US Supreme Court on translator vs. interpreter/Was ist ein Dolmetscher?

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports on a Supreme Court decision on the definition of interpreting. A 1978 federal Act (the Court Interpreters Act) permitted the winner of a case to have interpreting expenses paid for by the loser. Did this include translated documents? The court said no.

Justice Alito said translating documents doesn’t count as interpretation. His reasoning relied heavily on dictionaries current in 1978, most of which defined an interpreter as one who translates oral communication. The Oxford English Dictionary included a definition of an interpreter as one who translates “books or writings,” but described that definition as obsolete, Justice Alito wrote.

… While other appellate courts had found that “interpreter” includes translators of written material, Judge Posner ruled otherwise in 2006, prompting the Supreme Court review to resolve the conflict. Justice Alito cited Judge Posner’s comment that no one would refer to the translator of the Iliad and the Odyssey as an English-language “interpreter” of those works. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Elena Kagan joined the majority.

I’m surprised these people understand the difference beween an interpreter and a translator, so often do we read of translators where interpreters are meant.

The WSJ post includes a link to a PDF file of the decision.

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