The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process

University of Chicago Press
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Drawing on more than one hundred hours of taped recordings of Spanish/English court proceedings in federal, state, and municipal courts—along with extensive psycholinguistic research using translated testimony and mock jurors—Susan Berk-Seligson's seminal book presents a systematic study of court interpreters, and raises some alarming, vitally important concerns: contrary to the assumption that interpreters do not affect the contents of court proceedings, they could potentially make the difference between a defendant being found guilty or innocent of a crime.
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About the author

Susan Berk-Seligson is an associate professor of Hispanic linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 13, 2012
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Pages
322
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ISBN
9780226923277
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Translating & Interpreting
Law / Civil Procedure
Law / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The book presents a discourse analysis of police interrogations involving U.S. Hispanic suspects accused of crimes. The study is unique in that it concentrates on interrogations involving suspects whose first language is not English and police officers who have a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish. It examines the pitfalls of using police officers as interpreters at custodial interrogations.
Using an interactional sociolinguistic discourse analytical approach, the book offers a microlinguistic examination of interrogations involving persons accused of murder, child molestation, and kidnapping. Communication difficulties are shown to arise from suspects' limited proficiency in English and police officers' equally limited proficiency in Spanish, coupled with the unwillingness of these officers to remain in interpreter footing. The volume demonstrates how pidginization and asymmetrical communicative accommodation can emerge in such situations of highly unequal power relations. It also demonstrates how cultural factors such as acquiescence to interlocutors of greater authority and higher socioeconomic status can lead persons of certain Latin American backgrounds to engage in "gratuitous concurrence", answering "yes" to police questions even when it is clear that that these yes-tokens are not truly affirmative responses to those questions. In addition, the book provides evidence of the kinds of abuse that can result from police interrogations that are not electronically recorded.
Coerced Confessions reviews appellate cases involving police interpreters spanning a thirty-four-year period, and concludes that the Miranda rights are placed in jeopardy when a police officer is assigned the role of interpreter at a custodial interrogation.
Susan Berk-Seligson’s groundbreaking book draws on more than one hundred hours of audio recordings of Spanish/English court proceedings in federal, state, and municipal courts—along with a number of psycholinguistic experiments involving mock juror reactions to interpreted testimony—to present a systematic study of court interpreters that raises some alarming, vitally important concerns. Contrary to the assumption that interpreters do not affect the dynamics of court proceedings, Berk-Seligson shows that interpreters could potentially make the difference between a defendant being found guilty or not guilty of a crime.

This second edition of the The Bilingual Courtroom includes a fully updated review of both theoretical and policy-oriented research relevant to the use of interpreters in legal settings, particularly from the standpoint of linguistic pragmatics. It provides new insights into interpreting in quasi-judicial, informal, and specialized judicial settings, such as small claims court, jails, and prisons; updates trends in interpreter certification and credentialing, both in the United States and abroad; explores remote interpreting (for example, by telephone) and interpreter training programs; looks at political trials and tribunals to add to our awareness of international perspectives on court interpreting; and expands upon cross-cultural issues. Also featuring a new preface by Berk-Seligson, this second edition not only highlights the impact of the previous versions of The Bilingual Courtroom, but also draws attention to the continued need for critical study of interpreting in our ever diversifying society.
The book presents a discourse analysis of police interrogations involving U.S. Hispanic suspects accused of crimes. The study is unique in that it concentrates on interrogations involving suspects whose first language is not English and police officers who have a rudimentary knowledge of Spanish. It examines the pitfalls of using police officers as interpreters at custodial interrogations.
Using an interactional sociolinguistic discourse analytical approach, the book offers a microlinguistic examination of interrogations involving persons accused of murder, child molestation, and kidnapping. Communication difficulties are shown to arise from suspects' limited proficiency in English and police officers' equally limited proficiency in Spanish, coupled with the unwillingness of these officers to remain in interpreter footing. The volume demonstrates how pidginization and asymmetrical communicative accommodation can emerge in such situations of highly unequal power relations. It also demonstrates how cultural factors such as acquiescence to interlocutors of greater authority and higher socioeconomic status can lead persons of certain Latin American backgrounds to engage in "gratuitous concurrence", answering "yes" to police questions even when it is clear that that these yes-tokens are not truly affirmative responses to those questions. In addition, the book provides evidence of the kinds of abuse that can result from police interrogations that are not electronically recorded.
Coerced Confessions reviews appellate cases involving police interpreters spanning a thirty-four-year period, and concludes that the Miranda rights are placed in jeopardy when a police officer is assigned the role of interpreter at a custodial interrogation.
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