INTERPRETATION is the transformation of a source language into the target language by verbal communication. The three modes of interpretation are: Consecutive Interpretation, Simultaneous Interpretation and Sight Translation. During consecutive interpretation, the interpreter waits until the speaker of the source language has completed his message before interpreting it to the target language. The message may last a few seconds or several minutes. In this mode, the interpreter does not paraphrase or summarize, but renders a complete interpretation of what the speaker has stated. Consecutive interpretation is used in instances such as witness testimony, depositions, interrogations with law enforcement agents, and in medical settings.

In Simultaneous Interpretation, the interpreter simultaneously interprets the source language as it is spoken. This mode is used in primarily in courtroom hearings such as first appearances, change of pleas, sentencings, trials, and in some occasions, medical settings.

During Sight Translation, a document, written in its source language, is interpreted aloud in the target language. Here, the interpreter renders a translation of a document written in the source language with little preparation, providing a translation to the target language in a free-flowing manner. This may occur when an interpreter is asked by the Court to read an Indictment to the defendant or when the interpreter reads discharge instructions to a patient in a hospital.

TRANSLATION is the transformation of written documents from the source language into the target language. Written Translation is where the document written in the source language is translated into written form in the target language. This is a process of extreme detail and precision which necessitates a more time consuming strategy. Normally, the process involves an initial translation, followed by editing, proofreading, comparison with the source document and then final editing.


  • How does one determine the qualifications when choosing an interpreter?
  • When using a family member or child, how can an individual be certain of unbiased information?
  • Is the admissibility of testimony, statements and evidence dependent on the abilities of an unproven interpreter?
  • Are you confident the interpreter is not summarizing or paraphrasing what is being said, possibly distorting the message?

These are just a few of the concerns that confront the private business and governmental agencies. Interpretation and translation are skills and just because an individual speaks a language does not mean they have the vocabulary, technical background or experience to function as a professional interpreter.


To help with these concerns, the federal government and many state court administrators have created certification processes for interpreters who work in the court systems. A legal certification for the state of Missouri may be obtained from the Office of the State Court Administrators in Jefferson City . At this time, there is no certification program in the state of Kansas . In the medical field, there are few states that provide certification and none are located in the Midwest . There are programs available, such as the Bridging the Gap Program available at the Jewish Vocational Center in Kansas City , Missouri to instruct interpreters on the proper ethics and role of interpreters in the medical field.

These certifications provide an effective means for the legal community to verify the abilities and experience of an interpreter. Professional interpreters should be able to provide their qualifications and experience upon request. Individuals should also know that in the instances of criminal trials, the court will provide for interpreting services if it is aware of the need. In these cases, it is the court's responsibility to obtain, verify the qualifications and compensate the interpreter.


The role of an interpreter is to interpret what is said in the source language and not to participate in the conversation. Many people find themselves directing the conversation to the interpreter instead of the person with whom they are trying to communicate. This slows the process and in many cultures is perceived as disrespectful. An interpreter is merely a medium for the conversation, much like a telephone. An interpreter may intervene in the conversation to have a point repeated or in the case of the medical field, to clarify a point of misunderstanding. These interventions must be done with the knowledge by all participants in the conversation of what is occurring. An interpreter is not a legal or medical professional and should not be expected to provide advice or counseling or to perform any function other than providing the words and meanings between the participants.


The mode an interpreter selects, determines the speed with which information is received. In most cases, simultaneous interpretation allows the conversation to continue at a normal pace, saving vast amounts of time. However, in instances such as witness testimony in a courtroom, consecutive is more appropriate. Interpreters should also be able to provide electronic devices to allow discrete interpretation while courtroom proceedings not involving direct testimony are occurring. The more experienced an interpreter is with the setting and material, the more efficient the process will occur. This can save both time and money for all involved.