To interpret during any criminal or civil litigation in a court proceeding, the interpreter must be a court certified interpreter pursuant to section 68566 of the Government Code. The Administrative Office of the Courts currently offers the test for California Court Interpreters in Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese. Western Armenian and Japanese currently remain certified languages, but the AOC is not currently administering tests in those languages.
To become an interpreter in one of these languages, candidates must pass the state certification exam, which consists of a written component and an oral component. Candidates are tested on their knowledge of general vocabulary, reading comprehension, protocol and ethics in the written portion of the exam. Those who pass the written component go on to take the oral component, which tests their skills in simultaneous and consecutive interpretation and sight translation.
The tested languages may change periodically, depending on study results of language use in the courts. Interpreters of languages for which there is no state certifying examination are called “registered interpreters”. Registered interpreters must meet the requirements developed for court interpreters, as well as pass an English proficiency exam that tests their knowledge of English, court procedures and professional ethics.
The AOC has contracted with Prometric to administer the certified court interpreter and registered interpreter examinations. Learn more from the Judicial Branch of California website.
A certified medical interpreter provides interpreting services at medical exams conducted for the purpose of determining compensation or monetary award in civil or worker’s compensation cases. Medical interpreters can also interpret in healthcare settings. California does not offer a medical certification, however it recognizes national certifications from NBCMI and CCHI. Both of these entities require completion of a 40-hour medical interpreting training program.
The use of competent federal court interpreters in proceedings involving speakers of languages other than English is critical to ensure that justice is carried out fairly for defendants and other stakeholders. The Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts determines and certifies the qualifications of people who may serve as certified interpreters. The office classifies three categories of interpreters: certified interpreter, professionally qualified interpreter and language skilled interpreter. The professional knowledge, skills, and abilities required of federal court interpreters are highly complex. The parties involved may use specialized and legal terminology, formal and informal registers, dialect and jargon, varieties in language and nuances of meaning. Learn more about federal certification from the United State Courts website.