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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Implementing language rights in court: the role of the court interpreter
Author:Steytler, N.C.ISNI
Periodical:South African Journal on Human Rights
Geographic term:South Africa
indigenous languages
External link:https://doi.org/10.1080/02587203.1993.11827905
Abstract:In South Africa's multilingual society, communication in court across language barriers has been the rule rather than the exception. This means that court interpreters are an essential prerequisite for effective communication. Notably the undefended accused (almost 85 percent of all accused today) are almost exclusively dependent on interpreters for their understanding of their rights and participation in the trial. During July 1985 an observational study of 12 interpreters was embarked upon in the magistrates' and regional courts sitting in Durban. The aim of this study was to examine patterns of inaccurate translation. The study shows definite patterns of mistranslation which were closely linked to the structural (low-ranking) position of the interpreter in court. The interpreters often redefined their role as being a team player in the court proceedings to facilitate the expeditious completion of cases. They played at various times the role of court orderly, lawyer, magistrate and prosecutor. The conclusion is that to secure the right to a fair trial and any language rights an accused may have, it is necessary to reduce the area of relative autonomy of the interpreter by, amongst others, recording all communications in court. The training of interpreters should also receive high priority. Ref.