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How to Become a Court Interpreter


What is the Court Interpreter's Role?

A Court Interpreter is a person who interprets orally from English to another language and vice versa in a court hearing. Interpreters also translate written documents.

To interpret means to provide the same meaning in the target language as the meaning in the source language. The interpreter's role is to render a complete and accurate interpretation or translation, without changing, omitting, or adding anything to what is said or written. In essence, the interpreter serves as a two-way bridge between those who speak English and those who do not.

It is not the interpreter's role to explain what is being said. It is not the interpreter's role to give advice or counsel or to provide services other than interpreting from one language to another.


What Skills Must a Court Interpreter Have?

Court interpreting requires extensive knowledge and skill in languages, and is a very demanding job. Being bilingual is not enough. Even people who are fluent in two languages often do not have a sufficient command of both languages, sufficient legal and technical vocabulary in both languages, and sufficient interpreting skill to interpret in a courtroom.

The level of expertise required for court interpreting is much greater than that required in everyday conversation. In addition to having a thorough command of English and the other language, a Court Interpreter must be able to deal with technical and specialized language. A Court Interpreter must be able to interpret accurately for individuals with a high level of education and a large vocabulary, as well as for people with very limited language skills, without changing the language register of the speaker. The interpreter must also possess excellent mental skills, including the ability to accurately convert the source language into the target language, and vice versa, often with only an instant to choose equivalent words and phrases.

A Court Interpreter must also have good public speaking and interpersonal skills. If the testimony to be interpreted is shocking or traumatic, the Court Interpreter must be able to interpret without reacting or becoming emotionally involved. The Court Interpreter must work well under pressure and react quickly to solve complex linguistic and ethical problems. A Court Interpreter must continually strive to improve his or her skills by reading from a wide variety of sources, researching new terms and concepts, and improving techniques.


Court Interpreter Credentials

From their highest to lowest qualifications, Utah Court Interpreters are credentialed as:

  • Certified: Our most highly qualified interpreters. In addition to the basic requirements of an English written test, a test on the Interpreter Code of Professional Responsibility, a 2-day orientation workshop, a background check, and 10 hours of observation, a certified interpreter has completed a five-day training course and passed a three-part examination on the modes of interpretation. A certified interpreter must be used unless one is not reasonably available.
  • Approved: Our next most qualified interpreters. In addition to the basic requirements of an English written test, a test on the Interpreter Code of Professional Responsibility, a 2-day orientation workshop, a background check, and 10 hours of observation, an approved interpreter has passed an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).
  • Registered: Has completed the basic requirements of an English written test, a test on the Interpreter Code of Professional Responsibility, a 2-day orientation workshop, a background check, and 10 hours of observation. There is no examination available in the language for certified or approved credentials.
  • Conditionally Approved: Has completed the process of application and background check. A conditionally approved interpreter will only be used in extreme cases where no other Certified, Approved, or Registered interpreters are available.

Interpreter Fees

  • Certified: $39.80
  • Approved: $34.11
  • Registered 1: $34.11
  • Conditionally Approved: $18.57

Minimum Fees. Court Interpreters are paid for the time they interpret or a minimum fee based on the distance they travel, whichever is more. Mileage is calculated using a court-approved mileage chart.

Interpreters who travel at least this far (one way) from their home base or from their previous assignment:

Are paid for at least this much time:

0 miles 1 hour
25 miles 2 hours
50 miles 3 hours
75 miles 4 hours

For a more thorough description of fees, please see the Court Interpreter Section (Section 9) of the Court Accounting Manual.


Interpreter Credentials from Other States

Utah recognizes comparable credentials from other states. Subject to compliance with the requirements in the next paragraph, an interpreter who has been rated as Superior on the Oral Proficiency Interview administered in another state will be recognized as an Approved Court Interpreter in Utah. And an interpreter who has passed the Certification Examination administered in another state with a score of at least 70% on all three parts will be recognized as a Certified Court Interpreter in Utah.

The candidate must complete the Utah Application to Become a Court Interpreter, pass the background check, and pass the examination on the Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters. The other Basic Steps are waived. Nevertheless, only interpreters residing in Utah will be listed on the official roster. To remain credentialed in Utah, Court Interpreters must meet the Continuing Requirements for Court Interpreters.


