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1. Introduction

The authors will present the profession of sworn translators and interpreters in Poland and their counterpart in Japan. First, a brief history of the profession in each country will be discussed. Next, legal provisions applicable to the profession in those two countries will be elaborated on. The authors will focus on the education, skills and tasks of sworn translators and interpreters and the requirements which must be met by person applying for the job in Japan and Poland.

2. Translation and Interpreting in Legal Settings

During the trial the content of the translated statements are all spoken messages. They are mostly formulated in a natural language and legal language. Natural language is an essential part of every culture and a major mean of communication between people. Such language is an instrument of expressing emotions, relationship to the surrounding unit of social reality and nature (Stawecki, Winczorek, 2003: 54). The statements during trial are formulated not only in natural language, but also in a language called legal language. It is a variety of national natural language, but because of the special characteristics, it slightly approaches to the group of artificial languages, i.e. made specifically for some purpose e.g. professional. It varies slightly from a natural language with vocabulary (legal terminology), grammar (e.g. specific use of the present tense), and slightly different style (e.g. the admissibility of successive repetition of a word or phrase in a sentence). Legal language is the language in which statements about the existing law and regulations and other legal phenomena are formulated. In this language are described, for example, some legal institutions, research methods, ways to explain the law (interpretation), etc. The language of law varies due to the diversity of objects which are using them (Stawecki, Winczorek, 2003: 59). In other words, for translating statements of L1 and L2 in court translation (oral) it is necessary to know not only the scope of everyday communication knowledge, but also a legal language in both languages.

2.1. Sworn translators in Poland

Sworn translators and interpreters are especially appointed to translate in state institutions (cf. Biernacka-Licznar, 2011, Kubacki, 2012). He or she is mainly appointed to translate or interpret in courts, at the police, etc. It should also be remembered that in Poland there are two groups of translators--specialist translator (e.g. legal translator) and sworn translator (certified). A specialist translator cannot certify official documents, and a sworn translator, in addition to the obligation to translate such documents, may also independently perform specialized translations for companies and other individuals. But there are some exemptions, if there is no interpreter for the given language pair in a particular case, it could be a person not sworned and such person may be sworned by the judge at the discretion of him to interpret or translate in a given case.

In general, in order to translate and interpret texts for courts, the police and investigation institutions including prosecutors one needs to pass an exam for sworn translators and interpreters. The exam is organized by the Ministry of Justice. The profession is regulated by the Polish Act of 25th November 2004 or the profession of sworn translators and interpreters (Polish Journal of Laws 2004, no. 273, item 2702). First of all, this act regulates: (1) the conditions which must be met by persons who want to become sworn translators and interpreters, (2) the structure of the exam, (3) the acquisition and laws of the rights to practice the profession, (4) profession conduct rules, (5) profession liability, etc.

The following criteria must be met by candidates:

1. They must be citizens of the EU member states or member states of EFTA or signatories of EEA or citizens of the state with which Poland has concluded an agreement on reciprocal basis in this respect.

2. They must have fluent command of Polish.

3. They must have full capacity for acts in law.

4. They have not been punished for an intentional crime or tax offence or unintentional offense against the security of business transactions.

5. They have a Master degree or its equivalent recognized in Poland.

6. They must pass an exam for sworn translators and interpreters.

They are also separate provisions regulating the removal from the list of sworn translators and interpreters and other penalties imposed on them for the breach of their duties (c.f. Kubacki and Goscinski, 2015).

The examination for sworn translators consists of two parts:

i. Translation from the Polish language into a foreign language and from a foreign language into Polish;

ii. Interpreting from Polish into a foreign language and from a foreign language into Polish.

In order to pass an exam, one needs to acquire 75% of points for each part. If one fails the written part he or she cannot take the oral one. If one fails the exam, he or she may retake it, but no earlier than after the lapse of one year from the date of the previous examination.

A person who passed the exam officially begins his or her duties of a sworn translator after being officially appointed and sworn by the Minister of Justice and placed on the list of sworn translators. Each sworn translator has its own seal (pressed by the State Treasury mint) with the name and an indication of the language and the position on the list of sworn translators. Translators use the seal to certify his or her translations.

