July 10, 2020
Become a Certified / Registered Interpreter

Where can I get more information on becoming an Interpreter?

Visit the Court Interpreters Program (CIP) and check out the Judicial Council of California's on information about Becoming an Interpreter

What does it take to become a court interpreter?

First, interpreters need to be fluent in both English and a second language. Right now, court interpreters must be certified in the following languages: American Sign Language, Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Cantonese, Farsi, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

People who master other languages can become registered interpreters with the same full-time pay and benefits that certified interpreters receive.

Court interpreters:

  • Interpret speech and text from English into a second language and back again in real time. The interpretation must be accurate without any editing, summarizing, omissions, or change in meaning
  • Maintain good working relationships with judges, attorneys, other court personnel, supervisors, and coworkers
  • Understand a variety of court procedures and practices

Is special training recommended to become a court interpreter?

Yes. Court interpreting is a very demanding job. Spoken language court interpreters must be completely fluent in both English and the second language. The level of expertise required for this profession is far greater than that required for everyday bilingual conversation. The interpreter must be able to handle the widest range of language terms that may be presented in the courts, everything from specialized legal and technical terminology to street slang. Most people do not have a full command of all registers of both English and the foreign language and, therefore, require special training to acquire it.

Although there are no minimum requirements that must be met in order to apply to take the state certification test, applicants are encouraged to complete formal, college-level course work and training in both languages and modes of interpreting before applying for the examination. At present, there are colleges and universities throughout the State of California that offer introductory courses and certificate programs in interpretation or translation.

However, most of these are for English/Spanish. We encourage you to contact the schools and request information about their programs. For the other languages, the following self-study techniques are suggested: (1) expand your vocabulary, (2) develop your own glossaries, and (3) develop interpreting techniques. Suggested skills-enhancing exercises are available to help you develop three interpreting techniques: (1) consecutive interpretation, (2) simultaneous interpretation, and (3) sight translation.

Learn more about California's Court Interpreter Program (CIP) and how to become an interpreter. Direct further questions to the toll-free number 866-310-0689 or send an e-mail to CourtInterpreters@jud.ca.gov.

What is the Job Market Like for Court Interpreters?

There is a great demand in San Mateo County for certified and registered court interpreters. Many certified and registered court interpreters work as permanent employees while others work as freelance contract interpreters, hired by the day or the half day by the courts.

A contract interpreter must be willing to travel from one trial court to another, and often from one county to another, to be assured of full-time work. We are currently paying Certified/Registered contractors $418 a full day and $226 for half day assignment.

You can read more about the salary, benefits, and duties of a Superior Court of San Mateo county staff interpreter on the Employment section (of the county's website)



Study Guide References

(provided by the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts)

The Interpreter's gym

(The Interpreter's Gym is an account on SoundCloud created by Stephen Sanford, a Legal Interpreter Instructor at Boston University. This channel offers recorded practice tracks in English and Portuguese in both the Simultaneous and Consecutive modes. This is a great resource to practice your oral exam skills. Remember to record your renditions.)

Self-Study Materials

Glossaries

Professional Associations and Groups

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