Conducting a polygraph test with a candidate who does not speak or understand good English is challenging for many reasons.
A considerable amount of information is relayed to the examinee in the pre-test part of the examination process and it is vital that the examinee fully understands exactly what they are being told. This process entails physiologically preparing the examinee for the test and is a critical part of the process. If the examinee does not fully understand everything this could be a contaminating factor which can adversely affects the results.
Cultural issues may come into play, words may have a different meaning in other languages so may not translate with the exact same meaning.
A rather basic illustration of this point is the difference between “British English” and “American English”. For example, telling someone in Ireland they have a “a fine ass” when you are impressed with their donkey, conveys an entirely different meaning to someone from America who would think you were admiring their buttocks. Languages develop in a way to express culture. Learning another language may help a person understand what is being said but without understanding culture, subtle nuances will be missed and words may be misused.
Using an interpreter who may understand these cultural and language differences may not be the obvious solution it may initially appear to be.
An examiner must always be able to stand by any result they give and their testing should stand up to professional scrutiny. The examiner cannot be sure that the interpreter is translating and explaining things in exactly the right way. The interpreter is not a polygraph examiner and therefore in all good faith may “interpret” the meaning and relay this message in a way which gives a different meaning to the way it is intended. Some words may not exist in another language and the interpreter has to find words as close as possible, this involves subjectivity. There is a risk the original meaning may be lost. For these reasons it always less problematic when a candidate is tested in their mother tongue.
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