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Tips for Deposing a Non-English Speaker at Talty Court Reporters

As an attorney in San Jose, chances are you occasionally depose witnesses who don’t speak English. An interpreter-assisted deposition is no ordinary deposition. You must be prepared to make extra preparations to achieve the best results for your client. Here are nine tips for deposing a non-English speaker.

  1. Confirm in writing whether an interpreter is needed: If the deponent says they need an interpreter, written proof may be useful in recovering translation costs. And if they say they don’t require an interpreter, an email to this effect can help overrule any later testimony that the deponent didn’t understand the question.
  2. Ask about the witness’s literacy: Don’t assume that a witness can read and write in their native language. If they are illiterate, providing non-English exhibits may be worthless.
  3. Be aware of dialect differences: Dialects may affect accent and word choice, potentially impacting the interpretation of a deponent’s testimony. With this in mind, hire an interpreter who is familiar, or ideally fluent, in the witness’s dialect whenever possible.
  4. Understand that culture and history matter: Non-English-speaking witnesses may come from a very different cultural background than someone raised in the United States. They may not understand our fair and impartial justice system and fear telling the truth. Strive to make your witness as comfortable as possible, and never trick, startle, or confuse them to get a confession.
  5. Find out how much English the witness can speak: A deponent may request an interpreter even if they speak basic English. Inquiring about their English proficiency may be relevant in other areas of your case, such as whether they could read an English-only warning label, so don’t hesitate to learn more.
  6. Hire a trusted interpreter: The last thing you need is for the interpreter to get a statement wrong or intentionally mistranslate something. To avoid uncertainty about a witness’s testimony, use a reputable interpreter who comes highly recommended.
  7. Phrase questions carefully: Direct, concise phrasing is the key to a successful deposition, even if the witness speaks English. When an interpreter enters the mix, this is even more critical. To avoid misunderstandings, speak in the active voice and avoid expressions, colloquialisms, and slang.
  8. Don’t hesitate to interrupt the proceedings: Interpreters are expected to translate exactly what the deponent says into English without corrections or commentary. If they begin speaking out of turn, pause to correct the interpreter and start over.
  9. Be aware of deposition time limits: Deposing a non-English speaker takes longer because everything must be stated twice. Know the time limits imposed in your jurisdiction and seek an extension for your interpreter-assisted deposition if needed.

At Talty Court Reporters, we utilize the latest technology to deliver the very best results in your legal case. Turn to us for top-quality interpretation services in Spanish, Haitian Creole, or Navajo. We also offer court reporting and transcribing, video and audio conferencing, remote depositions, and much more. For additional information about our services or to request a cost estimate, please contact us today.

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