Well help you translate every opportunity into success!
Is it okay to use italics, bold or other form of differentiation on court ready forensic transcripts?
Foreign words, mispronunciations, drug code, ciphers and slang are transcribed as they are heard. Do not use italics or other form of differentiation which may constitute editorializing. Although the use of italics, bold, quotation marks or capitalization used as emphasis may be acceptable in transcript preparation for other purposes, it is not acceptable in a transcript destined for evidentiary use in court. The use of such emphasis may be construed as reflecting the theory of the case of the party proffering the transcript. For example, in United States v. Gonzalez-Maldonado, 115 F. 3d 9, 17 (1st Cir. 1997), the appellate court held that the trial court improperly allowed the government to submit to the jury transcripts that had the words “ticket” and “accident” in quotes, allegedly referring to money and arrest, respectively.
Is it okay to use parentheticals and footnotes on final transcripts?
For purposes of this writing, parenthetical remarks are defined as the transcriber/ translator’s own words enclosed in brackets such as [sic] and do not refer to markers for non-lexical events, non-human vocalizations and background noises enclosed in parentheses.
Vocalized non-lexical events such as coughing, whistling, etc. and markers or indicators for background noises such as overlapping voices, music, phone ringing, etc. and non-human vocalizations such as dog barking or birds chirping, are not considered translator notes or interjections but merely markers or a depiction of the environment in which the conversation is taking place. Same are depicted in parentheses. Brackets are reserved for translator interjections such as [sic].
Based on case law and our experience, parentheticals are more of a hindrance than a help in the transcripts.A transcript filled with parenthetical translator notes, which are in effect interjections by the transcriber/translator, detract from the readability of such transcript. Additionally, Master Translating respectfully submits that when a translator provides multiple choice translations by way of parentheticals or footnotes, he has not done his job. The translator should select the best word or phrase in order to provide the correct shade of meaning. The goal is to provide the dynamic and legal equivalent of the source language in the target language. It is our practice not to use parenthetical translator notes at all on court-ready forensic transcripts.
“Unlike in monitoring logs, there should be no parentheticals [translator interjections in brackets] or other editorial comments in the final transcripts.” William P. Schaefer, Assistant United States Attorney, Organized Crime Strike Force, Northern District of California, “Supervising and Litigating a Foreign Language Electronic Surveillance Interception,” United States Attorney’s Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 06, (November 1997) Electronic Investigative Techniques II.
Pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 604, “[a]n interpreter is subject to … the administration of an oath or affirmation to make a true translation.” Thus, as a general rule, if the literal translation of the word or phrase does not make sense and the transcriber/translator has sufficient experience dealing with drug slang to qualify as an expert, the transcriber/translator should provide a translation based on such experience, using the equivalent English language slang. For example, words like manteca, pericoand marimbado not require decoding or code-cracking to understand their meaning within the context of a drug deal, they only require knowledge of common street drug slang to understand that they refer to heroin, cocaine and marijuana and should be translated using the equivalent English street slang smack, blow and pot. However, if not, the transcriber/translator should provide a translation that is as close to the literal meaning as possible, lard, parakeet and marimba. The intended meaning, within the context used, will be presented through expert testimony and subject to cross-examination.
Like court interpreters, transcribers/translators “may explain or clarify the meaning of a word or phrase only when directed to do so by a judge [through expert opinion testimony] or according to standards promulgated by the Administrative Office of the Courts.” Berk-Seligson, Susan, The Bilingual Courtroom, The University of Chicago Press, (2002:259). Therefore, it is respectfully submitted that the transcriber/translator should not attempt to analyze, explain, judge or interject his opinion by way of translator interjections or footnotes.