This is a historical moment for the interpreting profession.

June 11, 2014 § 5 Comments

Dear colleagues:

It is not very often that we as humans get an opportunity to witness first-hand a truly historical development. The Mexican interpreter community is presently experiencing just that. For a few years now, the Mexican government has been moving towards an administration of justice that is fair, transparent and accountable. The first step was to amend the Mexican constitution and switch from a written trial system to an oral system like the one followed by the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries whose legal tradition comes from the Common Law System. Globalization has played an important part on these changes, and Mexico is not the only country moving away from a written system inspired by Roman and Napoleonic Law; countries like Chile and Costa Rica decided to adopt the oral system as well, and others are in the process.

In March 2014 Mexico took another significant step when the new National Code of Criminal Procedure (Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales) was enacted. The next stage of the process calls for the development of a series of precepts and legislation that will cover in detail the various angles of the judicial process and its participants. One of these participants is the court interpreter.

This is the time for the Mexican interpreter community to provide their experience, knowledge, and wisdom to those in government charged with the task of regulating court interpreting services. It seems that the Mexican interpreters listened and answered the call, because there was a round table discussion at the National Institute of Criminal Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Penales or INACIPE) a few weeks ago, and the auditorium was full of interpreters and many other legal professionals, including attorneys, administrators and activists. This was a forum where the interpreters contributed their voice to the task of overcoming the communication and language-related problems that come with an oral system of justice.

Some essential elements of the interpreting services, working conditions, and requirements to become a certified court interpreter (perito intérprete) were established to make sure that all interpreting services throughout Mexico are provided by prepared professional individuals who will have all the needed work conditions to do a first-class job. Team interpreting, booths, interpreter location in the courtroom, advanced materials, and an 8-hour maximum work day, were set as the basic requirements; for the first time ever an agreement by all interpreters to work united was reached. It was decided that foreign language, Indigenous language, and Sign language interpreters will cooperate and pursue the same working conditions. There is much to do in the near future, but the foundation has been established. Some of the next steps will include an outreach to the federal and state-level judicial authorities such as the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación) and the State Supreme Courts (Tribunales Superiores de Justicia) an information campaign using different media such as blogs like “The Professional Interpreter,” websites like the Mexican Conference Interpreters College (Colegio Mexicano de Intérpretes de Conferencia) website, TV on the Judiciary Channel (Canal Judicial) direct e-mailings, videos on YouTube, and more public forums like the one at INACIPE. Some of the main issues to be discussed in the near future include the qualifications to become a certified court interpreter (perito intérprete) both: academic and personal; the requirements to work as a certified court interpreter (perito intérprete) such as continuing education and legal authority to work in México.

Some people are working very hard to advance and achieve this goal: From INACIPE Director Rafael Estrada and the coordinator of this project Sofía Cobo Téllez, and from the interpreter side Georganne Weller, Hilda Tejada and Lucila Christen. I have had the privilege to closely work with all of them in this project and I have been inspired by their determination to succeed.

Because the world is changing, and I know that many of my colleagues in countries other than Mexico are facing similar situations at different stages, I decided to include this post with the hope that it may motivate, inspire, or encourage somebody else in our interpreting community to step up and do something to improve the quality of the interpreting services in his or her country. I now invite you all to share some of your stories about the changes and professional accomplishments that you have experienced in your country.

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§ 5 Responses to This is a historical moment for the interpreting profession.

  • André Csihas says:

    I just returned from “el D.F.” and already there are books regarding the “Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales” in major libraries, so the system is in the process of shifting as you so well put it.

    The conference interpreters’ role is obvious, however your article brought to mind an interesting question: In which languages / language pair would court interpreting apply in Mexico?

    Here in the United States due to tremendous ethnic diversity we have, certified court interpreters can work in various language pairs, usually English and another language, but how does that apply to Mexico? Will there be a Spanish-Náhuatl or a Spanish-Yucatec certification?

    I very much enjoy reading your blog and find it a valuable tool for the furtherance of our profession.


    André Csihás, FCCI

    • Thank you André. Although the certification requirements and process are in the planning stages, the idea is to offer accessibility to all litigants. The goal is to eventually cover all language combinations, including indigenous languages.

  • […] Dear colleagues: It is not very often that we as humans get an opportunity to witness first-hand a truly historical development. The Mexican interpreter community is presently experiencing just tha…  […]

  • Estimado Profesor Rosado, Compañero Tony,

    Le agradezco por este informe positivo. No es tan a menudo que leemos cosas buenas de lo que se hace en un país y en nuestra profesión.

    Como miembro de AIIC, ex-presidente de AIIC, le felicito a Usted y sus colegas por su participación en la elaboración de las normas de trabajo de la profesión de intérprete de los tribunales. Como Usted dice, queda más por hacer, pero por lo menos los diversos actores del sistema de justicia ahora tienen una idea de lo que es el papel del intérprete en los tribunales y lo que hace falta para que pueda cumplir bien su función. El problema de la falta de comprensión de lo que hace un intérprete y como lo hace, y de la importancia de su papel en el rendimiento de la justicia, lo sufrimos también en el ámbito de las conferencias. Y luchamos constantemente para difundir el conocimiento al respecto de nuestra profesión.

    ¡Bien hecho! ¡Bien descrito!

    Jean-Pierre Allain

  • Please, allow me to share a podcast in Spanish about this topic. Thanks, Tony Rosado. We highly appreciate your visits and friendliness in Mexico.

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