"To have another language is to possess a second soul." -Charlemagne
Interpretation is a demanding, meticulous, highly specialized and exciting field. It requires great mental stamina, flexibility, extensive general knowledge, and native fluency in the languages interpreted.
Court interpretation requires all of the above, plus an intricate knowledge of the justice system, its terminology, and equivalent terms in the target language. Court interpreters adhere to a strict codes of ethics for interpretation in a legal setting, and must have the ability to work well under pressure.
Who uses court interpreters? Courts, attorneys, law firms, insurance companies, law enforcement, and others who need to know that what they and their interlocutors say is being transmitted as faithfully and as accurately as possible. Court interpreters are used for depositions, attorney-client conferences, criminal, civil, or juvenile proceedings.
Court interpretation is a developing field. Many languages still have no court certification, but interpreters may hold other qualifications that guarantee their competence as court interpreters. The more common languages for which interpreters are used in the United States judiciary are Spanish, Haitian Creole, Navajo (for all of which there exists federal certification), Arabic, Mandarin, Farsi, Hmong, ASL (American Sign Language), etc.
Why should I pay for a certified court interpreter? There's someone cheaper all the local attorneys use, and "she's really good.” How do you know that an interpreter is “really good” unless you are fluent in both languages, and versed in the protocol of legal interpretation?
A dialect of what? Mayan? Indigenous American languages are as similar to Spanish as French is to Korean: do not assume that your Latin-American client is fluent in Spanish. Also, as a result of historic political oppression, at times, indigenous Latin-Americans tend not to “rock the boat” by requesting language assistence, or even by asking for clarification if they don't understand something. To them, it may seem polite and correct not to do so, expecially when dealing with the authorities.
Language fluency must be assessed, and then a different interpreter located if needed.
Sometimes, in the case of exotic languages, relay interpreting is required:
Kanjobal speaker < > Kanjobal/Spanish interp. < > Spanish/English interp. < Court
How is court interpreting different from court reporting? While courtreporters deal with two languages (shorthand and spoken English), interpreters deal with two languages that differ in word order, cultural context, idiomatic expressions, etc. Interpreters need to find equivalents in register, tone, content, meaning and ambiguity.