In English-speaking countries, court interpreters help those who speak a foreign language to communicate in court. They translate what they hear from court officials and their clients, in the same tone and level of language. Court interpreters translate for witnesses, litigants and defendants, and work in criminal, civil and family courts. They also work in other legal but out-of-court settings. A court interpreter must have an excellent command of both languages as well as a good memory.
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Look for special training programs. Court interpreter programs teach the full register of English and other languages, from technological terms to street slang, as well as the different methods of interpreting. The North Carolina Court System maintains a list of schools for court interpreters (see Resources below).
Consider taking college-level language classes. Although there are generally no degree requirements for this position, college-level courses help interpreters acquire a full register of English and some foreign languages.
Learn the three interpreting techniques. These are: translating a written document from English to another language and from the other language to English, consecutive translation of English to another language and the other language to English, and simultaneous translation of English to another language.
Become a certified interpreter. A certified interpreter is one who has passed the Court Interpreter Certification Examination in one of the state's designated languages. You must take written and oral exams in English and the designated language.
Become a registered interpreter. A registered interpreter is one who can interpret a language other than the state's designated languages, for which there is no certification exam. Candidates must pass both a written and an oral English test.
Register with the Judicial Council once you become a certified or registered interpreter.
Pass a background check.
Attend a two-day interpreter orientation. The orientation introduces interpreters to court vocabulary, the types of court interpretation used, and criminal procedure.
Tips and warnings
- If you are unable to find a training program for your foreign language, you can improve your knowledge of the language on your own. Practice the three methods of interpreting, create your own glossary of words ranging from street slang to legal terms, and expand your vocabulary.
- Some states have certification reciprocity with other states, but most states only recognise the certification of federal court interpreters.
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