Health & safety training, business negotiations or a large Opel conference: as an interpreter you have to deal with all types of clients and industries. Throughout the years, I have specialised in the legal field. In case of assignments from new fields (recently I received a query from an esoteric association), it is always possible to take advantage of one’s own experience pool and to try to get quickly acquainted with given specialist terminology. However, even as an expert in a specialised field, some things still surprise you.
Interpreting for ordinary courts of law can be vary greatly, and yet a civil or criminal trial always follows the same procedure. In Germany, however, there are courts of law which are not part of the system of ordinary courts but are competent in matters concerning a particular professional group. Such courts are, among others, sports tribunals which for example take action against deliberate injuries caused by an opposite player, or impose fines for right-wing gestures. I had recently the pleasure of interpreting during a sports tribunal hearing in a case of so-called “foul play”. Despite the fact that the course of proceedings is similar to that at an ordinary court, I had to inform myself beforehand about several specifics regarding the applied legal basis and game rules. Furthermore it was of utmost importance for me to immerse myself into the ‘lingo’ that was known without exception to the players and other people involved in the hearing. A situation, when the interpreter does not understand the specific sociolect of a particular professional group, is possibly the most ominous that can occur in this profession. The person in charge of enabling “smooth” communication needs to know about the specialist language used by a particular group. Otherwise, even the best interpreting skills are futile.