The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition, Front Matter


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The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition

Practical Exercises in Court Interpreting

developed by Holly Mikkelson & Jim Willis


ACEBO P.O. Box 7485 Spreckels, CA 93962

ISBN 1-880594-06-4

Copyright (c) 1993 ACEBO. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced, or translated without the prior written consent of ACEBO. No part of this publication may be stored or transmitted in any electronic form without the prior written consent of ACEBO.

Tape copyright (c) 1993 ACEBO. It is a violation of federal copyright law to copy the audio tapes included with this book, in whole or in part, without the express written consent of ACEBO.

Printed in the USA.


Introduction How to Use This Book About the Tapes

Simultaneous Interpretation Introduction Simultaneous Lesson 1: The Right to Competent Counsel Simultaneous Lesson 2: Language Acquisition Simultaneous Lesson 3: Sample Voir Dire Questions Simultaneous Lesson 4: Standards for Interpreted Proceedings  Simultaneous Lesson 5: Witness Testimony: Burglary Simultaneous Lesson 6: O.R. Motion Simultaneous Lesson 7: Advisement of Rights (Municipal Court) Simultaneous Lesson 8: Advisement of Rights (Federal Court) Simultaneous Lesson 9: Numbers Practice & Opening Statement (Prosecution) Simultaneous Lesson 10: Numbers Practice & Expert Witness Testimony Simultaneous Lesson 11: Motion to Suppress--Points and Authorities Simultaneous Lesson 12: Examination of Fingerprint Expert Simultaneous Lesson 13: Sentencing Simultaneous Lesson 14: Reading of the Complaint--Drug Possession Simultaneous Lesson 15: Closing Argument Simultaneous Lesson 16: General Instructions Simultaneous Lesson 17: Direct and Circumstantial Evidence Simultaneous Lesson 18: Assault & Burglary Defined Simultaneous Lesson 19: Rape of Non-Spouse, Rape of Spouse, & Lewd Act with Child Defined Simultaneous Lesson 20: Homicide Defined Expert Witness Testimony: Firearms Expert Witness Testimony: Forensic Pathologist Miscellaneous Court Proceedings Jury Instructions

Consecutive Interpretation Introduction Memory Lesson 1: Main Idea Memory Lesson 2: Controversial Content Memory Lesson 3: Writing Key Words Memory Lesson 4: Visualization Memory Lesson 5: Detailed Information Memory Lesson 6: Verbatim Recall of Testimony Lesson 1: Purse Snatching Lesson 2: Shoplifting Lesson 3: Murder Defendant Lesson 4: Battered Wife Lesson 5: Administrative Hearing, Unemployment Lesson 6: Drug Smuggling Lesson 7: Knife Murder Lesson 8: Cross-Examination of Drug Defendant Lesson 9: Money Laundering

Sight Translation Introduction Sight Text 1: Rights Concern Misplaced Sight Text 2: Hearing Procedures Sight Text 3: General Waiver and Plea Sight Text 4: Supplementary Report Sight Text 5: Arrest Report Sight Text 6: Probation Report Sight Text 7: Arrest Report Sight Text 8: Complaint Sight Text 9: Complaint Sight Text 10: Pretrial Services Sight Text 11: Autopsy Report Sight Text 12: Power of Attorney



The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition is an adaptation of the earlier work, The Interpreter's Edge, Second Edition, published by ACEBO in 1992. The Second Edition was specifically designed to teach court-interpreting techniques to interpreters and interpreting students working in Spanish and English.

Since the appearance of The Interpreter's Edge, Second Edition, ACEBO has received a great many inquiries about the possibility of producing similar materials for students and interpreters working in languages other than Spanish. The present book, The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition, is the first component of our response to the serious and growing need for quality training materials in language combinations other than Spanish-English.

This volume--and the Generic tape set that accompanies it--contains English-language source material only. That material is carefully designed to provide interpreters and interpreting students with training in all the requisite techniques of court interpreting. It also provides ample practice in interpreting and sight translating from English into the student/interpreter's second language. Interpreting from English into a second language is, in fact, the bulk of the work required of interpreters working within the US legal system, whatever their second language.

But it is not, of course, the whole job. Ideally, interpreting students should also have access to source materials in their second languages so that they can practice interpreting from a second language into English. This is particularly important in the case of consecutive interpreting, which is used in the courts primarily for interpreting witness testimony. This need for second-language source material is addressed in two ways:

  • The present book suggests--in the chapter introductions--ways in which student interpreters can obtain or create appropriate second-language source materials.
  • Depending on the language in question, a language-specific tape set may be available from ACEBO. Such tapes sets contain appropriate practice source material in the student interpreter's chosen language.

Tape Sets

The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition is always accompanied by a five-tape set of 60-minute audio cassettes that contain all of the English-Language source material presented in chapters 1 and 2 of this book. That tape set is called the Generic tape set. See "About the Tapes" on page xi for more information on the contents of the Generic tape set.