There is a special Examination Board which is appointed to conduct an exam. The Examination Board consists of 3-5 members appointed each by the President of the Commission. The Commission Members are appointed by the Minister of Justice. The Commission consists of 11 members, with a high level of knowledge in foreign languages and translation techniques. Such group includes academics, sworn translators and interpreters, members of TEPIS and STP, persons designated by the Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for labor issues.

Art. 13 of the Act (Polish Journal of Laws 2004, no. 273, item 2702) defines the powers of a sworn translator and interpreter. A sworn translator may:

i. Render and certify translation from a foreign language into Polish, from Polish into a foreign language, as well as verify and certify translations rendered by other persons;

ii. Interpret before courts and for instance civil law notaries.

Art. 14 of the Act (Polish Journal of Laws 2004, no. 273, item 2702) contains a catalogue of obligations imposed on a translator who may be punished for not complying with them under art. 21 (para. 2). A sworn translator and interpreter is obliged to:

i. Carry out his or her tasks with special care and impartiality, in accordance with the rules laid down by law;

ii. Maintain the confidentiality of the facts and circumstances with which he or she is familiar in connection with the translation and

iii. Continuously master his or her professional skills.

As far as translators are concerned, the amount paid for translators are fixed, but the market price is other. One page is 1200 characters long of the rates for states institutions, which are specified in the regulation of the Ministry of Justice of 24 (th) January 2005 (Polish Journal of Laws 2005, no. 15, item 131). However, in the case of translation rendered to other entities the translation may not enter the market prices.

2.2. Court Translation in Japan

In Japanese law the following manner determine the language used in court proceedings and questions of interpretation and translation: [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted] 74 [phrase omitted]) Saibansho dewa nihongo o mochiiru (c.f. Horie 2013). (Saibansho ho dai 74 jyo), which means "In court we use Japanese language" (Judicial right art. 74). Next, [phrase omitted]) Kokugo ni tsujinai mono ni chinjyutsu saseru baai niwa, tsuyaku nin ni tsuyaku o sasenakereba naranai. (Keji sosho ho dai 175 jyo), which means that if the court is calling upon to provide explanations by person who does not know the Japanese language, it should be requested a translation to the interpreter (Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 175) (c.f. Akemi, 2009). Additionally, it can be appointed a translation of texts and symbols not used in Japanese language, originally: [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted]) Kokugo de nai moji matawa hugo wa kore o honyaku saseru kotoga dekiru. (Keji sosho ho dai 177 jyo). And, if a person participating in the oral procedure does not know Japanese, is deaf or dumb, it should be accompanied by an interpreter. However, in the case of a deaf or dumb person you can ask questions and order to hand response in writing (Civil Procedure Code art. 154) (1).

As it is clear from the above provisions, the court translator in Japan means a person who performs: (i) the translation for those unfamiliar with the Japanese language; (ii) the translation of Japanese texts written in a different language than the Japanese; (iii) the translation for deaf and dumb, and (iv) the interpretation and translation of texts written in Braille (c.f. Gibbons, Ikuko, Chikako, Makiko, Tatsuya, 2013).

