Tips for Paralegals to Overcome Language Barriers
The role of a paralegal
A paralegal’s job typically resembles that of an attorney. It is just the lack of qualifications that stops a paralegal from representing a client in court or providing any legal advice unless an attorney is supervising the action. A paralegal faces many challenges every day and the most important one is communicating with clients who speak little English or no English at all. This typically leads to misunderstandings and can prevent the client from accessing the legal services they require.
Tip 1 # Awareness of cultural differences
Being aware that cultural differences exist, as well as that problems in understanding English will assist you to find solutions that will lessen difficulties with communication.
Tip 2 # Use of outside expertise
There are two kinds of language experts. The first is the translator, who handles the written word and translates a document from English into a further language, or from a language into English. An interpreter deals with spoken words and listens to the English speaker and then translates into the other language through speaking to the other person, and then listens to the non-English speaker and translates using spoken English to the person who speaks English.
Tip 3 # Choose an interpreter or translator who obviously knows your case’s subject matter.
You should choose somebody with legal training for the translation of a legal document and someone with medical, engineering, or medical if your case is related to one of these specialty areas.
Tip 4 # Use of a translator
The translator you choose should be familiar with the law but for the translator to produce the best translation work you must send more, not less, documentation as a paralegal often makes the decision to send a few pages from a document but not all. A paralegal could find some of the pages unnecessary while a translator may require those absent pages to clearly understand the meaning and context of the sent material.
Tip 5 # Use of an interpreter
A court will often provide an interpreter for a criminal or any other case, but sometimes as a paralegal, you may prefer to hire an interpreter, especially if there is a complex civil case that involves medicine or engineering. Selecting an interpreter is quite similar to selecting a translator, but looking closer to your home will help to eliminate or lower travel expenses. Your chosen interpreter should clearly understand the legal procedure of an individual court so you should make sure your selected interpreter has considerable court experience.
Tip 6 # Being on your own
If you find you are more or less on your own when handling a non-English speaking client there are a few things you can do to lower the problem. This includes:
Tip 7 # Keep vocabulary and sentences simple
- Ask often if the non-English speaker has any questions;
- Do not use slang, jargon, or idioms;
- Speak slowly;
- Be fully aware of any cultural differences when it comes to manners, greetings, and expression;
- Tell your client how the procedures will take place in their case.
If you’re getting someone to sign a document in English, and that person doesn’t read or understand much English you may need a competent person to interpret the more complex documents. Don’t assume automatically that a client who is non-English speaking will have understood you. If in doubt, repeat what you have just said. If you’re still in doubt as to the client’s understanding this is the time to seek the services of a professional interpreter or translator.