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Old 05-18-2019, 08:38 PM
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What countries have trials in more than one language?


In Canada, we have trials in English, or in French, or bilingually.

What other countries are Dopers aware of that have trials in more than one language?

Bilingual or multi-lingual statutes?
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Old 05-18-2019, 08:52 PM
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I'd assume that Switzerland holds trials in 3 or 4 languages, though I don't have a cite.

I know in Ireland you have the right to deal with the government in Irish, but I don't know if you could insist your trail be in Irish.
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Old 05-18-2019, 11:31 PM
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In Wales, there's simultaneous translation so that, in effect, trials are conducted in both languages.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-46180050
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:46 AM
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In Germany Sorbs (an autochthonous Slavic-language minority) have the right to speak their language in courts within the districts where they are a significant minority. That right would only be relevant in civil trials (in criminal trials the state would already be obliged to provide interpreters for defendants and witnesses who do not have a good command of German).
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:56 AM
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Obviously, a prerequisite would be that there were a sufficient number of judges, lawyers, jurors and court officials who were fluent in that language.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:19 AM
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I think in Israel, you can file court papers in Arabic, but proceedings are in Hebrew.
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Old 05-19-2019, 06:47 AM
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Pakistan, the Court language is determind by the provincial High Courts.
All Federal, superior Appellate and Supreme Court is in English. As are serious Criminal Trials, (as Criminal law is a federal matter).
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:03 AM
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Obviously, a prerequisite would be that there were a sufficient number of judges, lawyers, jurors and court officials who were fluent in that language.
Why couldn't they use translators & interpreters?
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:11 AM
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Why couldn't they use translators & interpreters?
I'm not so sure that providing interpreters qualifies as conducting a trial in both languages. I mean, nobody considers a trial to be conducted in five languages when the records are kept in English , the judges and lawyers and court personnel all use English and the defendant and some witnesses do not speak English and speak four non-English languages between them. And if that counts, then the US conducts trials in multiple languages.

Last edited by doreen; 05-19-2019 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 09:41 AM
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Finland has trials in Finnish, Swedish or Sami language (subject to elaborate language laws and rules).
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Old 05-19-2019, 10:04 AM
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In India, there are officially 22 recognized languages. I am not a lawyer but most lower level courts (e.g. district courts) use the local language (one of the 22 above).

The high courts use a handful of languages - maybe like 3 while the Supreme Court only uses English.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:22 AM
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In Spain, trials are conducted in Spanish; court records are in Spanish. If someone doesn't speak Spanish, translators are provided. The translators may work "continuously" (in both directions during the whole conversation) or "at will"; imagine a person who understands Spanish well but doesn't speak it well, for example; the translator will interpret what they say and can also be requested by that person to clarify something they aren't sure they understood. Thing is, while we have four official (verbal) languages, three of them are CO-official: every healthy adult Spaniard is supposed to be able to speak and/or write in Spanish (someone whose primary language is signed will not be expected to work in writing, they'll get an interpreter).

A frequent delaying tactic of those members of ETA who spoke enough Basque (which was by no means all of them) was to refuse to testify in Spanish, then question the validity of the translations provided. For the current trials regarding the Catexit referendum and its surrounding mess, some people who've requested it will be allowed to testify in Catalan; at will interpreters will be provided. Simultaneous interpretation (people in a cabin) was considered but has been discarded. Catalan and Spanish are similar enough that most of the testimony should be understandable even for those members of the Court who don't speak it.

Last edited by Nava; 05-19-2019 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:26 AM
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I know in Ireland you have the right to deal with the government in Irish, but I don't know if you could insist your trail be in Irish.
Yes , you can insist your trail is in Irish .

Also when determining the meaning of the constitution the Irish version is the supreme version

It's not just the Government that you can deal with in Irish it's also any state owned business like the Post Office .

Last edited by SGNY; 05-19-2019 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:44 AM
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A right to have a trial 'conducted' in one's own language maps pretty closely I think with that language being considered one of the 'official' languages of the country, a core component of 'official language'.

Subject to exceptions, and to practicalities like providing enough judicial personnel who speak minority languages, and then also whether we're counting it as 'conducting the trial in X language' if it's via interpreters rather than the judge and lawyers speaking the language directly.

In China non-Chinese speaking minorities have a theoretical right to a trial conducted in their language. The Autonomous administrative divisions are also allowed to conduct administrative and judicial proceedings in the local ethnic language (eg. Korean in the Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture). However you can read up on how this is an imperfect system in practice including the estimated 30% of Han Chinese who can't effectively speak/understand Putonghua ('Mandarin'), who far outnumber non-Han ethnic minorities. In some cases apparently trials have been conducted in Putonghua, interpreters provided to translate what defendants say in other Chinese dialects so the judge can understand them, but it's assumed the defendants can understand Putonghua, even if not make themselves understood, so no translation in the other direction. Other cases have noted how not even interpreters were always provided in Tibet (non-Chinese local language) but it's said that now more judges there speak Tibetan and don't need translators.

