Court Interpreter

Court interpreters, also known as judiciary interpreters, verbally covert one spoken language into another during legal proceedings. These professionals typically assist communication between people with limited English-language comprehension and judges, attorneys and courtroom personnel. Many work independently or as contractors on behalf of interpretation and translation agencies.

Court interpreters often convert spoken testimony using consecutive interpretation; this function involves waiting until a speaker has completed a group of words before starting the interpretation process. They may also provide simultaneous interpretation of legal proceedings to a courtroom audience. In addition, court interpreters may need to use sight translation to read documents aloud in other languages.

Court interpreters may work in a number of different settings, including:

  • State and federal trials
  • Preliminary hearings
  • Arraignments and depositions
  • Attorney-client meetings

Court interpreters must have expert comprehension of the languages they are interpreting. They should also be well-versed in legal terminology and procedures as well as courtroom protocol. Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are keys to succeeding in this profession.

Court Interpreter Degrees

Court interpreters must be fluent in at least two spoken languages. Some employers or agencies may also prefer professionals with advanced degrees in interpretation or translation studies, a minimum of 3-5 years of work experience, or both. Court interpreters may also benefit from earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in communications, foreign language(s), or linguistics from an accredited online or on-site institution.

Certification is usually required for court interpreters seeking employment within the state judicial system. California, for example, requires oral and written exams for both prospective court interpreters and practicing professionals.

The federal courts employ three types of court interpreters: certified interpreters who have passed the Administrative Office certificate examination in either Spanish, Navajo or Haitian Creole; professional interpreters who have passed a U.S. State Department language tests; and language skilled/ad hoc interpreters who demonstrate skill and competency in the languages required for a particular court proceeding.

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