Language-specific tape sets will be available for some languages other than Spanish. As this book goes to press, the list of languages to be addressed has not yet been finalized. We expect that the list will initially be quite short and that it will grow over time. Language-specific tapes, when provided, are in addition to the English-only tapes in the Generic tape set.

The tape sets are provided in a separate vinyl cassette album that can accommodate up to eight tapes. The Generic tapes always occupy the first five positions in the album. If you have only the Generic tapes, the other three cassette positions in the album are covered. If you have a language-specific tape set, the additional tapes are placed in the last three spaces in the album.

Organization & Disclaimer

The three chapters of The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition cover the three modes of interpreting that court interpreters are required to master:

  • Chapter 1: Simultaneous Interpreting
  • Chapter 2: Consecutive Interpreting
  • Chapter 3: Sight Translation

Each of these modes is defined and discussed in detail in the Introduction to the corresponding chapter.

Many of the texts presented in this book are drawn from actual documents and court cases, but the names used are fictitious and are not those of any actual persons involved in any actual court cases.

Some of the texts included in this book carry a political content or are otherwise controversial. This is by design. The inclusion of such texts is intended to provide you with much-needed practice interpreting material with which you may not agree. These texts should not be taken as representing the views of the authors or of ACEBO.

How to Use This Book

For Self-Study

Use the three chapters simultaneously; that is, begin with Simultaneous Lesson 1, Memory Exercise 1, and Sight Text 1 on the same day. The next time you use the book, go on to Simultaneous Lesson 2, Memory Exercise 2, and Sight Text 2, and so on. You may find that you need to repeat one of the lessons more often than the others, so you will not always be working on lessons with the same number in each chapter (because the three chapters have unequal numbers of lessons, this is inevitable in any case). For example, if you have more trouble acquiring the skills you need for simultaneous interpretation than for sight translation, you will progress more quickly through Chapter 3 than through Chapter 1. That's perfectly normal; progress at a pace you feel comfortable with.

Interpreting is not a skill that can be developed overnight. Don't try to move through the lessons too quickly, or you won't acquire the mastery you'll need to practice the profession of court interpreting. Because interpreting is so mentally taxing, you'll reach a point of diminishing returns after about 20 minutes spent on a given exercise. Therefore, we recommend that you work on each mode of interpreting for 20 minutes, for a total of one hour each practice session. You can practice twice a day if you want, provided that you allow a long enough interval between sessions.

In the simultaneous and consecutive sections, don't read along in the text while you're playing the tape; consult it afterwards.

When you are interpreting the consecutive testimony, you should have your finger poised above the pause button on your tape player so that you can stop the recording as soon as the question or answer ends. In the case of a long answer, you will want to stop the tape as soon as you have reached the point at which your short-term memory is saturated. Make sure you don't stop the tape in the middle of a thought, however. Learning to use the tapes in this way will give you valuable practice in determining where it is appropriate to intervene when you are actually interpreting in the courtroom; if you interrupt a witness before he has completed an idea, he will lose his train of thought and will not be able to pick up where he left off. Try not to abuse your ability to stop the tape; push your memory to the limits to expand your retention capacity as much as possible.

You may find it useful to go back and repeat some of the earlier lessons after you've progressed well into the book, just to refresh some of the basic skills such as dual-task shadowing and paraphrasing. Even after you've begun working in the courts, it's a good idea to come back to these exercises occasionally. Courtroom interpreting can be very repetitive and monotonous, and if you are permanently assigned to the arraignments court, for example, you may find that your consecutive skills will deteriorate for lack of use, or that your memory of drug or weapons terminology will fade.

The best way to learn and retain terminology is to use it in context repeatedly. Trying to memorize lists of words is an exercise in futility. The texts presented in this book contain a representative sample of the terms that are likely to come up in various court proceedings. To find appropriate translations of these terms, and of others that will come up in actual interpreting situations, you will need a good selection of bilingual dictionaries and other reference works in your chosen language combination.

For Instructors

This book is flexible enough that you should be able to use it in almost any type of course, whether it's a semester course that meets once or twice a week, a series of weekend workshops, or an intensive course lasting several weeks. You may want to teach sight translation in one course, consecutive interpreting in another, and simultaneous in a third; or you may want to offer an introductory course covering all three modes of interpreting, using the first half of each chapter, and then an advanced course using the remainder of the book.

Because of the monolingual nature of this book and of the Generic tape set, it will be very important for you as an instructor to provide appropriate source material in the second language. In the introduction to each chapter, we've made some suggestions about how to obtain or generate such material. Our suggestions are necessarily very general--we don't, after all, know what language combination you're working in or what materials are readily available to you. Try, if you can, to find materials that are roughly comparable in length, content, and language level to the corresponding English material in this book. That way, you can give your students a balanced mental workout within the framework already provided by the exercises you find here.

