Sight Translation in the courtroom
Unlike regular interpretation where the interpreter takes spoken words from one language and transfers them into another language, during sight translation, the interpreter takes English written words and reads them aloud in the target language so that the non-English speaker can understand what the court is communicating with him/her. The opposite is also true, where the non-English speaker submits to the court a written document in another language. Here also the interpreter will read quietly the non-English text and render it audibly into English.
When is sight translation used most?
People use sight translation in different settings. For instance when a witness gives a written statement in a foreign language that the court does not understand. Or the defendant provides a piece of evidence that is prepared in a language other than English. In those situations, the court will ask the interpreter to read quietly the text from the other language while rendering it aloud in English. Sight translation is also useful in instances where the court has a written document that the defendant needs to understand. In both cases the interpreter will use his/her skills to render the message in the appropriate language.
What are the limitations of sight translation?
Translating a text without having access to translators’ tools can be a challenging task. It is like asking an artist to paint a picture without a brush. The task is doable, it is just that the quality will not be the same. In normal translation, the translator has resources to look up words. He/she has tools to check grammar and other errors that may affect the meaning of the message. During sight translation, the interpreter does not have access to such tools. He/she relies on his/her memory alone to convert the text from the source language to the target language instantly. That is a limitation.