I did a very challenging polygraph test in the Baltimore County Jail today. The examinee didn’t speak or understand English. I’ve done many tests that required a translator and most of these examinations were in Spanish.
The test took almost four hours and almost every word we spoke had to go through the translator. I felt good at the completion of the test that everything went well but I had a small degree of concern about the accuracy of the translation. I was not sure that the translator literally translated every word that I said. There is not any practical way to review your translator’s abilities during the test. However, if the video is reviewed later by another translator one could pick up the most obvious mistakes. If these mistakes in translation were made during the formulation of the final polygraph questions it could be fatal to the accuracy of the test. The meaning of the questions must have the same meaning to the examinee as they do to the examiner.
Without much difficulty, I have also conducted tests with an interpreter in Greek, Russian and German languages. I’ve even administered a test on a deaf person with the help of a sign language translator.
The test today was conducted in Chinese in the Mandarin dialect. I have never conducted a test in Chinese before and that fact alone caused me to experience a little nervousness before the test began. When I arrived at the jail the attorney and translator were not there yet but thank goodness they arrived a little after 1:00 PM the scheduled test time.
At the end of the day and after completion of my chart analysis, the person failed his test and I don’t think he was telling the truth. He failed but I do not know how much of an impact the language barrier had with this result. These kinds of test add a little gray to your hair.