While welcoming the lord chief justice giving prominence to the subject of court interpreting in the Sir Henry Brooke Annual Lecture, the message that ‘simultaneous translation will put courtroom interpreters out of a job “within a few years”’ (Gazette, 8 June) should be treated with caution.
We are nowhere near a point where technology can substitute for professional interpreters. The recent chaotic debut of an automatic ‘speech translation’ service at the Boao Forum for Asia illustrates the gulf that can exist between laboratory results coupled with public relations on the one hand, and performance under real-world conditions on the other.
To allow such systems loose on the justice system in their current state and without significant testing, development and trialling would lead to miscarriages of justice, increased taxpayer expense and barriers to those with limited English proficiency participating in the justice system.
The current systems for hiring, briefing and working with court interpreters are overdue for improvement, with practitioners feeling their views and experience have not been taken into account. It is this area that the Institute of Translation and Interpreting believes demands immediate attention.
Paul Wilson, Chief executive, Institute of Translation and Interpreting, Milton Keynes