Feb 15, 2013

Misunderstood and Undervalued Role of the Check (not Czech!) Interpreter (ATA 2012)

by Etsuko Yashiki Good, Japanese < > English Interpreter & Translator

Did you ever get a call or inquiry to be a Check Interpreter in a legal case?  You began to wonder what the Check Interpreter’s job is in a deposition setting.  So you begin asking your client questions…and you receive little information and no reference materials. But, you are still tempted to accept the assignment, and then you become uncomfortable and nervous about doing the job in the presence of another Interpreter.  Or you might have had a bad experience when the Check Interpreter was too confrontational in their objections and you felt that your rendition was unnecessarily challenged.  You probably wished that there could be a code of conduct for Check Interpreters.  Or maybe you couldn’t bear the stress when you thought about the tense atmosphere surrounding the Attorneys and another Interpreter, and you felt you were the one on trial.  Even though you may have a long career in the language industry, you might never have heard about the “Check Interpreter.”  One of the reasons this type of interpreting is not commonly known is that Interpreters are not at liberty to share the details of a case with anybody outside of the legal proceedings. 

When I saw the title, “Misunderstood and Undervalued Role of the Check (not Czech!) Interpreter,” I immediately thought - this is exactly the session that I am looking for.  In the past I have worked as both an Official (or Lead) Interpreter and Check Interpreter in depositions and I wanted to confirm my beliefs about the role of Interpreter in depositions. Ms. Seat first discussed the litigation process, focusing on depositions as the part of discovery process where the Check Interpreter is typically hired.
She further examined the role of the Check Interpreter from various viewpoints including:
·      The responsibility of both the Official interpreter and the Check Interpreter
·      Use of cultural insights to assist the attorneys in understanding  their witnesses
·      Neutral or advocate?  Assisting your client is your primary job, but you also have an obligation to the Court.
·      Collaborative effort with the Official interpreter and your Attorneys
At one time she remarked that the Check Interpreter is the eyes and ears of your client.  For example, when the witness and the Interpreter have “side conversations” which makes the opposing side uneasy, since they don’t know what is being said or going on, the Check Interpreter can advise the client about what is being said. You may think that the Check Interpreter doesn’t really have to do much and this is such an easy job since the Official Interpreter is the one who actually interprets for the witness.  This may not be the case, Ms. Seat said.

The value of the Check Interpreter is tremendous because they can keep the Official Interpreter on her/his toes in order to ensure that her/his rendition is complete and accurate, and what is occurring  in the deposition room can be monitored, especially for the purpose of cross cultural issues.
Unfortunately it is true that some Attorneys still believe that Interpreters are language machines that can just spit out another language.  As Ms. Seat stressed, it is absolutely critical that you request to have all necessary documents in advance so that you can familiarize yourself with the background of the litigation and terminology.  This can greatly improve the quality of interpreting and boost your confidence as a professional Interpreter.

Her presentation was short and sweet and she clearly illustrated the role of the Check Interpreter.  It was such a valuable presentation since Ms. Seat is a bilingual U.S. attorney with extensive litigation experience. The audience was so attentive that they didn’t seem to miss a word she said.  I think that Ms. Seat cleared away a lot of myths surrounding the role of the Check Interpreter.  It is so important to know what is expected of you and to know what to do and what not to do when accepting a job.  So will you be ready the next time the phone rings for Check Interpreter….!?

Profile of Brenda K. Seat, Esq.
Ms. Seat is a bilingual U.S. attorney with extensive litigation and negotiation experience. She established Shinshu Services, Inc., which focuses on the special requirements of counsel involved in Japanese litigation and negotiations with Japanese participants. She has worked on federal litigation in courtrooms from New York to Los Angeles and numerous international trade commission cases.

She grew up in Nagano city because her parents were missionaries. Our JLD member, Mina Seat is her sister-in-law.

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