As others stated, in the limit it's the same as say the US where a person can have an interpreter. If the interpreter is skilled enough and allowed to interpret in both directions, it would seem not necessarily inferior to a trial conducted by judges and lawyers speaking what's to them a foreign language.
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Old 05-19-2019, 11:48 AM
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Not trials but I used to conduct hearings where I worked. If the inmate didn't speak English, we would provide a translator and everything would be translated back and forth. Because the hearing couldn't be conducted in Spanish or some language other than English even if everyone involved spoke that other language.
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:09 PM
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I agree with Doreen and Corry El’s comments.

There’s a difference between needing an interpreter because you don’t understand the language of proceedings, and a right to a trial in one’s own language.

The right to an interpreter is necessary for a fair trial, to ensure you know the case to meet, the evidence being called, the judge’s rulings, and so on.

The right to a trial in one’s own language is a different right, based on the political structure of the jurisdiction. For instance, if I’m appearing in Federal Court in Canada, I have the constitutional right to speak English, even if all the other participants and the judge are speaking French, and vice versa for someone who wants to speak French even if everyone else is speaking English.
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Last edited by Northern Piper; 05-19-2019 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:15 PM
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Interesting that in both Pakistan and India the courts operate in English. Is that because there are so many local languages that English is an acceptable lingua franca?
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Old 05-19-2019, 12:54 PM
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I'm not so sure that providing interpreters qualifies as conducting a trial in both languages.
I was just suggesting that perhaps not every single participant in the trial needs to speak the language it's conducted in. If you can't find enough jurors that speak the language, does that mean there's no valid way to hold a trial in that language?
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:24 PM
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I was just suggesting that perhaps not every single participant in the trial needs to speak the language it's conducted in. If you can't find enough jurors that speak the language, does that mean there's no valid way to hold a trial in that language?
Of course every single participant does not have to speak/understand the language the trial is conducted in - defendants and witnesses may require the use of an interpreter. But that's a different issue - trials are generally conducted in an official language or a common language and "the language the trial is being conducted in" is sort of defined by the language lawyers and court personnel (including jurors) speak. In Canada, both French and English are official languages , and I suspect that there are a sufficient number of bilingual court personnel/lawyers/potential jurors throughout Canada that it is not a problem ( Northern Piper can correct me if I'm wrong)

Last edited by doreen; 05-19-2019 at 01:25 PM.
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Old 05-19-2019, 01:56 PM
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It can be an issue because bilingualism is not equally distributed. Large chunks of anglo-Canada is primarily Anglophone only, and large chunks of Quebec are Francophone only.
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Old 05-19-2019, 02:01 PM
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It can be an issue because bilingualism is not equally distributed. Large chunks of anglo-Canada is primarily Anglophone only, and large chunks of Quebec are Francophone only.
My co-worker's husband (in Toronto) would insist on a French-language trial whenever he got a speeding ticket. Apparently that resulted in the ticket getting dismissed more often than not.
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Old 05-19-2019, 08:24 PM
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I can’t remember where but there used to be a Pacific Island that was jointly administered by the UK and France (Vanuatu?). IIRC the deal was the British would police the island one day, with English speaking courts then the French would the next day and so on. Eventually UK had enough and made the island independent and the French were so cranky about it they refused to attend the ceremony and took all of their equipment, office supplies etc and shipped it back home.


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Old 05-20-2019, 12:06 AM
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In South Africa, everyone has the right to use one of the 11 official languages in court, but English has been the only language of record for all courts since 2017.
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Old 05-20-2019, 12:14 AM
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When you say "everyone" can choose which language to use, does that include judges and prosecutors? Or do they just speak English?
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Old 05-20-2019, 01:06 AM
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It can be an issue because bilingualism is not equally distributed. Large chunks of anglo-Canada is primarily Anglophone only, and large chunks of Quebec are Francophone only.
It can take a while, but as I am sure you know, Northern Piper, things can be arranged for proceedings to take place in French in Anglophone Canada.

A Francophone friend and colleague of mine, located in Edmonton, gets some work this way. It hasn't happened often, but he has been called in to represent various interests in French in the courts in Edmonton, and environs. As I said, it takes some time to pull everybody together (lawyers, judge, clerk, etc.), but he has acted for clients in entirely-in-French proceedings here in primarily-Anglophone Alberta.
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Old 05-20-2019, 03:31 AM
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I'm not so sure that providing interpreters qualifies as conducting a trial in both languages. I mean, nobody considers a trial to be conducted in five languages when the records are kept in English, the judges and lawyers and court personnel all use English and the defendant and some witnesses do not speak English and speak four non-English languages between them. And if that counts, then the US conducts trials in multiple languages.
Agreed; It is fairly common to have an interpreter in UK courts, but the trial is conducted in English. Even if the judge and counsel spoke English as a second language and had a different language in common, there is no question that the trial would be in English. Even in Wales, where everyone might be Welsh-speaking, the trial is effectively in English.
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Old 05-20-2019, 04:54 AM
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Interesting that in both Pakistan and India the courts operate in English. Is that because there are so many local languages that English is an acceptable lingua franca?
Simply yes. And it avoids the thorny ethnic issues & also the unique headaches of regional minority languages.
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Old 05-20-2019, 06:30 AM
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The Eighth Schedule of the [Indian] Constitution consists of the following 22 languages – Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/indi...gues-1.2244791

There are some 19,500 languages/dialects that are recognised as distinct.