3. Basic Terminology in Polish and Japanese

The Japanese term [phrase omitted] hotei tsuyaku, "court interpretation" can be decomposed into two independent words: [phrase omitted] hotei and [phrase omitted] tsuyaku. Hotei is a modifier of a term tsuyaku, specifying the scope of the "interpretation". However, when considering the importance of these separate words, hotei (in the narrow sense) means a place where the trial takes place, but the "interpreter" hotei must also fulfill its obligations often in other places, not only where the trial is having its venue, for example, in the prosecutor's office, the police, the Office for Immigration Control. Moreover, a translator works during discussions with a lawyer, and therefore broadly it is usually called shiho tsuyaku [phrase omitted] (judicial interpreter) or homu (2) tsuyaku ([phrase omitted], lit.: "interpreter of legal matters"). The term shiho (in the narrow sense) means a judicial authority of the country, (in a wide) determines any issues concerning law. Shihokan ([phrase omitted], lit.: "officer of the court", "judge"), shihoken ([phrase omitted] "judicial authority") and shiho saiban ([phrase omitted], lit.: "trial", the collective name of court proceedings, civil and criminal) are examples of such application. In other words, from the point of view of linguistic analysis shiho tsuyaku points to an interpreter, who in all possible places performs interpretation in a subject of the law. Homu means "obligations associated with the law", so homu tsuyaku indicates the duties of a court interpreter in a broad sense. The Japanese word tsuyaku "interpreting" (in the narrow sense) means the oral translation of a message from the source language to the target one. Although it is the responsibility of the court interpreter who must also translate written texts, such as statements or sentences. Therefore, the person performing both interpretation and translation should be called interpreter and translator of the law texts and communicates, is briefly called a court interpreter. This contradiction is probably due to the fact that in Japanese the words honyaku [phrase omitted] ("translation", "a translator") and tsuyaku ("interpretation", "an interpreter") have an ideogram which is read from Sinojapanese: yaku. [phrase omitted] Yaku is a "preference", "translation from one language regime into another". In the words honyaku and tsuyaku, ideograms hon ([phrase omitted]) and tsu ([phrase omitted]) are modifiers that definine a noun yaku, which is the core meaning of both words. Tsu [phrase omitted] means "to go, to attend, to claim, to pretend, to communicate, to do something from beginning to the end". In the context of translation--it means making an intelligible utterance from the source language into the target language. On the other hand, hon [phrase omitted] means "expressing in a different form or system", i.e. in connection with the translation, to express the text from target language in writing, into the source language, also in writing. In other words, the primary activity is yaku suru ([phrase omitted]), "a translation", but the differences between the meanings of the tsu and the hon ideograms are considered minor. In Poland, there is the same division. The translation may be oral or written. In general, we are talking about translation. Only later, we specify whether it is a written or an oral one. In Polish tsuyaku is "interpreting" and honyaku "translation". In other words, the basic function of translating from the source language into the target is "translation", which is differed by adjectives "oral" and "written". Both in Polish and in Japanese translation and interpretation mean the act of belonging to the same field. It can be said that the same is in the English language.

4. The Current Legal Status of Interpreters in Japan

Because until recently the demand for court interpreters in Japan was limited, the name of the profession: "legal translator" was not widely known. However, in recent years due to Japan's more lively contacts with foreign countries and the growing population of foreign origin, the number of defendants or witnesses whose native language is not Japanese significantly increased (c.f. Okawara, 2012). A need to use the services of court interpreters by courts suddenly appears. That does not mean that any problems associated with it are gone. First of all, it should be pointed out that until 2010 Japan did not established requirements for certified translators, e.g. a translator does not need to pass the relevant exam (c.f. Makiko, 2015). The first national exam was organized in 2010 by JLIA (Japan Law Interpreters Association); it covered languages such as: English, French, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese and Korean (c.f. Makiko, 2008). Apart from the above mentioned languages, especially for so-called "minority languages" (which are not generally taught in Japan and very small number of people know them), candidates for interpreters are appointed by a state court solely at the discretion of the judge. For this reason, they represent a very diverse level in terms of command of the language and legal terminology. Indeed, during court proceedings where there is a need of translating one of the minority languages, the interpreters know language only at the level of everyday conversation that is why in most cases, such proceeding is being called off because of the incompetency of the interpreter. Another problem is the lack of clear rules concerning the conditions of workplace and remuneration of the interpreter. In other words, the interpreter does not know exactly how long the process itself will continue, how high fee he or she will receive and whether he or she will be reimbursed the costs of commuting to the court. For example, the amount of the salary is left at the discretion of the judge who decides on the basis of "difficult process" and its duration. Moreover, the institutions do not provide the sworn translator and interpreter with case materials, which makes it harder for them to prepare well for interpreting in legal setting especially if the case is very technical.

