This is a short summary of a presentation given at the Second International Conference on Quality in Interpreting, in Almuñecar, Spain 2010. The summary my own perception of the presentation and any mistakes in the summary are of course due to my misunderstanding.
Gun-Viol Vik-Tuovinen (University of Waasa, Finland) and Tuija Kinnunen (University of Tampere, Finland) talked about quality in court interpreting, what is the sine qua non, and how can it be reached. They stress that quality can be reached through collaboration. Legal protection requires pre-trial work for many people and Vik-Tuovinen and Kinnunen argue (and I couldn’t agree more) that interpreters should be involved in that process.
The data examined in their study on how interpreters, lawyers and judges perceive interpreting quality and how to get it in the court room, consisted of recorded hearings and interviews with interpreters, judge, lawyer, lawyer AND interpreter, one video-recording.
Interpreters and lawyers are experts in the court room, but they are not experts in the same field and rarely in each others’ field. So the expertise in the court room resides in collaborative activity. Interaction and cooperation is needed between court and interpreter in order to reach the aims for the two parties. Moreover there are cultural differences in the courtroom and the speech register can vary from very simplistic to written legal texts.
Today the initiative lies very much with the interpreter whether s/he will get background documentation in a court case or not. You could describe it as a mutual responsibility for interpreters’ preparation for a court case, but not always a mutual understanding.