June 27, 2022
How to Work with an Interpreter

Working with Court Interpreters

Court interpreters are experts in language and trained to render linguistically equivalent interpretation from one language into another. Court interpreters work solely for the Court; they are not parties to a case, they do not have any interest in the outcome of the case and they remain neutral in all matters.

Tips of Using an Interpreter

Below are some helpful tips when using an interpreter:

  • Listen carefully to the interpreter.
  • Wait for the interpreter to finish talking before you answer.
  • Speak slowly in your native language so the interpreter can hear everything you say.
  • Direct your response to the person asking the questions.
  • Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you. You will get a chance to speak.
  • Counsel, inform the interpreter if your client will require their services. Allow the interpreter to become familiar with the case and your client's speech pattern.
  • Counsel, make sure you verify your clients native language. We often assume country of orgin or a surnames as indicators.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a court interpreter?

Spoken language court interpreters interpret in civil or criminal court proceedings (e.g., arraignments, motions, pretrial conferences, preliminary hearings, depositions, trials) for witnesses or defendants who speak or understand little or no English. American Sign Language interpreters interpret for all parties who are deaf or hard of hearing in all proceedings. Court interpreters must accurately interpret for individuals with a high level of education and an extensive vocabulary, as well as for persons with very limited language skills without changing the language register of the speaker. Interpreters are also sometimes responsible for translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into the target language and from the target language into English.

What do court interpreters do?

California court interpreters have an important job in the courtroom: they interpret court proceedings for witnesses and defendants with limited English skills or for parties who are deaf or hard of hearing. The position requires strong memory and communication skills. Court interpreters shift between two different languages, in real time, accounting for different types of speech and grammar. They also know legal terms and commonly used courtroom forms and reports.

Will a person's conversation with his or her lawyer still be confidential?

Yes. Court Interpreters obey the Interpreter's Oath and the Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities. Court Interpreters may not disclose information pertaining to the interpreted session nor its participants.

Will the Court Interpreter explain the proceedings?

No. Court Interpreters do not explain, paraphrase, or give legal advice. A Court Interpreter interprets what is said and does not add or omit anything.

What If I need an interpreter?

The goal of the Court is to provide free language access services to any participant in a case who does not speak, read or understand English well. Court proceedings are conducted in English. If you do not speak English well, you may need an interpreter to speak to the judge, and to understand what others are saying.

What if I need an interpreter, but the court does not provide one for my case type?

The Court may not be able to provide you with an interpreter if you are involved in a case type other than those listed in the Welcome page. If you need an interpreter to help you understand what is said during one of these court proceedings, you may hire an independent contractor, bring a relative or a friend to interpret for you. You may not bring your child or any minor to interpret for you during a court hearing or family court services mediation session. If you would like to contract the services of a Court Certified/Registered interpreter who is authorized to provide interpretation services in California you may visit the State Court Judicial Council (JCC) website. On the left side of the JCC's Interpreter home page are some links - you will want to click on the link that says "Search for an interpreter" to view the directory of interpreters who are in good standing.

What is the Difference between a Certified, Registered and Provisionally qualified Interpreter?

Court interpreters may be Certified, Registered, or Provisionally Qualified.

Only interpreters who pass the Bilingual Interpreter Exam or the required exam for American Sign Language and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters.

Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state-certifying exam are required to pass the Written Exam and Oral Proficiency Exams in both English and their non-English language and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements in order to become a registered interpreter.

Provitionally Qualified Interpreters are Non-Certified/Non- Registered interpreters who have been deemed qualified by our Presiding Judge to perform interpreter services.

Certified Court Interpreters

State certification for court interpreters requires the ability to meet minimum performance standards in consecutive and simultaneous interpretation of both English and the foreign language of certification, the ability to perform sight translation of written material and knowledge of correct usage of legal terminology. The Judicial Council of California has designated fourteen languages as "certified" languages: Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Japanese, Khmer (Cambodian), Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. To become a Certified Interpreter, an interpreter must pass the Court Interpreter Certification Exam and must fulfill corresponding Judicial Council Requirements. Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters. Certified languages may change periodically, depending on the results of studies of language use in the courts and other administrative factors.

Registered Court Interpreters

The court requires interpreters of languages for which there are no state certification examinations to complete an extensive questionnaire, provide letters of reference regarding their skills, submit a resume and demonstrate skills in simultaneous, consecutive interpretation and sight translations. Registered Interpreters are required to pass a written exam, the Oral Proficiency Exam in English and the Oral Proficiency Exam in their non-English language. Registered court interpreters are required to pass the Written Exam, and the Oral Proficiency Exam in English, and an Oral Proficiency Exam in their non-English language. The Oral Proficiency Exams in English and non- English languages assess the candidate's functional ability to communicate in that language. All exams for both certified and registered status are administered under contract by an approved testing entity as required under Government Code §68562(b)

Provisionally Qualified Court Interpreters

Provitionally Qualified Interpreters are Non-Certified/Non- Registered interpreters who have been deemed qualified by the Presiding Judge to perform interpreter services when a Certified/ Registered interpreter is not available. Interpreters must have completed the written exam, ethics training, and qualified under Rule 2.893 California Rules of Court.

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