Poor Court Interpretation Leads to Misunderstandings:

In Chesterfield, Virginia, Patricia Michelsen-King quietly observed a court proceeding while she waited her turn to provide interpretation services for the next hearing. Suddenly a man shouted out loud from the back of the courtroom in Spanish, “I didn’t rape anybody!” Michelsen-King, who teaches Spanish interpretation at Virginia Commonwealth University, said, although the man in question was in court for running a red light, the interpreter told him he was accused of a “violación,” which means rape in Spanish. Michelsen-King said the interpreter should have used a better word choice such as, “infracción.” The man strongly contested to being accused of rape, however he admitted to the traffic violation. This situation is a common occurrence, individuals with limited to no English skills are not able to understand the complex legal system without professional interpretation services to aid them. Not having the ability to understand proceedings and all the information given in court, jeopardizes non-English speaking individuals’ constitutional rights. The American Bar Association (ABA) said, “There is ample experience and anecdotal evidence to substantiate that many [people with limited English proficiency] regularly come before the courts and are unable, without language access services, to protect or enforce their legal rights, with devastating consequences to life, liberty, family, and property interests.” Four years ago ABA published “Standards for Language Access in Courts,” which urged all court systems to integrate standards and strategies for accessing professional interpretation services.

It’s a federal mandate to provide free interpretation services in criminal as well as civil courts, however in many states the laws are being neglected. The US Justice Department has investigated courts in Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island for not abiding by federal regulations. Michelsen-King said, “People think the interpreter is just there for the person who doesn’t speak English,” “Maybe it’s the defendant, maybe it’s a witness. But people forget the interpreter is there for the benefit of everyone. So the lawyers can do their job. So judges and juries can make good decisions.” Without the aid of professional interpretation services, no one can efficiently and objectively do their job when dealing with non-English speaking individuals in court.

Unqualified Interpretation Services:

Courts risk losing federal funding for not complying with the executive order requiring professional interpretation services be provided to all non-English speaking individuals free of charge in this country. Despite this being the law, often times friends, family members, or bilingual individuals working or just present in the courts are asked to provide interpretation services. “One judge asked if there was ‘someone in an orange jumpsuit’ who could translate, under the assumption that there might be a Latino defendant that could interpret,” said Deborah Weissman, a professor at the University of North Carolina’s School of Law. Weissman also stated, “The idea that you’d actually rely on some random person is absolutely unacceptable.”

Interpretation is a complex task, one must truly encompass the essence of both languages and cultures in order to properly facilitate communication between people who speak different languages. Being “bilingual” does not mean you have the language skills necessary to provide interpretation services in a courtroom setting. Difficult concepts and terminology come in to context and need to be interpreted and explained in a way a person who is not familiar with the US legal system can understand. This is a strenuous and highly difficult task that should only be left in the capable hands of a professional interpreter. Misinterpretations in a courtroom can literally change a person’s life, this is why providing competent, trained and professional interpreters is not only the law, but is on the verge of being standardized in courts of all levels across the US.

Hire A Language Service Company (LSC):

Abiding by the law and helping to extend understanding to people who do not speak English, can easily be achieved through hiring a reputable language service company (LSC). Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a LSC with over 20 years experience providing professional language services. They have access to qualified interpreters available in over 350 languages and dialects and you can choose from services such as on-site interpretation or video remote interpreting (VRI) which can be used if you’re located in a remote region or in need of an uncommon language. When you hire a reputable LSC who only provides experienced and qualified interpreters, you can be sure your interpretation will be completed with the utmost accuracy. The role of an interpreter is of vital importance, without that link, misinterpretations can occur which potentially could cause injustice. Don’t allow innocent people to fall through the cracks of our legal system simply because they do not speak English, hire a professional language service company to ensure non-English speaking individuals in this country are extended their constitutional rights.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

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