In recent years, the most commonly used languages in Japan were Chinese, Korean, in variants used in South Korea and North Korea, Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Vietnamese and Thai--so the vast majority are Asian languages. The need of using the interpreters' services of Portuguese and Spanish is probably due to the increase in the number of immigrants from South America. Since registered interpreters are, for example, university lecturers, employees of companies for a long time living abroad, and housewives, the people are in the vast majority not specializing in translation in general, and legal translation in particular. There is also no requirement that the interpreter should have Japanese nationality or there are no restrictions on age or gender. Moreover, in a case when any of the registered translators cannot appear/do the job or the court itself cannot find an interpreter, he refers to embassies, universities and organizations of all kinds who cooperate with foreign countries. Furthermore, for protection of privacy, the register of interpreters is not open to the public. People registered as court interpreters are offered training and workshops that have become an opportunity for them to gain better skills. Two kinds of seminars, which are characterized below, are organized and present:

i) seminars for court interpreters (organized by courts of second instance); participants are people who have no experience or very little as court interpreters and potential translators of minority languages in Japan; the program focuses on gaining the practical knowledge and skills, mainly through simulated court translation, which is expected to reduce the difficulty of gaining the experience in court translation.

ii) training for court interpreters (organized by regional courts); participants are potential translators who already have some experience as court interpreters, and are able to translate without problems in simple matters, such as the defendant pleads guilty; the program focuses on case studies with translators acquainted with judicial procedure and terminology in cases in which the accused person pleads not guilty and additionally, to train translators coping well in every matters in terms of the dispute. However, these steps, due to a lack of system solutions for court interpreters, still do not solve problems, such as language proficiency, language minority, the position of an interpreter in legal proceedings (e.g. a fee). Japanese judiciary is trying to solve these problems with the help of interpreters, but still these actions are insufficient (cf. Makiko, Kazuko, 2006).

4.1. Types of interpreters in Japan

The translator in Japan who works for the police mostly interprets during interrogation, also does the interpreting of questioning to the victims and other interested parties, makes telephone contact to domestic or home country of the family, does interpreting and translation of all matters related to suspects' life (such as visit to the hospitals or translation of their personal letters), makes the translation of investigation materials, does the interpreting of the talks on telephone to the dial 110 (call to the police) in foreign language and does the corresponding to an inquiry from the police station about the foreign countries' situation etc.

Moreover, there is some differentiation of interpreters at the police in Japan [phrase omitted] tsuyaku kan (tsuyaku kan is a police staff employed as a interpreters):

4.1.1. Professional interpreting staff [phrase omitted] tsuyaku senmon shokuin and the public relations staff [phrase omitted] shogai shokuin

Professional interpreters' task is professional interpretation and translation business in their specialized foreign language at the police (c.f. Makoto, 2015). When there is no incident, which needs the interpreting, they usually work at the Interpretation center. From time to time, they give internal foreign language training or lectures to the police officers about the situation of the countries involved in the criminal investigation. To become the professional staff it is necessary to pass the tests, which are different according to the each prefecture. For example, the primary test includes the test about the general knowledge (the same as the senior local civil officers' test), the test about the foreign language knowledge and you have to write a short essay. The second test involves general oral interview in Japanese, oral interview in foreign language, aptitude test (such as Kraepelin) and health diagnosis (in some places only need to submit a medical certificate).

4.1.2. International investigators [phrase omitted] kokusai sosakan

[phrase omitted] kokusai sosakan is a police officer involved in the investigation at the international crime department (c.f. Makoto, 2015). To become kokusai sosakan it is needed to pass a test. The tests are different according to prefectures, but the most essential requirement is work experience in using a foreign language, e.g. in Gunma prefectural police we have primary and secondary test. The primary test is about the general knowledge, written test about the specialization and oral interview in foreign language. The secondary test involves an essay, personal examination, aptitude test, physical examination and physical fitness test. In the case of international investigators, they are not only interpreters but also the investigators corresponded to the crime. So they are required to possess a wider field of view than interpreting staffs.

