What is a Court Interpreter?

A court interpreter is an individual who possesses native-like proficiency in English and foreign languages. Court interpreters are professionals who are highly skilled in the three modes of court interpreting and familiar with legal terminology, courtroom protocol and the South African Code of Professional Conduct for Court Interpreters. Upon being appointed by the Court, interpreters are required to take an oath, under penalty of perjury, to “…interpret accurately, completely, and impartially and to refrain from knowingly disclosing confidential or privileged information obtained while serving in the proceeding.” The court proceedings are regulated by rules and regulations of administration of justice contained in pieces of legislation, such as the Magistrates' Court Act 44

  1. Simultaneous interpretation - the interpreter listens to the English language speech and, at the same time, interprets in the foreign language for the benefit of the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) party. To ensure their interpretation does not interfere with the court proceedings, court interpreters utilize wireless equipment when interpreting simultaneously.
  2. Consecutive interpretation - used during testimony at the witness stand and when a Limited English Proficiency (LEP) party addresses the Court. The interpreter renders what is being said in the target language orally without changing or embellishing statements. This becomes part of the record. Court interpreters must understand and speak legal jargon, street language, slang, and formal language in English and foreign languages.
  3. Sight Translation - the oral rendition of a document from the source language into the target language. The interpreter must read a document, process the information, and render it accurately in the target language orally.