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10 years of experience in court interpreting and translation in the Canton of Zurich


A report from our Managing Director, Silvia Cerrella Bauer, accredited interpreter at the Supreme Court of the Canton of Zurich.

“It was in 2013 when I decided to dive into the world of judicial interpreting and take the course and test at the ZHAW in Winterthur, both organised in collaboration with the ZHAW and Fachgruppe Zentrale Sprachdienstleistungen (specialist group in charge of central language services) at the Supreme Court of the Canton of Zurich. Despite having a degree in conference interpreting, I had to go through the whole admission procedure just like all of the other candidates in order to become an accredited interpreter.

More than 1,000 interpreting assignments carried out

I have obtained the accreditation for four working languages: Spanish, Italian, French and English. Since there is a high demand for these languages, I have carried out more than 1,100 interpreting assignments despite pursuing this professional activity alongside running my own language services business. The assignments have taken place all over the Canton of Zurich: at police stations, prisons, prosecutor’s offices (e.g. See-Oberland, Zürich-Sihl, Zürich-Limmat, Zürich III), the conciliation authority, the court for tenancy matters, Offices of the Justice of the Peace, District Courts (e.g. Zurich, Bülach, Uster, Meilen, Dietikon, Horgen) and, last but not least, the Supreme Court of the Canton of Zurich.

Some of my interpreting duties have been carried out in very demanding interrogations, in which individuals from the most diverse social and ethnic backgrounds had to be heard either as respondents, defendants or victims. Cases have ranged from minor traffic violations and small crimes such as importing forbidden objects into the country, to very serious offences.

At the police station, a standard hearing lasts about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the number of questions that the police officers in charge have to ask the person being heard. On one occasion, the assignment lasted for almost eight hours, from 6 pm until 3 in the morning. In such settings, the law requires interpreters to also translate the full hearing minutes at the end of the hearing, using the sight-reading technique (also called impromptu translation). This means that they translate the source text aloud into the target language while reading it.

The range of issues was just as varied at prosecution offices as it was at police offices. I have been indirectly confronted with a wide variety of life situations in the course of my work. During this, I have always remained impartial and distant and have fulfilled my duties under Articles 307 and 320 of the Swiss Criminal Code. I especially enjoy offering my expertise in cases involving fraud, embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of power, since financial translation and interpreting are in line with my professional background as a business translator and terminologist.

At court, I initially worked as an interpreter in criminal proceedings. Over the years, I have been called upon more and more for civil proceedings such as divorce or protection of the marital union. This area has become my speciality and is something I enjoy greatly.

Other services provided

In addition to interpreting assignments, I have also carried out several translation jobs into my mother tongue, Spanish. In most cases, these were police reports with or without appendices, or requests for international legal assistance in criminal matters.

Concluding remarks

I am very grateful for having the opportunity to use all of my interpreting language skills in my activities as a court interpreter.

It’s a demanding job, and probably not for everyone, that calls for accuracy, respect, impartiality and a good understanding of our role at all times and in all situations. But when you feel at ease and get into the routine, it can be very rewarding. It has been hard work, but also enjoyable, and I have learned a great deal in the different settings and situations of the various assignments.

It is important that we always maintain ‘distance’ and never get too attached to the matters at hand. At the same time, absolute discretion and confidentiality are also of utmost importance.

Everything I have learned has also proved to be very useful for my business, since I can use the expertise and knowledge to continuously improve my legal translation and interpreting services. My clients most certainly appreciate being able to count on my extensive expertise and real-world experience. I look forward to supporting society and the authorities further with my interpreting services.”