Chapter published in:Common Law in an Uncommon Courtroom: Judicial interpreting in Hong Kong
Eva N.S. Ng
[Benjamins Translation Library 144] 2018
► pp. 111–127
Chinese witnesses testifying in English
The previous chapter illustrated how judges’ intervention in witness examinations can be a cause of omissions in court interpreting. It demonstrated how the participation status of non-English-speaking (NES) linguistic majority in the court proceedings in the Hong Kong courtroom could be compromised because of the judge’s intervention. This was a result of a shift in the mode of interpreting from the consecutive to the more restrictive chuchotage mode or, worse still, of an entire omission of interpretation as the judge changed from an auditor role to a speaker role in witness examination. This chapter examines how non-native English-speaking (NNES) witnesses, by waiving their right to an interpreter, can be disadvantaged due to their linguistic incompetence. It explores how NNES witnesses are further disadvantaged in the antagonistic process of cross-examination, as counsel frequently flout the maxims of the Cooperative Principle (Grice 1975), by asking, for example, ambiguously worded and/or syntactically complex questions (non-observance of the maxim of manner). It also discusses how this might compromise the participation status of other NNES court participants including the jury in the judicial process, and potentially impact the delivery of justice.