Training strengthened for bilingual ethnic legal officials

(China Daily) Updated : 2019-05-09

Language skills

Many judges in ethnic areas find it harder to write a verdict in two languages than to deliver a similar spoken ruling. That difficulty has been exacerbated since 2013, when the top court decided to strengthen judicial transparency by posting rulings online.

Moreover, although many judges hail from ethnic groups, most are educated in Mandarin-speaking areas from a young age, so their command of their ethnic tongue is often poor.

Namtso, a judge who specializes in hearing domestic disputes in Lhasa, has experienced that problem.

"It's not appropriate to use informal Tibetan in rulings or other court documents, but some legal terms can be written in two ways in Tibetan, which confused me for a while," said Namtso, who like many Tibetans only uses one name.

She took the word "plaintiff" as an example. "It can be written in two ways in Tibetan. One is formal, but archaic, while the other is informal, but used more frequently. I was confused when writing the word in verdicts because there were no rules to follow and I didn't know which one was better for legal documents," she said.

The correct term has now been identified, but others need further regulation, she added.

Improved efficiency

Since 2014, the top court has arranged and offered systematic non-workplace training in ethnic areas, with the aim of discovering more talented bilingual legal officers and improving their language skills, especially in terms of written material, to help them solve disputes more efficiently.

For example, in the past five years, the Tibetan branch of the National Judges College has provided more than 15 training sessions for a total of 1,075 judges, court clerks and people's assessors in activities such as verdict writing, according to Zhu Xinzhong, the branch head.

"Our goal is to ensure that every grassroots court can provide a bilingual ethnic bench," he said.

Such training not only helps to implement the central leadership's requirements on the rule of law and policies for ethnic groups, "but also upholds justice and provides ethnic litigants with better legal services through high-quality hearings", he said.

The 64 tutors employed by the branch can provide training for 80 people at a time via courses that last less than one month, he added.

"Some of the teachers are senior bilingual ethnic judges, while others are legal professionals or linguists we invite from ethnic universities," he said.

Tashi Ngodrub, a judge from Samdrubze District People's Court in Shigatse, has attended two training sessions at the branch. He agreed that such training is necessary, even though his command of Tibetan is good.

"The sessions have shown me how to use the language correctly in legal practice and helped to provide timely access to the latest judicial interpretations in Tibetan," he said.