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Old 05-20-2019, 08:14 AM
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Interesting that in both Pakistan and India the courts operate in English. Is that because there are so many local languages that English is an acceptable lingua franca?
India’s constitution was adopted from the best practices of UK, US, Ireland, France, Canada, Australia and Soviet Union. Cite : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_India

India has been a democratic country since 1947 (independence) and has strived to be secular and inclusive.

For Pakistan “The Constitution declared Pakistan an Islamic Republic and Islam as the state religion. It also stated that all laws would have to be brought into accordance with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah and that no law repugnant to such injunctions could be enacted.” cite : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Pakistan

As a note, Islam unlike other religions, dictates a country’s law, banking and many other systems. A recent example is the death penalty case for a Christian woman in Pakistan for blasphemy.

So the Indian acceptance of many languages is driven by the acceptance and respect of many ethnicities and the idea to let them individually flourish.

In Pakistan “Islam was stated to be more important than ethnicity.” Cite : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Pakistan

This was one of the reasons Bangladesh broke apart from Pakistan. The Pakistanis imposes Urdu (their language) for all official business whereas the Bangladeshis values their own Bengali language.
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Old 05-20-2019, 09:30 AM
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When you say "everyone" can choose which language to use, does that include judges and prosecutors?
Yes
Quote:
Or do they just speak English?
...but also, mostly this.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:35 AM
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As I said, it takes some time to pull everybody together (lawyers, judge, clerk, etc.), but he has acted for clients in entirely-in-French proceedings here in primarily-Anglophone Alberta.

The big issue is assembling a jury pool. I've heard of one case in the NWT where the court services had trouble getting a jury pool of French-speaking jurors, and also that the issue has come up in some areas of Quebec, where it's been difficult to get a jury pool of English-speaking jurors.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:45 AM
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Agreed; It is fairly common to have an interpreter in UK courts, but the trial is conducted in English. Even if the judge and counsel spoke English as a second language and had a different language in common, there is no question that the trial would be in English. Even in Wales, where everyone might be Welsh-speaking, the trial is effectively in English.

This article from the BBC in 2017 says that there is an increasing number of trials conducted in Welsh, not English:

"Predicted rise in court cases heard in Welsh language"

Quote:
There were 570 cases heard in Welsh in 2015-16, including one judicial review, and that figure is anticipated to rise to rise to 600-700 by the end of this year.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd's annual report said that there had been "increased awareness" of the impact of devolution in Wales.

The number of Welsh speaking judges has also risen.
(And as an aside, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd is a really Welsh name!)

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-41254183
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Old 05-20-2019, 01:07 PM
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I can’t remember where but there used to be a Pacific Island that was jointly administered by the UK and France (Vanuatu?). IIRC the deal was the British would police the island one day, with English speaking courts then the French would the next day and so on.
From the wikipedia article, it wasn't the case. The court was common (one French judge, one British, and until the 1930, one Spanish) and the defendant could choose which law would apply. In fact, you could chose your law for everything. For instance, an immigrant could choose to immigrate under French or British law, a corporation could be created according to French or British law, etc.... What I'm wondering is what happened for civil trials if one side wanted French law and the other British law. The article describes the situation as chaotic, which is what I would expect.

The only thing that alternated was the police force.
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Old 05-20-2019, 10:11 PM
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OK thanks. I remembered hearing this on the audio book “Pacific” making it hard to backtrack the complete situation. Did I have the island right?


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Old 05-21-2019, 04:42 AM
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OK thanks. I remembered hearing this on the audio book “Pacific” making it hard to backtrack the complete situation. Did I have the island right?
Yes, Vanuatu. previously known as the condominium of New Hebrides.
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Old 05-21-2019, 06:46 AM
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What I'm wondering is what happened for civil trials if one side wanted French law and the other British law.
That already got solved by the Romans* (whose Empire included a multitude of legal systems, plus Roman law itself): if the situation involved a contract, the contract itself needs to say under which courts/legal system will a conflict be decided; if it doesn't, then the person suing does so under the system of his choice.



* There may have been similar solutions invented by other people, but this is the one that I know of and the one from which European legal systems (and in turn, those of our former colonies) are said to derive it.
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