aren’t enough education programs to prepare hopefuls for the exams and their career, particularly in languages other than Spanish. They are often limited to self-study. This presents a major challenge when recruiting.

“With the exception of American Sign Language, only a few colleges have courses or degrees in interpreting,” added Marx. “The council is trying to offer more training and partner with other organizations on conferences and educational events. We’re also collaborating with the National Center for State Courts to produce more online training.”

For more information or to find out how to become a court interpreter, visit the California Courts website.

A very promising job, medical interpreter

A promising job: medical interpreter  (Dr. Jenny Park, President of LA Translation and Interpretation)

When people immigrate to the U.S., they would usually find jobs lower in status than in their original country due to lack of proficiency in English.  However, there is a job that provides you high and stable income in the U.S. because you are bilingual in Mandarin and English because no American can speak Mandarin as well as you do.  And that is the medical interpreter job.

“Become a medical certified interpreter.  It is easier than becoming a court certified interpreter, and provides a stable job.”  Compare to court interpreting test, medical interpreter certification test is easier because it does not have simultaneous interpreting and sight translation is only for English into Mandarin. Currently, there is a shortage of certified interpreters.  Especially, the state of California adopted      “Language Access Plan” in 2015 which recommended providing court certified interpreters free of charge not only in criminal but also in civil cases.  It has been implemented for 2 years, but due to the shortage of certified court interpreters, currently they are assigned to priority cases only such as TRO, child custody, eviction, guardianship and conservatorship, and elderly abuse.

The situation is worse with medical certified interpreters.  The law provides that a medical certified interpreter should be provided free of charge to all the patients with limited English proficiency, but there are only  25 National Board certified medical interpreters in California. “There should be at least 30 more interpreters to meet the demand for now,” says Dr. Park.

LA translation provides a Certificate in 40-hour training in medical interpreting which is required to take written and oral tests to become certified by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. The school is approved by the state government to provide the program.

“If you are bilingual, you should make a challenge to become a certified interpreter, “ says Dr. Park. “Once you are certified, you have it till you die.  You can work efficiently as interpreter long time after retirement. You can work as freelancer, or be employed by a hospital or a court, speak for and listen for those who are not proficient in English, and you can always learn new things and promote self development.”   Further, for such a good job, the only investment acquired is “my native language and English proficiency” and “a small amount of tuition for the training.”  213-368-0700.

一份有前途的工作:医学口译 Jenny Park 博士,洛杉矶翻译学院 (LA Translation and Interpretation) 校长


“成为认证医学口译。入行门槛比认证法庭口译低,并且能提供稳定的工作。”与法庭口译测试相比,医学口译证书测试更为简单,因为不会考同声传译,视译也仅限于英语到普通话。目前认证口译人员短缺。值得注意的是,加利福尼亚州于 2015 年采用了“语言协助服务计划 (Language Access Plan)”,建议将刑事案件的认证法庭口译服务推广至民事案件中。该计划已经实施了 2 年,但由于缺乏认证法庭译员,目前只能为优先案件安排口译服务,比如 TRO、儿童监护、驱逐出境、监护和接管以及老人虐待案。

认证医学口译方面的情况更加糟糕。法律要求免费向所有英语水平有限的病患免费提供认证医学口译服务,但加利福尼亚州只有 25 个国家委员会认证的医学口译人员。“应至少再增加 30 人才能满足现在的需求”,Park 博士介绍道。

洛杉矶翻译学院有资质授予 40 小时医学口译培训证书,通过笔试和口试之后即可成为美国医学口译认证委员会 (National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters) 认证的译员。本院已获州政府授权,专业提供培训课程。

“如果您会讲普通话和英语,不妨来试试认证口译这份挑战,”Park 说道,“获得认证之后,证书终身有效。退休之后可以长期从事口译工作,可以做兼职,也可以当医院或法院的雇员,为英语不熟练的人架起沟通的桥梁,同时您也可以不断地学到新知识,提升自我。”此外,获得如此好的一份工作,您需要做的唯一投资就是“熟练使用母语和英语”以及“一小笔培训学费”。咨询电话:213-368-0700,电子邮件

Mandarin medical interpreter class

Become a Mandarin medical certified interpreter! Use your bilingual capacity to help people communicate!
Medical interpreters make $50-$100 an hour with a minimum of 2 hours, and help facilitate communication between the patient and the medical provider. You need to take 40-hour Certificate in Medical Interpreting to take the written test, and then an oral test to become certified. L.A. Translation and Interpretation, Inc. provides the training starting from January 13. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Mandarin court interpreting  Sat 9-12 (Starting 1/13-3/17) $590 for 10-weeks
Mandarin medical interpreting Sat 1-4 (Starting 1/13-3/17) $890 for 14-weeks
Court and medical interpreting courses at L.A. Translation and Interpreting.

