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Keep your distance? Remote interpreting in legal proceedings: A critical assessment of a growing practice1

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Remote interpreting, whereby the interpreter is physically separated from those who need the interpretation, has been investigated in relation to conference and healthcare settings. By contrast, very little is known about remote interpreting in legal proceedings, where this method of interpreting is increasingly used to optimise interpreters’ availability. This paper reports the findings of an experimental study investigating the viability of videoconference-based remote interpreting in legal contexts. The study compared the quality of interpreter performance in traditional and remote interpreting, both using the consecutive mode. Two simulated police interviews of detainees, recreating authentic situations, were interpreted by eight interpreters with accreditation and professional experience in police interpreting. The languages involved were French (in most cases the interpreter’s native language) and English. Each interpreter interpreted one of the interviews in remote interpreting, and the other in a traditional face-to-face setting. Various types of problem in the interpretations were analysed, quantitatively and qualitatively. Among the key findings are a significantly higher number of interpreting problems, and a faster decline of interpreting performance over time, in remote interpreting. The paper gives details of these findings, and discusses the potential legal consequences of the problems identified.
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Keywords: legal proceedings; police interviews; quality; remote interpreting; videoconferencing

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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  • International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
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