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Linguistic Study of Court Interpreting in Lay Judge Trials in Japan

Abstract

In Japan, the increase of immigrant workers who do not speak Japanese is a relatively new phenomenon and the government is not yet fully prepared to cope with the resulting communication problems. Language services such as interpreting and translation for non-Japanese-speaking residents have been made available, often on an ad hoc basis. There is no well-developed public certification system nor systematic training programs for so-called “community interpreters.” This article mainly discusses current issues of court interpreting which is one of the most important areas of community interpreting and research findings of recent years, with a special focus on the lay judge system introduced in 2009. There have been several interpreter-mediated court cases in which accuracy of interpreting became an issue. Most such problems are due to the poor interpreting skills of some court interpreters and the lack of a proper screening system and adequate training programs. Recent linguistic studies based on court experiments have revealed that court interpreters’ renditions influence the formation of impressions by and decision-making of lay judges. An example of such findings is that if the interpreter chooses words which have more incriminating connotations, lay judges tend to perceive the defendant as more blameworthy. Court interpreters can affect legal proceedings in many ways, even when they make no obvious mistranslation in meaning. These kinds of data-driven linguistic studies can elucidate realities in terms of the impact of interpreting, which can lead to better awareness toward quality control in various areas of community interpreting.

Keywords

  • Japanese language
  • lay judges
  • court interpreting
  • law
  • Japanese legal system

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Community Interpreting in Japan: Present State and Challenges.” In Translation and Translation Studies in the Japanese Context edited by Sato-Rossberg, Nana and Wakabayashi, Judy, 202–221. London: Continuum, 2012.

  2. 2.

    Mizuno, Makiko. komyuniti tsuyaku nyumon [Introduction to Community Interpreting]. (Osaka: Osaka Kyoiku Tosho, 2008).

  3. 3.

    General Secretariat, Supreme Court of Japan. saiban’in saiban no jisshi joukyou tou ni kansuru shiryou [Data related to practices of the lay judge system]; Accessed 10 August 2013.

    http://www.saibanin.courts.go.jp/topics/pdf/09_12_05-10jissi_jyoukyou/h24_siryo1.pdf

  4. 4.

    General Secretariat, Supreme Court of Japan. saiban’in saiban no jisshi joukyou tou ni kansuru shiryou [Data related to practices of the lay judge system].

  5. 5.

    General Secretariat, Supreme Court of Japan. gozonji desuka houtei tsuuyaku [Do you know court interpreting?] version heisei 25. 2013; Accessed 25 October 2013.

    http://www.courts.go.jp/vcms_lf/h25ban-gozonji.pdf

  6. 6.

    Nick Baker Case was a stimulant drug case tried in Chiba District Court in 2004 involving a defendant who spoke English with a very strong accent. It was appealed to a higher court on the assertion that his interpreters were not able to interpret accurately. An expert opinion report which the author wrote was submitted to the appeal court.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Nick Baker Case: The Challenges Encountered in Improving the Quality Control of Legal Interpretation in Japan.” Kinjo Gakuin Ronshu. Social Science, 5 (1), 34–41, 2008.

  7. 7.

    Hotta, Shugo. saiban to kotoba no chikara [Trial and Power of Language]. (Tokyo: Hituzi Shobō. 2009): 122; idem, hou kontekisuto no gengo riron [Linguistic Theories in Legal Context]. (Tokyo: Hituzi Shobō, 2010): 87.

  8. 8.

    Nakamura, Sachiko and Mizuno, Makiko. “The Linguistic Analysis for the Second Mock Trial.” Interpreting and Translation Studies 9, (2009), 33–54.

  9. 9.

    General Secretariat, Supreme Court of Japan, saibanin saiban no jisshi joukyou tou ni kansuru shiryou [Data related to practices of the lay judge system]. 2010–2013; Accessed 29 October 2013.

    http://www.saibanin.courts.go.jp/topics/pdf/09_12_05-10jissi_jyoukyou/h24_siryo1.pdf

    http://www.saibanin.courts.go.jp/topics/pdf/09_12_05-10jissi_jyoukyou/h23_siryo1.pdf

    http://www.saibanin.courts.go.jp/topics/pdf/09_12_05-10jissi_jyoukyou/h22_siryo1.pdf

    http://www.saibanin.courts.go.jp/topics/pdf/09_12_05-10jissi_jyoukyou/h21_siryo1.pdf

  10. 10.

