A court interpreter is a person who interprets to and from English and another language in a court proceeding. Court interpreting services may be needed for a criminal defendant, a witness, a party in a lawsuit, or another person involved in a court proceeding who speaks or understands little or no English. Court interpreters are also sometimes responsible for translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into a foreign language or from a foreign language into English.
The interpreter’s role is to render a complete and accurate interpretation (oral) or translation (written), without altering, omitting, or adding anything to what is stated or written, and without additional explanations. In essence, the interpreter serves as a bridge between whomever is speaking—judge, attorney, witness, etc.—and the non-English speaking person, so that the non-English speaking person hears in his own language everything that is being said in English. If a non-English speaking person testifies in court, it is also the interpreter’s job to interpret everything that person says into English so that everyone in the courtroom can hear it in English.
“Interpret” in this context does not mean explain or simplify. It means providing an equivalent meaning in the target language as the one stated in the source language. It is not the interpreter’s job to explain or simplify anything that is being said by participants in the courtroom proceedings. Nor can the interpreter give advice to or otherwise counsel the non-English speaker in court.
In Texas, most court interpreters requires licenses, issued by the Judicial Branch Certification Commission..