You will undoubtedly want to supplement this book and your other practice texts with other works that deal with the criminal justice system and ethical issues. Two recommended books are Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy, and Practice, by Gonzalez, Vasquez, and Mikkelson (Carolina Academic Press, 1991); and The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process, by Berk-Seligson (The University of Chicago Press, 1990). It is also helpful to have guest speakers address the class on fields related to court interpreting (law enforcement, forensic pathology, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal procedure, etc.).

The tapes that accompany this book can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the resources available to you and on your preferences. If you have access to a language lab for your simultaneous interpreting classes, you can use your simultaneous tapes as the master for the students to work from; their individual tapes will then be used for their practice sessions at home. If you do not have a language lab, you can play your tape for the entire class to interpret out loud in the classroom, or you can have the students bring tape players to class and play their own tapes individually. If you choose the latter option, you will have to work out a system whereby they all start and stop at the same time, so that you will all be working on the same passage at once. Obviously, it is preferable to have a language lab so that you can monitor the students individually, and to avoid the cacophony that inevitably results if all students are playing their tapes at once.

During the initial simultaneous lessons, when the students are not yet interpreting, it would be a good idea to stop the class periodically throughout the exercises and ask factual questions about the text, to make sure they are paying attention to what they are saying. Focusing on content in this manner helps them avoid falling into the habit of "parroting," which encourages a word-for-word approach rather than an effort to convey meaning.

Another useful exercise is to assign students to make extemporaneous speeches on different subjects, and to have the rest of the class shadow, paraphrase, or interpret them. This exercise helps them improve their public speaking skills and gives the students a chance to interpret a variety of speaking styles and accents.

Once the students begin interpreting, if there is a passage they are having particular difficulty with, you may want to have them just listen to it first, to make sure they understand it, and then interpret it on the second repetition. You may find that it is necessary to repeat a lesson several times; there is no harm in this, especially considering that the language of the courtroom is so repetitive and formulaic anyway. The more repetitions, the better.

In your consecutive classes, you may want to play the tapes of the memory exercises, or you may prefer to read the texts yourself or have a student read them (reading aloud is excellent for developing public speaking skills). Another way to help the students develop their memory skills is to assign them to give extemporaneous speeches for the class to give back. As in the simultaneous segment, this exercise helps the students become accustomed to interpreting speakers with different delivery styles and accents.

The best way to practice consecutive interpretation of testimony is to have the students play the different roles, reading from the scripts in the book. One student will then play the role of the interpreter, and will not look at the script. Other students who are neither playing parts nor interpreting can practice their note-taking skills and interpret silently to themselves. Reading the scripts gives the students a chance to work on their public speaking skills, and it is a more realistic situation for the student interpreter. It is also easier to repeat portions of the testimony if it is read in person. If the students are reading from scripts, however, they are not practicing their interpreting skills. In a large class, the students can take turns reading the parts, and everyone will have a chance to practice interpreting. If you only have a few students, you may prefer to play the tapes in class.

All the consecutive lessons in The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition, are entirely in English; that is, both the attorney asking the questions and the witness giving the answers are speaking English. In a real interpreted court case, the witness would, of course, be testifying in another language. To create a more realistic situation, you may want to have the student who is playing the role of the witness sight translate the script into the other language (or you, the instructor, may do it yourself). In this way, not only will the students have the opportunity to interpret in both directions, but they will also be given more practice in the technique of sight translation.

In the sight translation section, you should emphasize public speaking as much as possible. Have the students perform at a podium, and give them constructive criticism about their delivery. Many students are not aware of facial expressions and other body language (shrugs of the shoulders, for example) that detract from their performance and undermine the audience's confidence in them. Videotaping is a good way to help students improve their delivery. You should also emphasize pacing; many inexperienced interpreters race through the easy parts of a passage and slow to a snail's pace during the difficult parts, sending a clear signal to their audience that they are unsure of themselves. Always remind the students that they must keep the listener in mind while they are interpreting.

About the Tapes

The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition includes five 60-minute audio cassettes in the Generic tape set. Those tapes contain an introduction to The Interpreter's Edge, Generic Edition by Holly Mikkelson and the simultaneous and consecutive texts provided in chapters 1 and 2 of this book.

The Generic tape set was recorded at Studio FX in Monterey, California.

The voices of the following people are heard on the Generic tape set:

  • Holly Mikkelson
  • Nancy Heffernan Williams
  • Peter Williams
  • Jim Willis

The contents of each tape in the Generic tape set are listed below:

Tape 1, Side A: Introduction and Instructions

Tape 1, Side B: Simultaneous Lessons 1 - 7

Tape 2, Side A: Simultaneous Lessons 8 - 14

Tape 2, Side B: Simultaneous Lessons 15 - 20

Tape 3, Side A: Expert Witness Testimony, Firearms Expert and Pathologist

Tape 3, Side B: Miscellaneous Court Proceedings

Tape 4, Side A: Jury Instructions

Tape 4, Side B: Consecutive Memory Lessons 1 - 6 and Consecutive Lessons 1 & 2

Tape 5, Side A: Consecutive Lessons 3 - 6

Tape 5, Side B: Consecutive Lessons 7 - 9