    Mizuno, Makiko and Nakamura, Sachiko. “Fatigue and Stress of Court Interpreters in Lay Judge Trials.” Kinjo Gakuin Daigaku Ronshū, Studies in Social Science, 7 (1), (2010), 71–80.

  11. 11.

    Moser-Mercer, Barbara, A. Kunzli, and M. Korac. “Prolonged Turns in Interpreting: Effects on Quality, Physiological and Psychological Stress (Pilot Study).” Interpreting, 3 (1), (1998), 47–64.

  12. 12.

    Watanabe, Osamu, M. Mizuno, and S. Nakamura. Jissen houtei tsūyaku [Practices of Court Interpreting]. (Tokyo: Gendai Jinbun-sha, 2010).

  13. 13.

    Bernice case tried in Osaka District Court in 2009, was the first English-Japanese interpreter-mediated lay judge court case in Japan. The case involved charges of stimulant drug smuggling. The defedant appealed the case to a higher court, claiming that her right to a fair trial had been violated because of the poor court interpreting. The defense lawyer commissioned four linguists, including the author, to write expert opinions based on audio recordings of the first trial and he submitted the opinions to the higher court. For details, see Nakamura, Sachiko. “Issues of Interpreting in the Bernice Case.” Language and Law, 1 (2013), 27–37. The appellate judge stated that the quality of the interpretation was acceptable because the experts had highlighted only minor elements whose impacts on the lay judges could not have been significant and dismissed the appeal. The case was further appealed to the Supreme Court of Japan, but the Supreme Court supported the opinion of the appellate court and the appeal was dismissed. This case is the only lay judge case to date in which a detailed analysis on the interpreters’ renditions was conducted by linguists.

    Hawker Case tried in Chiba District Court in 2011 and Furlong Case tried in Tokyo District Court in 2012 are both homicide cases and family members of the victims who were non-Japanese speakers participated in the trial. A significant amount of mistranslations by the court interpreters were revealed and reported by media (The Japan Times, July 21, 2011; The Japan Times, March 23, 2013; The Irish Examiner, March. 23, 2013). Neither of the cases, however, was appealed to a higher court.

  14. 14.

    Ebashi, Takashi. “saiban wo ukeru kenri to tsuyakunin wo tsukeru kenri (Right to trial and right to interpreter).” Review of Law and Political Science, 87 (4), (1990), 21–75; Okabe, Yasumasa. “amerika gasshūkoku no hōtei tsūyakunin ni kansuru mondai. [Issues about court interpreters in the United States].” Osaka University Law Review, 40 (1991), 723–776.

  15. 15.

    Osaka Bar Association. Symposium: Foreigners and Criminal Cases. (Osaka: Osaka Bar Association, 1991).

  16. 16.

    Mizuno, Makiko “shiho tsuyaku shikaku nintei seido no kanousei ni tsuite [Possibility of introducing a certification system for legal interpreters].” Jurist, 1078 (1995), 100–105; Idem. “Newcomers in Japan and Their Language Barriers: On the Issues of Language Problems in the Criminal Procedures.” Memoirs of the Institute of Humanities, Human and Social Science, Ritsumeikan University, 64 (1996), 35–84.

  17. 17.

    Tsuda, Mamoru “Human Rights Problems of Foreigners in Japan’s Criminal Justice System.” Migration World Magazine, 25 (1997), 1–2, 22–25.

  18. 18.

    Watanabe, Osamu and Nagao, Hiromi, eds. Gaikokujin to keiji tetsuzuki [Foreigners and Criminal Proceedings]. (Tokyo: Seibundō Press, 1998).

  19. 19.

    Countries covered were the United States (2000), Germany, France, and Sweden (2001), Australia (2002), the United Kingdom and Spain (2003), Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong (2004) and Switzerland and the Netherlands (2005).

  20. 20.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Community Interpreting in Japan: Present State and Challenges.” In Translation and Translation Studies in the Japanese Context edited by Sato-Rossberg, Nana and Wakabayashi, Judy, 202–221. (London: Continuum, 2012); 214.

  21. 21.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Future Prospects of the European Legal Interpreting System.” Interpretation Studies, 4 (2004), 139–156; Nishimatsu, Suzumi. “The Court Interpreters in Japan and in the United States of America.” Interpretation Studies, 7 (2007), 189–204; Tsuda, Mamoru. “A Study of the Public Certification System for Interpreters and Translators in Sweden.” Interpretation Studies, 7 (2007), 167–188.

  22. 22.

