Court Interpreter Schools and Training Programs

Bilingual court interpreters get a close up look at trials and the judicial system in action. Read on to learn about the education, training and skills commonly required for employment as a certified court interpreter. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

To work as a court interpreter, you must be fluent in two languages, understand the legal process and possess an advanced legal vocabulary. Along with completing formal training, you can prepare for this career by mastering your second language in high school or college, and perhaps by studying abroad.

Degrees Associate of Applied Science in Interpreter Preparation, Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpretation Studies: Spanish/English or English/Spanish, Master in Spanish Translation and Interpreting, Master of Science in Translation
Certificates Certificates in Interpretation and Translation: Spanish/English, Court/General Interpretation, Translation Studies
Courses Translation of legal texts, medical interpreting and terminology, translation theory, consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, translation technologies, business and finance translation, American Sign Language, transliterating, linguistics

What Would I Do as a Court Interpreter?

As a court interpreter, you'd be hired by a court to translate spoken testimony from one language to another in a legal setting, usually in a courtroom during a hearing, arraignment or trial. You must be able to interpret in three methods: consecutive, simultaneous and sight translation.

In consecutive interpretation, you wait for the person whose speech you are translating to speak for a while, perhaps a few paragraphs of dialogue, before telling the court what he or she said. Simultaneous interpretation requires you to talk at the same time as one or two other parties, translating sentences as they're spoken in order to facilitate bilingual conversation. Sight translation is when you're given a written document in one language and asked to read it aloud in another, translating as you read.

All three methods of interpretation are extremely challenging. Not only do you need to have a good memory and note-taking skills, you must also be able to properly convey professional terminology and various styles of speech.

What Certificate Programs Are Available?

Court interpreter certificate programs can teach you basic legal concepts and specialized vocabulary needed to work in a courtroom setting. You'll typically need a high school diploma and proof of proficiency in two languages in order to enroll. Many certificate programs are available for Spanish and English interpreters. However, programs in American Sign Language and other languages are also offered. You might take these courses:

  • Translating
  • Interpreting
  • Spanish for criminal investigation
  • Legal interpreting
  • Legal translating

What About a Degree Program?

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available as well as fully-online master's degree programs. Programs such as those that focus on Spanish-English interpreting might be an option if you can demonstrate bilingual written and spoken competency.

Curricula for a degree program might include advanced translation theory and interpretation courses and one or more practicums, in addition to electives and/or general education courses. You might be able to find an appropriate program at one of the following schools:

  • Phoenix College (AZ)
  • New York University (Manhattan)
  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ)

Do I Need to Be Certified?

There are different certifying processes depending on whether you work for state or federal courts. State courts generally require successful completion of an oral and a written exam in both languages, registration with the Judicial Council, payment of an annual fee and fulfillment of semi-annual continuing education credits. State certification is available in many languages, from Armenian to Portuguese to Arabic.

Federal courts offer certification exams for Spanish. If you wish to interpret another language, you're required to pass the interpreting exams administered by the U.S. Department of State. National interpreter certification for sign language is awarded by the National Association of the Deaf.

What Are My Career Prospects?

You may work full-time for a court or freelance. Spanish to English interpreters may have the most job opportunities. Employment for all types of interpreters and translators is projected to increase 18% between 2016 and 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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