4.1.3. Other multilingual police personnel [phrase omitted] keisatsu shokuin (in some places they are called [phrase omitted] shitei tsuyakuin)

They are general police staffs who have the high level of foreign languages or learned the foreign language through the internal training at the police (c.f. Makoto, 2015). Usually they work as police officers, but in case of necessity, they do the interpreting work.

4.1.4. Private interpreters [phrase omitted] minkan tsuyaku hito/minkan tsuyaku-in

They are the private interpreters who cooperate with the police (c.f. Makoto 2015). Most of them are professional interpreters and they are registered in the same prefectures where there is an official registration system.

a. Interpreters at the Public Prosecutor's Office

Private interpreters are usually responsible for the interpretation at the Public Prosecutor's Office (with some exceptions, e.g. in Okinawa there is the staffs who are employed as English interpreters because of US military bases).Their task is to interpret during the interrogation of the foreign suspect by the prosecutor.

b. Interpreters at the court

All private interpreters are responsible for the interpretation at the court, also and very often--they are Professional Interpreters. To become a court interpreter one must be registered in the District Court in each prefecture. More information about court interpreters were mentioned above.

4.2. Japan Law Interpreter Association

Nowadays, in Japan there is an organization called Japan Law Interpreter Association [phrase omitted] nihon shiho tsuyakushi rengokai (JLIA) which gathers translators and interpreters in court interpreting. JLIA started its activity in 2009 and is an organization voluntarily established by judicial interpreters and judicial officials. This organization received the full support of the NPO--Tokyo International Human Rights Association. What is the purpose of the JLIA? In recent years, foreign companies in Japan have been steadily increasing. The role of the law interpreters in the judicial system has also become the auxiliary point for such companies. This association may enhance the ability of the judicial interpreters as well as contribute a better judicial resolution in Japan and abroad. There are many activities of JLIA. It performs mainly the following activities: (i) judicial interpreters' training; (ii) judicial interpreters' examination; (iii) judicial interpreter/translation; (iv) research of international judicial case study; (v) assistance in international judicial cases and (vi) support to the judicial interpreters.

There are a few different types of private interpreters in Japan. We can list four of them among the JLIA:

1. [phrase omitted] hotei tsuyakunin--mainly refers to a person who is an interpreter at the court;

2. [phrase omitted] bengo tsuyakunin--mainly refers to a person who is an interpreter when a lawyer has the criminal defense cases;

3. [phrase omitted] sosa tsuyakunin--mainly refers to a person who is an interpreter during the investigation of a criminal case, supporting the prosecutors and the police;

4. [phrase omitted] shiho tsuyakunin--judicial interpreter who has reached a professional level and passed the Japanese Judicial Interpreters Certification Exam.

Moreover, Japan Law Interpreter Association organizes the following examinations for future interpreters:

1. [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted]) Shiho tsuyaku ginoshiken kentei (hotei tsuyaku gino kentei)--judicial interpretation skills test (court interpretation skills test);

2. [phrase omitted] Nihon shiho tsuyakushi nintei shaken--Japan judicial interpreters' certification test.

5. Final Remarks

In Poland, the court translation is dealt generally by sworn translators. This is due to the fact that there is a kind of disproportion "knowledge possessed by the parties to the process and the defendant, while a speaker and participants represent the same or similar level of knowledge and the only barrier is the knowledge of a foreign language" (Kubacki 2012: 158, cf. Pierikos 1999) between the court translation, and conference translation. A sworn translator (this who is in court) has an extremely difficult task, because not only must be "able to meet the different levels existing between the parties and participants in the trial, but also refer to the translation based on a situation, if the foreigner does not understand that message" (Kubacki 2012: 158). The court translator in Poland deals with interpretation and with written texts. All qualifications, powers and duties of a sworn translator are strictly defined by the Sworn Translator Code (c.f. Kierzkowska 2011) published under the auspices of PT TEPIS (Polish Association of Sworn Translators and Specialist Translators).

