Court interpreting: Sworn interpreters at court

According to the BDÜ (German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators), of which we are a member, one fifth of all court proceedings require the presence of a court interpreter.

Who is authorised to interpret in court?

For interpreting in court, a publicly appointed and sworn interpreter must be summoned. This means that the interpreter has to be officially approved to work in courts and public offices as well as with lawyers and notaries, the police and other authorities. When they are sworn, interpreters have to declare under oath that they will faithfully and conscientiously translate the content of the court proceedings into a foreign language. In addition to taking an oath, aspiring interpreters have to take further examinations or take part in advanced training courses in some German federal states. In many cases, court interpreters are sworn immediately before the hearing where they have to interpret. This is not unusual when they speak uncommon languages or when they are commissioned by a court outside of their home state.

In court interpreting however, not only what is being said in the oral proceedings must be translated into the other language, but also written pleadings (e.g. penalty order, statement of claim). Most court interpreters are freelancers who are registered in the databases of the courts for which they work so that they can be summoned when needed.

What are the required skills of qualified court interpreters?

Court interpreting is a highly challenging task for sworn interpreters since it not only requires excellent language skills but also profound knowledge of legal subjects. Law is a broad subject, which is why qualified court interpreters usually specialize in a certain legal field, e.g. economic law, family law or asylum law. They must be particularly be aware of the differences between the legal system of Germany and that of the countries of their other working languages. Certain legal concepts and the corresponding terminology used in one language may not exist in another and must therefore be described by the interpreter. Cultural features of the countries where the respective working languages are used must also be taken into consideration by the interpreter.

Translating in a meticulous, faithful and conscientious way means that the interpreter has to understand the content and to render precisely what is being said without omitting or embellishing relevant details or subjectively evaluating testimonies made by defendants or witnesses. Moreover, court interpreters must always keep calm and neutral when translating. They are also legally obliged to discretion and secrecy.

What is the significance of the Nuremberg Trials (1945/46) for court interpreting?

The Nuremberg Trials against the main Nazi war criminals took place from 20 November 1945 to 01 October 1946 and are said to be the “birth of simultaneous interpreting”. The proceedings were particularly challenging for the court interpreters as everything had to be translated simultaneously into German, English, French and Russian for judges, defendants, prosecutors, defence counsels, witnesses, experts and the press. For this purpose, the company IBM developed the very first system for simultaneous interpreting, which had a separate channel for each of the four languages. In this way, what was said could be transmitted to the headphones of all participants of the proceedings via six microphones. The court interpreters also had two lamps, a red one and a yellow one, to signal the speakers to repeat something, to speak slower or to stop speaking. Based on this system, the following years saw the emergence of conference technology for simultaneous interpreting as it is in use today. The interpreting booths were open to ensure that the court interpreters could see the judges and the defendants.

The sheer significance of the court interpreters at the Nuremberg Trials is reflected in the fact that they were the only participants of the proceedings whose voices were heard from beginning to end. The work of the court interpreters, who mainly translated into their native language, was very strenuous. Hence they were organised in teams, taking turns. Considering this pioneering achievement, many historians are now of the opinion that the Nuremberg Trials of 1945/46 could not have been possible without the meticulous work of the court interpreters.

What makes the court interpreters of AP Fachübersetzungen stand out?

Our publicly appointed and sworn interpreters are competent linguists with many years of experience who specialize in court interpreting and are familiar with specialist legal terminology.

Do you have an appointment at court, a notary's office or an authority and need to be able to rely on your interpreter 100%? Do you work at a court, lawyer's or notary's office and often need reliable court interpreters for various languages, but do not want to spend hours looking for one yourself? Then we are the right contact person for you! You can easily reach us during our normal business hours. We have several language experts for any language combination who will impress you with their experience, reliability and professional competence.

Are you looking for an interpreter whose skills meet your specific requirements? Then AP Fachübersetzungen is the perfect partner for you - not only in the Nuremberg metropolitan region!

AP Fachübersetzungen - reliable without exception!

Feel free to contact us! We process all requests immediately after their receipt. You will receive a quote within a short period of time.