What Is Required to Earn a Court Interpreter Certification?

Court interpreters work during legal proceedings, such as hearings, arraignments and trials, translating not only oral testimony, but also written documents. If you want to know what is required to earn a court interpreter certification, read on. Schools offering Legal Transcriptionist degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Court Interpreter Certification Requirements

In order to obtain certification as a court interpreter, one must be fluent in two languages: English and the language the witness speaks. Court interpreters must also be ethical and conduct themselves professionally.

Important Facts About Court Interpreters

Median Salary (2014)$43,590 (for all interpreters)
Job Outlook (2012-2022)46% (for all interpreters)
Key Skills Proficient in English and second language; ability to translate idioms and colloquialisms accurately without adding or subtracting from the essential communication or altering the message conveyed by the speaker; impartiality; proficient in simultaneous translation; listening skills; concentration; professional demeanor
Similar Occupations Court reporter; medical transcriptionist; language teacher

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Become Proficient in a Language

Some people become proficient in a language by growing up in a household that spoke that language and using it in everyday conversation, but that is not the only way to acquire language proficiency. You may also learn through a college-level foreign language program.

Spoken languages are not the only ones used in court interpreter positions. In some cases, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are needed. Programs in ASL usually begin with learning the basic alphabet, the structure of signing and the language's history. Studies also cover conversational usage, skill development and cultural issues.

Take the Federal Interpreter Certification Test

In order to become qualified to work in the federal courts, you need to complete the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE). This test is for Spanish-English interpretation only.

The exam is given in two phases. The first phase is a written, multiple-choice test consisting of 200 questions that are broken into English and Spanish sections. You must score a minimum of 75 points to advance to the second phase of the exam.

The second phase is a 5-part oral examination that tests your ability to perform the duties of a court interpreter. The first two parts test your ability to interpret in simultaneous and consecutive modes. Simultaneous interpretation occurs as a person is talking. Consecutive interpretation takes place after the person is done speaking.

The third part of the exam tests your ability to interpret witness testimony simultaneously, while the fourth and fifth parts focus on interpreting written documentation from English into Spanish and vice versa. You must get at least 80% correct on all oral examination items to receive certification.

Get Certification in a Specific State

Certification at the state level is typically offered through individual courts. In many cases, courts simply administer a language proficiency test and require no certification, but some jurisdictions administer tests that do result in certification. The test may be oral or written, and you may have to complete a training or orientation program before you take the test.

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