Main problems for court interpreters-translators

Staff court interpreters and translators are not numerous and they are scattered all over Spain. Their daily problems respond to similar situations, where their role is neither understood nor respected. Such lack of knowledge on their profession has prevented them from achieving suitable job conditions.


On the one hand, staff court interpreters and translators have been classified into different professional groups, depending on whether they are employed by the Ministry of Justice or by any of the Regions which have been transferred powers over the administration of justice. In the Basque Country, Madrid and the Canary Islands they belong to Group 1 (entry requirement: 4-year university degree), in Andalusia to Group 2 (3-year degree) and in those regions or courts (National High Court –Audiencia Nacional- and Supreme Court) still depending on the Ministry of Justice to Group 3 (secondary education diploma). Thus, whereas at First Instance Criminal Courts in Madrid interpreters and translators are considered to have high education degrees, at the National High Court having a secondary school degree is enough. Nevertheless, virtually all posts have been covered with people who have university degrees, a logical thing considering the complexity of tasks involved and the relevance of interpreting and translating in sensitive cases, such as terrorism, for instance, although all judicial proceedings are equally important. In the same way as attorneys need to be qualified for all the proceedings, interpreters and translators should also be qualified.


On the other hand, some regions have decided to outsource interpreting-translation services and this means that there is an intermediary company between the interpreter-translator and the Court. Problems arise as bids do not establish decent fees for the interpreter-translator, who ends up earning incredibly low fees, because some companies keep 60 per cent of the amount paid by the Administration for each service provided. Hence, outsourced companies hire unqualified staff (at least in some cases; fortunately not in most) to the detriment of true professionals. As we have already explained, the consequences are clearly and conclusively reflected upon service quality, which falls tremendously, affecting all those involved in the proceedings, from the non-Spanish speaker with a direct interest in the case, up to the judge, the prosecutor or the attorney themselves.