Arabic medical interpreter class

Become an Arabic medical certified interpreter! Use your bilingual capacity to help people communicate!
Medical interpreters make $50-$100 an hour with a minimum of 2 hours, and help facilitate communication between the patient and the medical provider. You need to take 40-hour Certificate in Medical Interpreting to take the written test, and then an oral test to become certified. L.A. Translation and Interpretation, Inc. provides the training starting from January 15. Don’t miss this opportunity!,
Arabic court interpreting Wednesdays 7-10pm (Starting 1/17-3/21) $590
Arabic medical interpreting Thursdays 7-10pm (Starting 1/18-3/22) $890

Armenian medical interpreter class

Become an Armenian medical certified interpreter! Use your bilingual capacity to help people communicate!
Medical interpreters make $50-$100 an hour with a minimum of 2 hours, and help facilitate communication between the patient and the medical provider. You need to take 40-hour Certificate in Medical Interpreting to take the written test, and then an oral test to become certified. L.A. Translation and Interpretation, Inc. provides the training starting from January 15. Don’t miss this opportunity!,
Armenian court interpreting Wednesdays 7-10pm (Starting 1/17-3/21) $590
Armenian medical interpreting Mondays 7-10pm (Starting 1/15-3/19) $890

Spanish medical interpreting class

Become a Spanish medical certified interpreter! Use your bilingual capacity to help people communicate!
Medical interpreters make $50-$100 an hour with a minimum of 2 hours, and help facilitate communication between the patient and the medical provider. You need to take 40-hour Certificate in Medical Interpreting to take the written test, and then an oral test to become certified. L.A. Translation and Interpretation, Inc. provides the training starting from January 15. We will guide you how to become a certified medical interpreter.  Don’t miss this opportunity!,
Spanish court interpreting Tuesdays 7-10pm (Starting 1/16-3/20) $590 for a 30-hour class
Spanish medical interpreting Thursdays 7-10pm(Starting 1/18-3/22) $890 for a 30-hour class

유망한 직종 공인 의료통역사

유망한 직업: 의료통역사  (엘에이동시통역대학원장 박준희 박사)

“현재 미국전국에 의료통역사공인협회의 공인을 받은 43명의 의료통역사가 있고 그 중 27명이 캘리포니아에 있으며 24명이 저희 학교에서 훈련 받은 통역사입니다”라고 엘에이동시통역대학원장 박준희 박사가 말한다.  “법정통역사는 현재 캘리포니아에 61명이고, 그 중 24명이 엘에이동시통역대학원에서 공부했죠.  합격자는 3명 더 있는 데 한국과 캐나다에서 활동 중입니다.   테네시, 버지니아, 뉴욕에서 온라인 강의를 듣고 합격한 사람도 있습니다.  저희 학교가 생긴 후 시험에 합격한 법정통역사는 한두명 빼고는 다 우리학교 출신입니다.  중국어 통역사도 우리 학생들이 많습니다.”

박준희 원장은 이렇게 타의 추종을 불허하는 성공적인 결과는 자격증 시험의 성격을 정확히 이해하고 학생들의 수준에 맞추어 강훈련하는 것이라고 한다.  특히 법정통역은 동시통역이 당락을 결정하는 데 합격수준에 이르도록 효과적으로 훈련하는 것이 좋은 결과를 낳았다고 하였다.

“현재 통역사의 숫자는 수요에 반도 못미치는 매우 부족한 숫자입니다.”  특히 2015년 가주정부의 “언어 접근 계획 (Language Access Plan)”은 형사 뿐 아니라 민사의 모든 사건에서 법정통역사를 무료로 제공하도록 권장하였고 2년 째 집행되고 있지만,  현재 통역사가 부족하여 접근금지명령, 아동 양육권, 강제퇴거, 보호자 및 관리자 결정과 노인 학대등 우선 순위에만 통역사가 배정되고 있다.

의료통역의 경우도 마찬가지이다.   의료시설을 방문하는 모든 영어 미숙자에게 통역사가 제공되어야 하지만, 공인의료통역사는 턱없이 부족하다.  “의료통역시험은 구두시험에 한영 즉독즉해가 없고 동시통역이 없어 합격하기가 훨씬 쉽습니다.”  준비기간도 법정통역은 1년 과정, 의료통역은 40시간이라고 한다.

“이중언어라면 반드시 통역사 자격증에 도전해 볼 것을 권장드립니다” 라고 박준희 원장은 말한다. “한 번 자격증을 따면 죽을 때까지 가고, 프리랜서로 자유롭게 일할 수 있고, 다른 사람의 입과 귀가 되어 주고, 은퇴해서도 즐겁게 할 수 있고, 늘 새로운 것을 배우고 발전할 수 있는 좋은 일이니까요.”  안정된 고수입의 자기 사업을 하는 데 드는 투자는 “내 평생 습득한 이중언어와” “소액의 교육비”라고 한다.

다수의 법정 및 의료 통역사를 배출해온 엘에이동시통역대학원에서 1월부터 자격증 준비반을 시작하며 이중언어인 젊은 학생들의 참여를 기다리고 있다. 213-385-7781.