WITNESS STATEMENTS IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES: THE APPROPRIATE PROCEDURE
If a witness cannot speak English and a witness statement is required what needs to be done? Some guidance can be found in the rules and in a recent case in the Family Division.
GUIDANCE IN PRACTICE DIRECTION 32
Where the court has directed that a witness statement in a foreign language is to be filed:
(1) the party wishing to rely on it must –
(a) have it translated, and
(b) file the foreign language witness statement with the court, and
(2) the translator must make and file with the court an affidavit verifying the translation and exhibiting both the translation and a copy of the foreign language witness statement.
GUIDANCE IN THE CIVIL CASES
The courts have considered the issue of the best language for a statement to be drafted in on several occasions. in Force India Formula One Team v 1 Malaysia Racing Team Sdn Bhd and others  EWHC 616 (Ch) Arnold J. observed:-
All of these witnesses signed witness statements in English. Many of their statements contained statements to the effect that the witness had some knowledge of English, that the witness had been interviewed by Italian-speaking lawyers who had drafted the statement in English based on his answers and that the witness considered that his knowledge of English was sufficient to allow him to give the statement in English, but might require the assistance of an interpreter to give evidence in court. A smaller number said that the statement had been translated into Italian for him (as I understand it, orally) before he signed it. In the event, all of these witnesses except Mr Crosetta, Mr Migeot and Mr Neira gave their evidence through interpreters. While I appreciate that many people can read English with greater proficiency than they can speak it, particularly in the context of cross-examination, it does not necessarily follow that it is appropriate for them to make witness statements in English, particularly in a highly technical case involving many points of detail such as this one. It was clear that at least one of the witnesses had not correctly understood part of his statement when he signed it, and I suspect that this problem may have been more widespread. In my judgment the correct course would have been for the witnesses other than Mr Crosetta, Mr Migeot and Mr Neira to make their statements in Italian, and for the statements then to have been translated in English.
GUIDANCE FROM THE FAMILY DIVISION
However the real point of this post is to look at comments that could bypass civil litigators since they come from the Family Division. This relates to the process of preparing the witness statements. In NN -v- ZZ(1)GA(2) IZ(3)  EWHC 2261 (Fam) Peter Jackson J considered the question of witness statements in the virtually identically worded Practice Direction in the Family Procedure Rules. It is difficult to envisage different principles applying in civil proceedings.