View from the Dock - Diary of a Court Interpreter

View from the Dock – Diary of a Court Interpreter

A crown court trial viewed from the dock can be a daunting place. Imagine yourself sitting there, accused of a crime you have not committed. That alone would be nerve-wracking.

Now further imagine that you do not understand the language the trial is conducted in, that you have no idea what the judge, and the prosecutor are saying about the case and your alleged involvement in it. Enter court interpreter. Somebody who is fluent in your language, and whose role is to break down the language barrier between you and everybody else in the courtroom. You must resist the temptation to see the interpreter as your ally, somebody who is ‘on your side’. Professional interpreters are not taking sides, they stay completely impartial throughout. How do they do this? How do they stay professionally detached without causing tension with their clients?

My book tries to provide answers to these and several other questions about the daily life of a court and police interpreter, based on several years of my own interpreting experience. View from the Dock offers a back-row seat in a courtroom, next to the defendant and, in this case, their interpreter. Best seat in the house, save possibly, for the judge.

The dock is often separated from the rest of the room by a glass panel. This simple security measure can create a peculiar sense of detachment from the proceedings, which in turn allows the dock inhabitants to gain an unusual perspective on what unfolds directly in front of them. View from the Dock invites you to share this unique glimpse into nuances and vagaries experienced by those involved in the implementation of justice.

Author: Cordelia Novak is a Ministry of Justice interpreter, interpreting tutor and all-around language enthusiast.

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