American Sign Language Interpreters

Please visit the American Sign Language website to find information on the requirements and application for becoming an ASL Court Interpreter.


Basic Steps for All Candidates

All candidates must:

Candidates who complete these steps are classified as Registered 1 if they interpret in a language for which an Oral Proficiency Interview or Certification Examination is not available.


Application Form

Most Court Interpreters are not court employees. They are appointed by the court to interpret hearings as needed. A candidate who would like to qualify as a Court Interpreter must first complete and submit an Application to Become a Court Interpreter.

A candidate that would like to complete the Conditionally Approved status must complete this application. - PDF | Word


Background Check

The Administrative Office of the Courts conducts a background check, at no charge to the candidate, based on the identifying information provided by the candidate. If a candidate does not pass the background check, they may appeal the decision within 30 days to the Language Access Committee. All Court Interpreters must pass a background check every two years.


English Written Test

All candidates must pass an English Written Test provided by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The exam tests English skills in sentence completion and understanding of English synonyms, antonyms, and idioms. The fee is $25.00 and is nonrefundable. The certificate received for the English Written Test is valid for two years from the date the exam was passed. To register for the test, complete and submit the following form:

We strongly encourage applicants to study the NCSC Resource Material as well as the CLAC Resource Guide to prepare for the English Written Test. Additional resource: English-Spanish Legal Terminology Glossary

2017 test dates are:

  • January 27
  • April 21
  • July 14
  • October 13

The registration deadline is 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the test date. There are no exceptions to the registration deadline. If your registration and payment have not been received by the deadline you will be asked to reschedule. You will select the testing location when you register. The test is administered at the following court locations:

Please call 801-578-3800 to pay the test fee or mail a check/money order to:

Administrative Office of the Courts
P.O. Box 140241
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-0241


2-Day Orientation Workshop

A candidate must complete the 2-Day Orientation as part of the Basic Steps described above. The court offers this language-neutral training twice annually to help candidates understand the court interpreting profession. The certificate received for the 2-Day Orientation is valid for two years from the date the class was attended.

The course is held at the Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City

  • Improves understanding of the skills and appropriate conduct required of professional court interpreters, and offers a basic orientation to courts and the justice environment.
  • Overview of organization and roles of related justice system agencies such as law enforcement, prosecutor, defense attorney, probation, children's social services.
  • Information on court procedures and how they differ for different case types.
  • Interpreter's role including the code of professional responsibility.
  • Overview of related settings to which the interpreter may be called, such as jails, hospitals, probation department, juvenile courts, detention centers, and mediations, etc.
  • Glossary of court system and legal terminology, emphasizing the characteristics of legal language (e.g., common words with uncommon meanings) and how to research terminology.
  • Self-study materials and tips.

2-Day Orientation Registration

Date of 2-Day Orientation

Fee

Register No Later Than

Spring Orientation
Orientation Registration
March 23 & 24, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
$100* March 3, 2017**
Fall Orientation
Orientation Registration
September 28 & 29, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
$100* September 8, 2017**

*Please note, fees for these courses are only refundable for one year after payment has been made.

** There are no exceptions to the registration deadline.


Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters

All candidates must take and pass an examination on the Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters after the English Test and 2-Day Orientation have been completed. There is no fee. It is approximately 20 multiple-choice questions on what is an appropriate action when confronted with an ethical situation. The candidate may schedule the exam with the interpreter coordinator in their district at any time. For contact information, see our webpage on List of Interpreter Coordinators.


In-court Observation

All candidates must complete 10 hours observing a Certified Court Interpreter. The candidate can complete this requirement with any Certified Court Interpreter. Most Certified Court Interpreters interpret in Spanish, but the candidate, regardless of language, is there to observe the participation of the interpreter in the court process, not to learn language or interpretation skills. The candidate should contact the interpreter coordinator in their district to schedule observation time and to receive a log sheet. For contact information, see our webpage on List of Interpreter Coordinators.


Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) to Become an Approved Court Interpreter

To become an Approved Court Interpreter, a candidate must complete the Basic Steps described above, and they must also take the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) offered by Language Testing International and score a Superior rating.

