The effect of interpreting modes on witness credibility assessments
Research into court interpreting has shown that interpreters can have an impact on the case in many different ways. However, the extent to which this occurs depends on several factors, including the interpreter’s competence, ethics and specialized training in court interpreting, as well as working conditions. One little explored aspect is whether use of consecutive vs. simultaneous interpreting can impact jurors’ perception of a witness or other interpreted party. This paper reports on the results of a large-scale experimental study, with a simulated trial run in different conditions, involving a total of 447 mock jurors. The aim was to identify any differences in the way jurors in Australian courts might assess the evidence of an accused called as a witness, in a monolingual hearing as well as when interpreted consecutively and simultaneously from Spanish to English. Overall, jurors’ recollection of case facts did not differ significantly for the three conditions, though it was lower for consecutive during the afternoon. Jurors also found consecutive more distracting; on the other hand, the consecutive mode was associated with significantly more favourable perception of the accused’s evidence than simultaneous interpreting or monolingual communication. Although jurors found the prosecution to be less convincing when the accused’s evidence was interpreted consecutively compared to the other proceedings, the interpretation mode made no difference to the verdict.
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