There are many differences between the status of a translator in Poland and Japan. The main focus in this paper was to show those differences and of course, additionally, grab the readers' attention toward the similarities concerning translator occupation in general. In Poland there are strict rules connected with becoming a sworn translator, one needs to pass a state exam that will confirm his or her knowledge in two languages. In Japan it is not stated, because every prefecture has its own regulations concerning interpretation and translation, some are less strict than other. Moreover, it is more complicated taking into account the whole country, because there is no state regulation, which will apply to all translators in a country as it, is in Poland.


(1.) - [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted] 154 [phrase omitted]) Koto benron ni kanyo suru mono ga, nihongo ni tsujinai toki, mata wa mimi ga kikoenai mono, moshiku wa kuchi ga kikenai mono de aru toki wa, tsuyaku nin o tachi awaseru. Tadashi, mimi ga kikoenai mono mata wa kuchi ga kikenai mono niwa, moji de toi, mata wa chinjyutsu o saseru koto ga dekiru. (Minji sosho ho dai 154 jyo).

(2.) Homu is a combination that appears in the name of the Japanese Ministry of Justice--jap. Homusho, [phrase omitted]


Bando, Tadanobu (2012), [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted]). [phrase omitted]

Biernacka-Licznar, Katarzyna (2011), Instytucja tiumacza przysiegiego w Polsce i we Wloszech. Ksztalcenie tlumaczy przysieglych na studiach podyplomowych w Polsce.Wroclaw, 163-164.

Hashiuchi, Takeshi, Hotta, Shugo (2012), [phrase omitted]--[phrase omitted].

Horie, Yuki (2013), Unpublished doctoral thesis Sprawy cywilne rozpoznawane w sqdach polskich i japohskich w aspekcie translatologicznym.

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Iwamoto, Akemi (2009), [phrase omitted]

Gibbons, John, Ikuko, Nakane, Chikako, Tsuruta, Mizuno Makiko. Komatsu Tatsuya (2013), [phrase omitted]--[phrase omitted]

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Komatsu, Tatsuya (2005), [phrase omitted]

Kondo, Masaomi (2009), [phrase omitted] ([phrase omitted]). [phrase omitted]

Kubacki, Artur, Gosciriski, Jan (2015), "What are sworn translators punished for? 10 years of operation of the Commission for Professional Accountability of Sworn Translators at the Minister of Justice," A. Matulewska (eds.), Comparative Legilinguistics. International Journal for Legal Communication, 23: 7-17, Poznari: Zaklad Graficzny UAM.

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Mizuno, Makiko (2008), [phrase omitted].

Mizuno, Makiko (2015), [phrase omitted]--[phrase omitted].

Mizuno, Makiko, Kagimura Kazuko (2006), [phrase omitted]

Mizuno, Makiko, Kagimura Kazuko, Nakamura Masao, Nagao Hiromi (2004), [phrase omitted]

Mizuno, Makiko, Watanabe Osamu (2015), [phrase omitted]

Nakamura, Sachiko (2008), [phrase omitted]

Okawara, Mami Hiraike (2012), "Disappearance of Witnesses' Own Words." A. Matulewska (eds.). Comparative Legilinguistics. International Journal for Legal Communication. 10: 23-37, Poznari: Zaklad Graficzny UAM.

Shimizu, Makoto (2015), [phrase omitted] The Police Interpreter. [phrase omitted].Stawecki T., P. Winczorek (2003), Wstep do prawoznawstwa. Warszawa: C.H. Beck.

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Watanabe, Osamu, Mizuno Makiko, Nakamura Sachiko (2010), [phrase omitted].


Ustawa z dnia 25 listopada 2004 r. o zawodzie tlumacza przysieglego.

Obwieszczenie Marszalka Sejmu Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej z dnia 18 marca 2015 r. w sprawie ogloszenia jednolitego tekstu ustawy o zawodzie tlumacza przysieglego.

WEBSITES access date 06-10-2015 TEPIS--The Polish Society of Sworn and Specialized Translators: access date 06-10-2015

STP--Association of Polish Translators and Interpreters access date 06-10-2015


Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan


Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan

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Author:Horie, Yuki; Trzaskawka, Paula
Publication:Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 1, 2017

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