Report of the CIOL Scottish Society's in-person event: Law in Scotland for Translators and Interpreters,held on 25 November 2023.

The event started at 11.00 am and our Chair Liudmila Tomanek warmly welcomed all the attendees.

Our first speaker of the day was Jo Durning, a French into English translator who holds a master’s degree in international business law and is a very proactive member of CIOL Scottish Society’s Steering Group.

The content covered by Jo was the history of sources of law in Scotland.

There is some speculation about this topic, although the earliest preserved Scotts law may be Leges Quatuor Burgorum (‘Laws of the Four Burghs’).

Historic sources of Scots law include custom, feudal law, canon law, Roman law and English law.

The legal system of each country is shaped by its unique history. There are three legal systems in the United Kingdom: Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Scotland in particular has a hybrid legal system of common law and civil law. Common law is dictated by judges, and civil law by parliaments.

Legal systems are composed of legislation, institutions, rules and procedures.

Jo also explored the French etymology of some Scots law terms, for example ‘Delict’ from ‘Delit’, and ‘Interdict’ from the French word ‘interdire’.

Knowledge about the complexities of the legal system and its history is essential for translators and interpreters working in this challenging field, and that is why this presentation was invaluable.

Jo cited very useful references for both, interpreters and translators working in the legal pathway:

Madeira, J. (2023) Glossary of Scottish Legal Terms: For public service interpreters. Independently published.

Madeira, J. (2023) Some terminology differences between Scots Law and English Law. Available at: (Accessed 30 November 2023).  This is a link to a You Tube video recorded by João.

The second speaker was João Madeira, an accomplished translator, interpreter, author and DPSI trainer. He mentored many of us, and that is why it was so special to welcome him, since law is his specialism.

João’s session, ‘Translating the untranslatable’, focused on translation problems posed by lack of equivalence and strategies to deal with these.

Acronyms from the source language do not necessarily have one in the target language. Possibly there is a standardised version of the acronyms available, and if so, it is a good idea to use them, but never create your own.

To deal with names, the chosen approach is to explain or paraphrase in brackets the first time they appear.

Name of organisations such as Parole Board, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration should not be translated.

Non-equivalence is not an issue that can be eliminated, but only mitigated.

João’s presentation sparked so much interest that the attendees started to ask him interesting questions in the middle of his presentation.

He referenced other linguists’ work:

Mitsilegas, V. (2016) Research in Handbook on EU Criminal Law, Cheltenham: Edgar Elgar Publishing.

Mona, B. (2018) In other words, a coursebook on translation, New York, Routledge.

After João’s presentation the attendees had lunch and a networking opportunity.

CIOL’s CEO John Worne joined us remotely for a very informative session titled ‘Developments and changes in CIOL training and examinations (DPSI, Dip Trans, CertTrans).

He started by stating the way that CIOL supports legal linguists working in the United Kingdom.

CIOL Professional Exams do not require up to four years of dedicated study time and university fees and for that reason, they are ideal for adults with professional commitments.

CIOLQ qualifications are accredited by OFQUAL.

One interesting question was posed:  if whether it could be possible to include ethics and code of conduct in the DPSI exams, since interpreters face ethical dilemmas on a regular basis. At the moment the main priority will remain testing the language skills of the candidates.

“The DPSI examines the ability to interpret professionally and convey written information with accuracy, completeness and coherence in a public service context”. It is registered on the Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications at Level 6.

The Dip Trans standard is Level 7, and a publication-ready and flawless translation is expected from the aspiring candidates.

The standard of the CertTrans is a Level 6, which would be considered to be a ‘working level translation’.

The standard of the translations produced by the candidates sitting the DPSI is Level 5 or ‘translation for information’.

The context for the DPSI has changed, starting with demand, since Brexit changed immigration flows: people who come to United Kingdom are from different places and have a different educational background.

Lower fees and inflation have affected potential earnings for fully trained and qualified public service interpreters. Fewer candidates present themselves for the DPSI exams.

CIOL had to adjust to these changes accordingly:

  • Focusing on the Law and Health pathways and stepping away from Local Government that is a Level 3 qualification.
  • Supporting other DPSI providers as ISL and DPSI online to order a wider range of languages.
  • More broadly speaking, CIOL is working in partnership with ITI and ATC to promote standards and better conditions for public service interpreters.
  • Merging Law pathways, instead of citing nation-specific legislation and titles, the focus will shift to context, terminology, register and the complexity of languages.

Linguists had the chance to ask John some questions to which he replied, and his talk was very well received.

Our last speaker was Ricky Mateus, a very well-respected qualified Portuguese interpreter who has been working in the industry for over 20 years. Ricky worked for the Glasgow and Edinburgh based agency Global Connections as a Recruitment and Training Manager when they were awarded their first Scottish Courts contract. He is now the Chair of the Interpreting Academy Ltd, that supports the professionalisation of public sector interpreting in Scotland. Ricky’s section was very interactive, and linguists had the chance to debate some questions posed and what makes a good interpreter. These included: being aware of the people who are present in the room, good note-taking skills, remaining calm and professional, language skills, and having a high level of terminology knowledge. These factors were considered to be essential by the linguists that participated in the debate. For the purposes of Ricky’s talk, was about public service interpreters since there are many differences between public service interpreting and conference interpreting.

Ricky reflected on the importance of using qualified interpreters to reduce the risk to the public, since the consequences of inaccuracies in the message conveyed could be catastrophic and devastating for the service users. The lack of opportunities for training in Scotland when he started back on the day, over 20 years ago, inspired him to create opportunities for training and to help those that want to enter the industry to get their qualifications, and for qualified interpreters to keep developing their skills.

The Continuous Professional Development event concluded in a Panel discussion led by Jo Durning, João Madeira, Ricky Mateus and a very special guest, Dilawer Singh MBE who trained João during the early days of his career and inspiring him to become the linguist that he is today. Dilawer offered a number of anecdotes from his long career.

Events organised by CIOL are important since the profession can be very lonely, and we can have opportunities to share knowledge.

Another attendee shared that it is important to not only to know the translation of a term, but also understands well the meaning and its origin.

CIOL DPSI’s is the Gold Standard, but it is not the only qualification.

Interpreters need advanced language skills.

Ricky shared experiences that he lived when there wasn’t any training nor support available for public service interpreters in Scotland, that made him realise that training and qualifications are crucial to become a Court interpreter.

An interpreter mentioned that it is necessary to be able to ask for repetition when a client is talking too fast and Dilawer believes that interpreters need to build the confidence to be able to do so.

Another attendee suggested that it would be good to educate clients about how to best work with interpreters, perhaps a leaflet could be produced to achieve this.

It was lovely to have this interactive and informative event, and to receive three linguists that travelled all the way from England to join us on the day. Attendees were mesmerised by the beauty of the Trades Hall, a historical venue located in the heart of Glasgow that first opened its doors in 1794.

Florencia Pistritto PG Dip Trans DPSI MCIL


November 25th, 2023 10:30 AM
Trades Hall of Glasgow
85 Glassford Street
Glasgow City G1 1UH
United Kingdom
Events +
Category Scottish Society
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CIOL Scottish Society