How does an interpreter set the stage as a professional? One tool that serves to that end is the pre-session or briefing session where the judicial interpreter states her role to the parties in both languages before beginning. Over the years I learned to say, “Counsel, may I introduce myself to your client?” Invariably the attorney agreed and I began “Soy interpréte y no soy abogado …”. I’d hand the attached handout (or show it to the lawyer) then proceed with the session. Sure, some may say there is no time for a pre-session. To those I say, “Make time and reduce the briefing session to ‘I am an interpreter and not an attorney’”, eight brief words that protect the interpreter.


Recently a colleague, Monica Benavides, invited fellow interpreters to meet at Rincón Criollo in the Gordon Arts District of Cleveland The crowd consisted of seasoned and neophyte interpreters who shared ideas and savored traditional Puerto Rican dishes. A newcomer to our field young lady and I ordered mofongo. Between bites she expressed concerns about court interpreting. Hence the pre-session discussion.


Interpreters can take charge and present them selves professionally from the outset. Arlene M. Kelly of the American Translators Association shared this pre-session script years ago (see attached) that I to this day each time a defendant and lawyer appear or at check-in with the bailiff. After a sumptuous meal the young lady and I exchanged contact information and I sent the attached the next day. This provided another opportunity to educate not only a newcomer but the court on how to work with interpreters. Please distribute and comment as you like.

The Nature of Duties to the Defendant

Published by The Interpreter Fellow

I am an Ohio State Certified Court Interpreter and Certified Healthcare Interpreter in Spanish. MA Translation from The Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. Currently I serve Akron Children's Hospital Pediatrics and local courts.

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thoughts on interpreting

Liam O'Dell

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