When court cases become multi-lingual, the need for a translator quickly becomes apparent to everyone. What is often less obvious, to the detriment of all involved, is the need for a specialized translator with legal experience.
Legal language is difficult to comprehend in one single tongue, let alone attempting to translate from one language to another! A lack of legal knowledge or experience can result in lengthy delays and even in massive mistakes or misunderstandings.
One example of this can be seen in an ongoing case in Ohio involving defendants accused of human trafficking and enslaving women for sex. This would be complicated enough without the extra dimension added by the fact that the defendants do not speak any English! Now, this case is expected to drag out for up to two weeks and be much less clear as a result of inexperienced translators dealing with complex legal jargon.
Such examples abound. One study looked at the effect of bad translation and inconsistencies between the English and French versions of a convention involving liability of airlines for death or injury to passengers and baggage losses. Apparently, this has led to the dismissal of legitimate claims.
How much more this must happen within court cases, when there is pressure for a quick translation. If the person is not comfortable with legal terminology, it could greatly impact the understanding of the case by the main parties involved.
It is clear from these examples that simply hiring a translator will not suffice, especially for complex legal matters. A legal translator is more than simply a translator.