The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2023 - 16

In the legal domain, the interpreter's duty of care
goes hand in hand with the limited-English-proficient
individual's right to have meaningful language access.
access the service or program
in a language they can
understand, and to the same
extent as non-LEP persons.10
Unfortunately, each
definition is explained
using the very terms
they are meant to clarify:
" meaningful " in the first one
and " access " in the second
one. As a result, we are no
closer to a clear definition
of " meaningful language
access. " The forward of the
Standards for Language Access,
however, is somewhat more
enlightening: " Access to
justice is unattainable for
those who are not proficient
in English unless they also
have access to language
services that will enable
them to understand and
be understood. " 11
In other
words, the doors through
which all people must pass
when seeking justice are
closed to those who are not
proficient in the English
16 The ATA Chronicle | November/December 2023
language, unless they are
provided with language
services that enable them to
understand and be understood.
This does beg the question,
however: What exactly is
meant by understand?
Coincidentally, the
American Bar Association's
Standards for Language
Access were published the
same year as the second
edition of Fundamentals
of Court Interpretation:
Theory, Policy, and Practice.12
That edition addresses
the subject of meaningful
language access from a
vantage point subsequent
to the Department of Justice
having issued its guidance
to implement Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964:
" There has been a
longstanding debate in the
field of court interpretation
regarding strict adherence
to 'legal equivalence' when
it is clear that the listener
was excluded because of
the specialized legal and
other terminology. ...The
advent of the " incremental
intervention " model...
used in health care
interpreting-which
focuses attention on
subject comprehension-
has also served to promote
the importance of subject
comprehension as a
critical aspect of the legal
equivalence model adopted
by court interpretation. " 13
In 2012, Roseann
DueƱas-Gonzalez-the
founder and long-standing
director of the University of
Arizona's National Center
for Interpretation, Testing,
Research, and Policy, as
well as one of the authors
of Fundamentals of Court
Interpretation: Theory, Policy,
and Practice-coined a
new concept for judiciary
interpreters' best practices
standards: meaningful legal
equivalence. Unfortunately,
the idea never made it
too far beyond the pages
of Fundamentals of Court
Interpretation to have a real
impact on the practical
applications of the standard.
It required a difficult, if not
impossible, reconciliation
between the traditional
source language-centered
teachings and the shift toward
listener-centered renditions.14
As stated in Fundamentals of
Court Interpretation:
" Since the reinvigoration
of Title VI, the goal of
the court interpreter
has been refined to
embrace meaningful legal
equivalence. It is important
to note that this goal is
not a replacement of legal
equivalence but simply
a refinement that takes
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2023

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