Judiciary considers problems with foreign language use

The Poder Judicial has come to the realization that the judiciary needs to hire more interpreters so persons who do not speak Spanish or have disabilities can communicate and understand proceedings as they happen.

To do this, the judiciary has recently approved new guidelines that will be incorporated into the official rules of the institution covering rights, duties and processes to follow for recruitment.

According to the judiciary, there are 17 languages and dialects spoken around the country.  From
1995, a total of 2,017 cases have needed translators. The top language needs are English, sign language, Ngöbe, Cabécar and Bribri.

The regions that most need interpreters are San José, Puntarenas, Alajuela and the southern zone, and the criminal, family, civil, misdemeanor and juvenile courts require the most translators.

As of August 2012, the department has invested 21 million colons in the translator program.  There are 46 persons registered as translators for the judiciary. They speak Bribri, Cabécar, Ngöbe, Mandarin, sign language, English, Italian and French.

It has been an important investment, said officials.

“Interpreters and translators constitute a vital tool for the administration of justice in such a way that currently the judicial offices of the country, which require the collaboration of professionals specialized in various subjects, need oral and written translations for the processing of cases,” said Alfredo Jones, executive director of Poder Judicial.

“We have a fully accessible system that was designed to fairly and randomly appoint required professionals immediately, which helps achieve the constitutional mission of prompt justice,” he aid.

The system containing the official list also is accessible on the Web site of the judiciary, which has allowed this same list to bed used by external users to recruit experts in the various languages.

However the system has not been fully effective and will undergo some changes.  One improvement is a document that outlines the requirements for being an interpreter which was created by judges and magistrates in the first quarter of the year.

Officials also recognize that the native populations not only have a language but also a culture.  For this reason, interpreters will be hired who can understand different dialects and anthropologists who can convey the culture and traditions of these persons.

A problem that the judiciary has run into is finding translators that fit certification standards.  In the case of native populations, there is not enough knowledge to adequately determine if a person really has mastered the language to be an interpreter..

However, the problem goes beyond indigenous populations. Validating the qualifications of interpreters for the deaf also present a problem, said Anabelle León Feoli, a judge.

A possible solution is a proposal to provide training for those that make up the official translator list.

“We talked about creating a commission using a team of judges, prosecutors, public defenders and staff . . .  to give this training,” said Ms. León.”

Another option is to collaborate with the national council for rehabilitation and special education to make guidelines for the selection process.

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