How to use an interpreter on Zoom.
***You can also see the matching YouTube video for this post.***
I’ve wanted to write this article for a while. How do you use an interpreter over Zoom?
So, let’s say you need to have a witness testify at a zoom hearing or a zoom deposition. How does it work?
Well, for a deposition, it’s easy.
In a deposition, you have to take turns to speak. You have to do this anyway because you have the court reporter. The court reporter has to write down the question and the answer. So you would wait for the interpreter to interpret or to “translate” into the target language, then wait for the witness to answer. And then the interpreter, once the witness finishes the answer, will translate it back into English. So for depositions, it’s not an issue.
It becomes a little bit of a problem with the objections.
So let’s say you have a long objection, and there’s an argument going on. What I would usually do as an interpreter on-site, when I’m next to the witness, in the conference room and you’re objecting, I’m interpreting the objection simultaneously. Either with my mouth covered or just whispering into the person’s ear. Therefore if you’re trying to coach the witness a little bit, that will work fine in a deposition when the interpreter is on-site, and they will be able to understand a lot better what’s going on. There’s something called the equal footing principle, and I will do a video just on the equal footing principle. And it has to do with the witness being at the same level as an English-speaking person, so if you’re able to coach an English-speaking witness, you should be able to coach a Spanish-speaking witness, but that’s a different story. Now, with objections over Zoom, it gets trickier. Lately, we are not interpreting the objections over Zoom unless they are short or unless the attorney wants explicitly every objection to be translated; Because it is just a nightmare, logistically. Too many people speaking at the same time, and there’s usually an answer to the objections. So it doesn’t work very well. But other than that, depositions over Zoom are not really an issue.
What happens when you’re in a hearing, though?
Hearings are long. There’s a lot of information being conveyed between the attorneys and the court. You cannot interpret that in consecutive mode. You cannot do an entire hearing in consecutive mode, it would take forever. Some judges have been deciding to only interpret for the witness whenever they’re going to testify, even if the witness is also one of the parties. So the party does not understand anything throughout the entire hearing. Well, that’s not supposed to be the case.
Based on the equal footing principle, a person is supposed to understand everything that’s going on throughout their proceedings. With the scenario mentioned above, you can get some dispute later because the person couldn’t understand. An appeal, perhaps.
So this is what we’re doing in Zoom, and here’s the solution (for most people):
The following will work if your client is on the computer instead of connecting to Zoom via their phone. We call them on a separate line to interpret for them on their cell phone. They are on Zoom, on mute, the interpreter is on zoom and mute as well, AND we are on the phone with a person interpreting simultaneously everything that is going on. When it’s their turn to testify, we either hang up the phone or put it on mute, and then we do consecutive mode interpreting using the zoom audio. It’s not the ideal scenario. Ideally, we should be using the zoom simultaneous interpretation feature. I’ll do a video on that beautiful and fantastic feature soon.