25 Dec /12

Legal translators – what a difference a phrase makes

legal translators interpreters2012 has been a challenging year for Britain’s legal translators and interpreters. The Ministry of Justice’s privatisation of courtroom interpreting services has been castigated in one report after another, with a string of trials abandoned and many experienced interpreters boycotting the process.

With an increasing proportion of defendants and key witnesses speaking languages other than English, it’s never been more important to offer faithful, impartial communication through professional translation and interpreting. But regardless of the problems faced in this country over the past twelve months, one could argue that the most compelling argument for rigour and vigilance came seven and a half thousand miles away at the height of a volatile summer.

This July a news story was published which many people initially suspected of being a hoax. The story detailed a single phrasing error in the translation of the constitution of the Tamil National Alliance, one of Sri Lanka’s leading political parties. Working from Tamil into English a translator produced and certified a document which called for Sri Lanka to be divided into two separate sovereign countries, one for Tamils and one for Muslims. The document directly challenged the Sri Lankan Constitution, whose Sixth Amendment prohibits political parties from seeking the establishment of a separate State. With that one phrase Sri Lankan politics, so often a powder keg, had found a fuse and a light. Fortunately a retraction soon followed. The original document had called for a measure of autonomy for the Tamil people, but not for a separate state. Uproar and potential bloodshed had been caused by simple human error.

In the first quarter of 2012, 182 trials in UK magistrates courts were reported as being ineffective due to interpreter availability issues. In addition, the Ministry of Justice central contract required all courtroom interpreters to have enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks but in many cases interpreters were assigned to cases with no such checks being undertaken, and little or no verification of their previous experience. EVS Translations has prospered by leaving nothing to chance for clients across all sectors. Legal translation and interpreting projects are entrusted to teams of skilled, qualified linguists with a finely tuned understanding of the intricacies of the legal process. The consequences of ratifying an incorrect translation might not always be as far reaching as those in Sri Lanka, but EVS Translations treats every client and every translation and interpreting assignment with equal diligence. When every word and phrase matters, when every nuance can influence the outcome of a case, clients deserve nothing less.