Preparing the Foreign-Born Witness for Trial

Most articles covering the topic of foreign-born witnesses focus on language barriers and the impact of using an interpreter during courtroom testimony. While an important topic, it is a rare occurrence and is not a common challenge that trial teams face as they prepare for trial. However, what is quite common in today’s courtrooms is foreign-born, English-speaking witnesses whose role is to convey believable, persuasive (and critical) testimony to a panel of jurors. There is a misconception among trial attorneys and corporate counsel that the “language barrier” is the primary obstacle to effective courtroom testimony with foreign-born witnesses. The heart of the matter is that foreign-born witnesses are often very poor communicators in the courtroom, not because of the language barrier, but rather because of deep cultural traits that hinder their ability to get their messages across to jurors. With millions, if not billions, of dollars at stake in civil litigation matters, the unique verbal and nonverbal communication challenges associated with foreign-born witnesses can leave trial attorneys and their clients economically vulnerable in the courtroom.