A Superior rating means that the candidate must demonstrate the ability to:

  • Speak the standard form of the language without using English or slang.
  • Speak the language formally, as well as informally, from both concrete and abstract perspectives.
  • Speak the language with a high level of accuracy and no pattern of error.
  • State and support a point of view in extended discourse on topics of personal and general interest.
  • Speculate and hypothesize about possible causes, outcomes, and/or occurrences in extended discourse.

Candidates will now have the choice of taking the OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview by computer) which costs $70. This option is only available for the following languages:

Arabic
Brazilian Portuguese
Chinese Mandarin
English
French
German
Italian
Japanese
Korean
Pashto
Persian Farsi
Portuguese
Russian
Spanish

For all other languages, candidates will have to select the OPI (live test) which costs $139. Issues with the OPI (phone version) usually occur when cell phones are used, so for this reason LTI's Test Administration department requires a landline.

NOTE: When responding to questions during the LTI registration process regarding your skill level, please be honest. If you select the lowest skill level your questions will be easier, but even if you perform perfectly, that low level of difficulty will not garner you a superior rating. The degree of difficulty must be high enough to qualify for a superior rating. Please contact LTI for more detailed information on this issue.

For the most current information, contact LTI. Registration is required and the payment is due at the time of registration. The fees paid by the candidate are paid directly to Language Testing International (LTI). To register for the OPI:

    1. Go to www.languagetesting.com

    2. Click on the link in the upper right hand corner: "Are you a client, test candidate or proctor?"

    3. Click on the link "Apply for a test"

    4. Setup an account

    5. Follow the links to apply for a test

    6. Once on the applications page, enter "Utah" in the search field to access the application

Once registered with LTI, the candidate can take the OPI from any state courthouse. Contact the Court Interpreter Coordinator at least 7 days before the scheduled test to make arrangements.


3-Day Skill building and 2-Day Advanced Skill building Workshops for Certification

  • Valuable component in passing the Certification Examination.
  • Complete immersion in the modes of interpretation.
  • Instructors observe and listen to participants as they practice the modes of interpretation.
  • Voice recorders make review and feedback possible.

Enrollment is limited to candidates who have completed the Basic Steps described above. Candidates must complete the 3-Day Skill-building Workshop before they will be allowed to attend the 2-Day Advanced Skill-Building Workshop, the. Pre-registration is required, and fees are due upon registration.

Workshop Registration Form

Date of Workshop

Fee

Register No Later Than

Skill-building April 26 - 28, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
$150* April 14, 2017
Advanced Skill-building June 1 & 2, 2017
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Included May 22, 2017

*Please note, fees for these courses are only refundable for one year after payment has been made.

The course alone is not enough to prepare most people to pass the examinations. The candidate should follow up with very intensive individual work. The National Center for State Courts website offers several training tools.


Examination to Become a Certified Court Interpreter -Oral Proficiency Examination (OPE)

Certified Court Interpreters are the most highly trained and qualified interpreters. To become a Certified Court Interpreter, the candidate must complete the Basic Steps described above, they must attend the Skill Building Workshops described above, and they must also pass the Certification Examination which is provided to us by the National Center for State Courts. For a current list of languages in which a Certification Examination is available, see the National Center for State Courts website. The website also has training tools and other information.

The Certification Examination is offered once per year on the dates, times and location on the registration form. The fee (subject to change without notice) is $200 for Utah residents and $400 for non-residents and is non-refundable. Pre-registration is required, and payment is due upon registration. To register for the Certification Examination, complete and submit the following form:

The exam consists of three parts—sight translation, simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation—and the candidate must pass all three parts (minimum score 70%) within two years after passing one part. The entire three-part exam requires one hour, and candidates are scheduled for the exam on a first-come, first-served basis.


Continuing Requirements for Certified Court Interpreters

Certified Court Interpreters must complete at least 16 hours of continuing education every two years. For more information, see our webpage on Continuing Education Requirements.


Related Information

The Utah State Courts mission is to provide the people an open, fair, efficient, and independent system for the advancement of justice under the law.


Page Last Modified: 3/23/2017
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