Criminal Defense of Immigrants


§ 4.7 B. Written Translation

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“Interpreting” and “translating” both involve the transfer of information from a source language[24] to a target language.[25]  Translation refers to the written form of this process while interpretation denotes the oral form.[26]   A person may be highly skilled at making written translations, and yet not be able to interpret orally between one language and another.  It is a mistake to assume that because a person has one skill, s/he is also competent to perform the other.  A person who is able to communicate conversationally in a foreign language may be entirely illiterate in that language.  Where a written translation is necessary, counsel should ensure the translator is literate in both languages.

[24] Source language,” as utilized by interpreter professionals, refers to the language of the original message. When a witness answers questions in Mandarin, and the interpreter renders them into English, Mandarin is the source language.

[25] “Target language” is the language into which the message is being translated. In the above example, English is the target language.

[26] See United States v. Mosquera, 816 F. Supp. 168, 175 (E.D.N.Y. 1993) (Weinstein, J.).  Most of the law discussed in this chapter concerns interpretation, rather than translation.  For a case ordering translation of documents, see id.