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Lost in Translation? IMPACT Blog

Updated: Feb 21

Can only using an interpreter actually harm your case?

The GTA is the most multicultural area in the world and a mosaic of languages. According to the 2021 Census, 42.5% of Toronto residents (and higher outside Toronto) had a mother tongue other than English or French.  “Immigrants are on the move out of town, to a peripheral municipality…51 percent of the immigrant population lived in a municipality peripheral to Toronto.”


Over the decades we’ve been working with personal injury lawyers in Canada, we’ve noticed more and more cases involving people who live in the car-centric suburbs that make up the Greater Toronto Area.“Toronto’s most dangerous roads all look the same: they’re big, they’re broad, and they’re not downtown.” 

-The Toronto Star - 2022

English is a challenge for many new Canadians and inevitably you will be representing an accident victim who will need an interpreter.  This is not a problem when you are preparing a case file but at some point you will have to communicate with their insurance company or other defendants.

During mediation a Victim Impact Documentary is the most effective tool to demonstrate the credibility of your client.

Imagine this scenario: 

You have arranged a mediation to help settle the case.  This may be the first time the defence has personally met your client and their first impressions will colour their perception of your client’s credibility.  

Now your client has to address the group: your client is asked a question, the question is translated for the client by an interpreter, your client answers, and then the interpreter translates it to English. 

The delay between what your client says and what the interpreter conveys can end up dehumanizing your client.  The delay creates a profound disconnect; words without the emotional inflection of the voice and the expressiveness of gesture and body language lose their potency.  

“Your nonverbal communication cues—the way you listen, look, move, and react—tell the person you're communicating with…if you're being truthful.  When your nonverbal signals match up with the words you're saying, they increase trust, clarity, and rapport. When they don't, they can generate tension, mistrust, and confusion.” 

- The Importance of Effective Communication, Edward G. Wertheim, Ph.D.

Mediation's aim is to demonstrate credibility of your client. When language is a barrier film can help you do this by allowing your client to speak in their own voice first-hand. 

The best way to do this is by opening the mediation with a pre-recorded documentary film featuring the on-screen subtitles that allow the viewer to read the words while hearing the inflection in the voice, and seeing the visual cues that effectively communicate the impact the accident has had on this person’s life and the life of their friends and family.  

Subtitles humanize your client in those cases where language is a barrier creating a powerful first impression will set the tone for the rest of the mediation.

"After 72 hours jurors remember ten percent (10%) of information delivered orally and twenty percent (20%) of information delivered visually. When a juror processes information both orally and visually, however, retention increases to sixty-five percent (65%)."


~J. Ric Gass, Milwaukee attorney as quoted in the article "Courtroom Presentations" by Diane Woo (May 1994, Presentations.)

Visual Impact Documentaries is ready to help you settle your next case.  

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