    Courthard, Malcolm and Johnson, Alison, An Introduction to FORENSIC LINGUISTICS: Language in Evidence (London: Routledge, 2007) discusses the language issue of non-native speakers in courts and Gibbons, John. Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language in the Justice System also talks about the issue of the second language speakers in courtroom interaction and the issue of legal interpreting and translation as well. The most noteworthy research centering on linguistic issues of court interpreting are Berk-Seligson, Susan. Bilingual Courtroom. (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990) and Hale, Sandra. “The Interpreters’ Treatment of Discourse Markers in Courtroom Questions.” Forensic Linguistics, 6 (1) (1997), 57–88; Idem. The Discourse of Court Interpreting. (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004).

  23. 23.

    Berk-Seligson. Bilingual Courtroom.

  24. 24.

    Hale. The Discourse of Court Interpreting.

  25. 25.

    Lee, Jieun. “Translatability of Speech Style in Court Interpreting.” The International Journal of Speech, Language and the Law, 18 (1), (2011), 1–33.

  26. 26.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Possibilities and Limitations for Legally Equivalent Interpreting of Written Judgments.” Speech Communication Education, 19 (2006), 113–131.

  27. 27.

    Nakamura, Sachiko. “Legal Discourse Analysis—A Corpus Linguistic Approach.” Interpretation Studies 6 (2006), 197–206.

  28. 28.

    Nakamura, Sachiko and Mizuno, Makiko. “The Linguistic Analysis for the Second Mock Trial.” Interpreting and Translation Studies, 9 (2009), 33–54; Idem. “A Study of the Lexical Choice and Its Impact on Decision-Making in the Interpreter-Mediated Court Sessions.” Forum, 11 (1), (2013), 135–157.

  29. 29.

    Yoshida, Rika. “Court Interpreters’ Footing: Discourse Analysis on the Mock Trial Data.” Interpretation Studies, 8 (2008), 113–131.

  30. 30.

    Nakamura, Sachiko and Mizuno, Makiko. “Court Experiment: Impact of Interpreting on Impressions of Mock Lay Judges.” A Statistical Study of Language Use in Trials under the Lay Judge System. The Institute of Statistical Mathematics Cooperative Report 237 (2010), 53–66.

  31. 31.

    Mizuno, Makiko and Nakamura, Sachiko. “Fatigue and Stress of Court Interpreters in Lay Judge Trials.” Kinjo Gakuin Daigaku Ronshū, Studies in Social Science, 7 (1), (2010), 71–80.

  32. 32.

    Mizuno, Makiko. “Interpreter-Induced Alterations to Court Speeches and their Impacts on Impressions of Lay Judges: Fillers, Backtracking and Rephrasing.” Kinjo Gakuin Daigaku Ronshū, Studies in Social Science, 8 (1), (2011), 139–151.

  33. 33.

    Mizuno, Makiko, S. Nakamura and K. Kawahara. “Observations on How the Lexical Choices of Court Interpreters Influence the Impression Formation of Lay Judges.” Kinjo Gakuin Daigaku Ronshū, Studies in Social Science, 9 (2), (2013), 1–11; Nakamura, Sachiko. “A Statistical Analysis of the Courtroom Experiment.” Bulletin of the Department of Literature, 42, Aichi Gakuin University. (2013a), 89–98.

  34. 34.

    Okawara, Mami Hiraike. “Lay Understanding of Legal Terminology in the Era of the Japanese Lay Judge System.” Comparative Legalinguistics, 12 (2012), 19–47.

  35. 35.

    Japan Federation of Bar Associations. 2013. Opinion paper; Accessed 15 September 2013.

    http://www.nichibenren.or.jp/activity/document/opinion/year/2013/130718_3.html

  36. 36.

    Mizuno, Makiko., Nakamura, Sachiko. “Fatigue and Stress of Court Interpreters in Lay Judge Trials.”

  37. 37.

    Nakamura, Sachiko., and Mizuno, Makiko. “Court Experiment: Impact of Interpreting on Impressions of Mock Lay Judges.”

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Acknowledgement

This research is supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number 23520528. Project title: A study on impacts of lexical choices of court interpreters given on impression formation. Researchers: Sachiko Nakamura and Makiko Mizuno.

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Mizuno, M. (2018). Linguistic Study of Court Interpreting in Lay Judge Trials in Japan. In: Hebert, D. (eds) International Perspectives on Translation, Education and Innovation in Japanese and Korean Societies. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68434-5_14

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