The demographics of Wisconsin are changing. Immigrants from Somalia and Latin America can be found working in turkey processing plants in Barron and in dairy farms in rural Buffalo County. Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for its Hmong population, while refugees from Bhutan, Myanmar, and Iraq are the most recent arrivals to our state. Given this population shift, the legal system has seen a dramatic increase in the need for interpreter services. Below are 10 recommendations for practicing attorneys to consider when working with court interpreters.
1. Being bilingual is not enough to ensure the quality of a court interpreter.
2. Attorneys don’t have to rely on personal referrals to locate court interpreters.
3. Don’t ask interpreters to provide “word-for-word” interpretation.
4. Court interpreters should abide by the Code of Ethics for Court Interpreters.
5. Don’t ask interpreters to be attorneys.
6. Clarify abbreviations and minimize legal jargon.
7. Be mindful of how you pose questions through an interpreter.
8. Don’t ask interpreters not to interpret something.
9. Expect most interpretation during a court proceeding to occur simultaneously.
10. Wisconsin statutes allow parties to object to an interpreter for good cause and take into consideration any delay arising from the inability to locate a qualified interpreter.
Carmel A. Capati, U.W. 1998, is the Wisconsin Court Interpreter Program Manager for the Director of State Courts Office of Court Operations, Madison.