Legal translation: the search for justice for all
It is the official purpose of legal systems to ensure the effective and efficient administration of justice for all people under their ruling. In order to meet this end, these systems need to provide the people with opportunities and resources that are mandatory for the correct administration of justice. One of the basics of fairness is that every person who is covered by justice services must have access to the system and not be left aside of procedures or legal attention. For this reason, barriers that prevent citizens from actively and conciously engaging in proceedings must be taken down.
Language is one of those barriers. In some countries, this has a greater importance than in others. Nations with a high percentage of immigrants among their population usually suffer from access problems when taking their citizens and/or prosecuted individuals to the court. In order for a trial to proceed, all people involved must be able to understand each other, especially if there is a sentence hanging and justice is waiting to be served.
Testimonies, declaration, argumentations, defense and evidence all require a common language, and when people involved don't share it, translators and interpreters must be provided. Otherwise, the process will be severely obstructed, and untrusted translation can render testimonies unreliable. It becomes evident that court translation is indispensable for equal justice, but this doesn't mean that it is always provided, be it for lack of budget or for lack of interest.
The challenges of legal translation
All translations must be accurate in order to serve their purpose, but in some cases such accuracy is crucial. This is the case of legal translation, be it in court or with paperwork. Legal texts and declarations must be precise and follow certain rules, otherwise the document or testimony will not be valid. Misunderstandings due to poor translation interfere in legal proceedings - where people's freedom and even life is in play - and paperwork. From passports to property contracts, any error can have terrible consequences for those who are involved.
As you can imagine, legal translation requires a level of proficiency and expertise that often surpasses the skills of regular translators. They must be so exact and so expert in legal terms and the law that only a few people are able to meet the requisites. These are expert translators who must be certified by the government before being enabled to serve as legal translators. If you hire an interpreter or translator that hasn't been certified this way, in order to face a legal proceeding, the whole process could be put into question.
Countries with language diversity often face problems when calling people to court, whether they are prosecuted or mere witnesses. The more linguistic diversity a country has, the wider the variety of certified court and legal translators that they need. There is a shortage of translators in the US court, and many see this as a huge disadvantage to their legal system, as well as a challenge that must be faced and overcome. The search for enough and skilled interpreters is still going, which is a job opportunity for translators who want to get certified and start working in the legal system. Several courts seek interpreters and offer all training needed to start working.
Legal translation experts
As you can see, depending on where you live, there is a chance that you won't have translators or interpreters available in the legal system if you don't share the common language of the country where you live. In that case, you will be requested to provide your own interpreter, who will aid you throughout the process. In these cases, it is crucial that you do not rely on non-expert translators. In some cases, people have used friends or even family members to help them understand legal proceedings in which they got involved, but there are two main disadvantages for this. First, all translations made by uncertified interpreters can be dismissed as unreliable, as it has happened in the past. And second, it is much harder to interpret as it seems, and some things must get lost in translation or even misunderstood, especially by interpreters who do not fully understand legal language.
The best thing that you can do is to hire a professional translator who is trained in legal affairs. You will find these experts in legal translation agencies. Their services will always be more expensive than non-expert translation, but they will be of much greater help, and they will be considered more reliable. If you decide to hire non-expert translators or even ask people you know to interpret for you, you might end up paying a much higher price.