Why is the interpreter taking notes?
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Notetaking is a sign of a good interpreter.
No matter the skill level, the interpreter must be ready for a lot of information to be thrown at him/her in a short amount of time.
It is part of the certified interpreter test. The test includes addresses and information that cannot be easily memorized, requiring the interpreter to learn to take notes.
The interpreter may take names and addresses down, telephone numbers, and other information that may help throughout the meeting.
The notes are not really intelligible most of the time, we use mnemonics such as little drawings, geometric shapes, and letters to help us remember what was said. It is not shorthand, so if you ask us to go back to our notes to repeat what was said just a few minutes ago, we will most likely not recall. The notes are simply to refresh our short-term memory but the substance of the conversation is quickly forgotten.
Certified interpreters are to keep all matters confidential. So, in a sense, the attorney-client privilege applies to them as well. Notes are usually discarded at the end of the day or thrown out later if it is a multi-day trial.
You may request the interpreter to throw away the notes before leaving the room. In my experience, this is rarely, if ever, requested. I think only once in my many DEA and FBI debriefings have I been asked to discard my notes in a special bin that gets shredded at the end of the day. Attorneys, for the most part, understand the professional role of the interpreter and trust they will abide by the same ethical standards that apply to attorneys (as far as confidentiality is concerned).
When using non-certified interpreters, it may be worthwhile, however, to mention the confidentiality requirement before the beginning of the meeting.