Tue, Jan 03, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Two legislators question court interpreters' skills

SUBSTANDARD The legislators claim that the rights of defendants who cannot speak Mandarin are being compromised as a result of unskilled trial translators


The quality of interpreters offered to defendants, witnesses and others appearing in court in Taiwan came into question yesterday when Democratic Progressive Party legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) and People First Party legislator Supo Kao (高思博) held a press conference on the issue.

According to the two legislators, substandard trial translators could seriously compromise the human rights of defendants who do not speak Mandarin, particularly in the case of foreign workers in Taiwan.

In response, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said that a directory of interpreters in various languages could be established and on-the-job training programs could be used to improve the proficiency interpreters already employed.

During the press conference, a Filipina whose name was not disclosed said that she had been very afraid while in court because she could not understand the legal jargon being used. She said that she did not have faith in the ability of her interpreter and felt her chances of success in the case were compromised.

According to a volunteer for the Catholic Yeh Chu-li (葉茱莉) of the Rerum Novarum Center, questions such as "Did your employer pay you?" were rendered by the interpreters as "Your employer paid you, didn't he?" putting the non-Mandarin speaker at a considerable disadvantage.

According to Cheng Cheng-hui (鄭正輝), director of human resources at the MOJ, interpreters working for the courts must be eligible for public service employment. Last year, the MOJ employed 230 interpreters conversant in English, Japanese, Taiwanese, Hakka, Cantonese, a number of Aboriginal languages and sign language.

Lin Chi-hui (林吉輝), a section head with the administrative division of the MOJ said that a certification system for interpreters would be considered and that a directory of qualified interpreters should be compiled so that they could be called on when the need arose.

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