Examining the challenges for legal interpreters in New Zealand courtroom settings
This study explores the perceptions of New Zealand-based interpreters with court interpreting experience about the challenges they encounter at work in courtroom settings. The results of the New Zealand 2013 Census show that the number of Limited-English Proficient (LEP) individuals had grown between 2006 and 2013. Court interpreting service is of great importance in terms of ensuring the LEP individuals’ equal access to legal services. However, the Supreme Court Judgment Abdula v The Queen SC 18/2010  NZSC 130 revealed the fact that there might exist some problems for court interpreting service in New Zealand. Even so, little research has been done to study the status quo of New Zealand court interpreting service. The aim of this study was to identify potential problems faced by court interpreters and provide resolutions to these issues in an attempt to improve on the court interpreting service. The findings of this study may help promote an equal access to legal rights for the LEP individuals residing in New Zealand.
The results were based on a qualitative research study conducted among New Zealand court interpreter communities. A total of 30 court interpreters throughout the country participated in the survey, and 11 Auckland-based court interpreters volunteered to be interviewed. This study found that generally the lack of background information beforehand was seen the most challenging issue by New Zealand court interpreters. Following this were coordinating issues on occasions where the interpreter has to request for clarification, repetition, rephrasing, speaking aloud, lowering speech rate, and asking the client not to turn to the interpreter for private conversations. Another challenge was that the court interpreters had to keep themselves up to date with the emergence of new legal terms although pre-service training programmes had already provided them with a solid background of legal knowledge. In addition, this study found that most of the court interpreters in New Zealand had joined in interpreting training programme(s), and rated highly of the training. However, analysis of the interview data indicated that they might only have little awareness of interpreting issues at the discoursal level, which could potentially affect the faithfulness of the rendition.
The study suggests that it is important for the court interpreters to have a lifelong leaning mindset in order to keep up to date with the knowledge and skills required of court interpreting. Also, needs to be a law drafted to guarantee that the court interpreter would be given background information for preparing for court interpreting beforehand.