Community or social interpretation is an aspect of interpretation that people know very little about.
It recently came to our attention that there have been many complaints filed by judges in Madrid over the low quality and poor level of professionalism from interpreters working in the Police Services. This type of interpretation is known as community or social interpretation, and it’s really an aspect of interpretation that people know very little about. Generally, when discussing interpretation in the Police Services, we use a generic meaning including Agencies of the State and Security Forces.
It’s interesting that, even though this is one of the oldest types of interpretation, very little is known about it. Most people don’t consider what happens when foreigners who don’t speak the local language are stopped by the police, and how they locate someone to act as an intermediary between themselves and the police. Generally, an interpreter will be the person who enables communication between a foreigner who has witnessed a crime or who was suspected of committing a crime, and the police officer.
Using Unqualified Interpreters in Police Services
Of course this type of interpretation is very important, but Asetrad uses unqualified people in these situations, according to the judges’ complaints. (Asetrad is an abbreviation for the Spanish Association of Translators, Copy-editors, and Interpreters) and is an association based in Spain to facilitate and support the work of Translators, Interpreters and Copy Editors).
A Huge Disadvantage for People Accused of a Crime
As translators, we often hear stories of unqualified people (both interpreters and translators) working in situations where professional people should be employed. Hiring unqualified people for these types of positions allow these departments to save money on fees which would be much higher had they hired an experienced interpreter or translator.
When witness statements are taken by unqualified transcribers the margins for errors are huge; with misunderstandings and miscommunications wasting not only a lot of time but also not providing the accused person with a fair representation. Using a professional interpreter would save a lot of time, and ultimately a lot of money, plus it would provide a fairer legal system for people accused of a crime.
We Must Have Professional Interpreters in the Police Services
The days should be long gone when we have one prisoner interpreting for another or when an abuser in a domestic violence situation is the one filtering the content for the authorities: these situations are dicey at best, leading to omissions and interpretations that must cast doubt over all these proceedings.
Ultimately, we must demand that people working in these situations, which are very closely related to legal interpretations, be highly qualified for these positions. The interpretation service for the Police Services must be professional, impartial, and of the highest quality. The expertise of these professionals should be used, and they must be compensated in relation to their performance and training. All these factors work towards ensuring the inherent rights of all people who have witnessed a crime or may be suspected of committing a crime.