Finding Legal Help
You are not required to hire an attorney, but legal matters can be complicated. Consider talking to an attorney to go over your options. See the Finding Legal Help page for information about free and low cost ways to get legal help.
Como encontrar ayuda legal
Usted no está obligado a contratar un abogado, pero los asuntos legales pueden ser complicados. Considere la posibilidad de hablar con un abogado para hablar de sus opciones. Para información sobre cómo obtener ayuda legal vea nuestra página Como encontrar ayuda legal.
How to Become a Court Interpreter
- What is the Court Interpreter's Role?.
- What Skills Must a Court Interpreter Have?
- Court Interpreter Credentials
- Interpreter Fees
- Interpreter Credentials from Other States
- American Sign Language Interpreters
- Basic Steps for All Candidates
- Application Form
- Background Check
- English Written Exam
- 2-Day Orientation
- Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters
- In-court Observation
- Oral Proficiency (OPI) to Become an Approved Court Interpreter
- 3-Day Skill Building Workshop and 2-Day Exam Prep Workshop
- Examination to Become a Certified Court Interpreter
- Continuing Requirements for Court Interpreters
- Related Information
- File a formal complaint - PDF | Word
- Formulario oficial de quejas - PDF | Word
NOTICE: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interpreter training and testing is currently being held online, when possible.
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, 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, a background check, and 10 hours of observation, an approved interpreter has passed an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).
- Registered: These individuals have completed the basic requirements (English written test, test on the Interpreter Code of Professional Responsibility, 2-Day Orientation, a background check, and 10 hours of observation), but there are no examinations available in their language, so they are unable to become certified or approved. As soon as testing becomes available in their language, they must pass the exam(s) or will be removed from the list.
- Conditionally Approved: These individuals have only completed an application and a background check. In accordance with CJA Rule 3-306.04(1)(D), a conditionally-approved interpreter may only be appointed if the appointing authority, after evaluating the totality of the circumstances, finds that:
- the prospective interpreter has language skills, knowledge of interpreting techniques and familiarity with interpreting sufficient to interpret the legal proceeding;
- appointment of the prospective interpreter does not present a real or perceived conflict of interest or appearance of bias; and
- a certified, approved, or registered interpreter is not reasonably available or the gravity of the legal proceeding and the potential consequence to the person are so minor that delays in obtaining a certified or approved interpreter are not justified.
- 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.
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:
- Complete an application;
- pass a background check;
- pass an English Written Test;
- participate in the 2-Day Orientation; and
- pass the test about the Code of Professional Responsibility for Court Interpreters (may be completed at the end of the process)
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.
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
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 Exam
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.
We strongly encourage applicants to study the NCSC Resource Material to prepare for the English Written Exam. Spanish candidates should also review the English-Spanish Legal Terminology Glossary resource.
Due to the pandemic, the English Written Exam will be held twice in 2021. The test will only be offered at Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City, UT.
Only five to six candidates will be able to take the exam in-person each time it's offered, with strict safety protocols in place.
2021 testing dates are:
- March 29, 2021
- September 27, 2021
Click here to register for the English Written Exam: English Written Exam Registration Form
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:
The registration will remain open until all available spots are open.
On the day of the exam candidates must undergo and pass an over the phone health screening in the morning. Candidates will be required to wear a face mask during the entire exam.
Please call 801-578-3800 to pay the test fee with a debit or credit card. Spots will be filled by those who register and pay the $25 test fee first.
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 2-Day Orientation will provide candidates with:
- an improved understanding of the skills and appropriate conduct required of professional court interpreters.
- a basic orientation to courts and the justice environment.
- an overview of the judicial system and the 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.
- information on the interpreter's role, including the Code of Professional Responsibility.
- an overview of related settings to which the interpreter may be called, such as jails, hospitals, probation department, juvenile courts, detention centers, and mediations, etc.
- a glossary of 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.
Due to the pandemic, the 2-Day Orientation will be held online in 2021.
*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.
Due to the pandemic, the ethics test will be held online in 2021.
The candidate must email the Program Coordinator at email@example.com with a day to receive the test. The candidate will be emailed a link to the test and will have 24 hours in which to complete the test.
Candidates must complete 10 observation hours of a 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.
Due to the pandemic, most legal proceedings are occurring online on Webex. Candidates must remotely observe the Webex proceedings where a certified court interpreter is scheduled.
Candidates should contact the interpreter coordinator in their district for a schedule of upcoming interpreter assignments and to receive a log sheet. For contact information, see our webpage on List of Interpreter Coordinators.
You can find the Webex link for court proceedings at https://www.utcourts.gov/cal/. While observing proceedings, you must keep your mic muted and your video turned off on Webex.
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.
The Oral Proficiency Interview is conducted online with a live Certified ACTFL Tester and costs $108. 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).
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.
- Go to www.languagetesting.com
- Select your language from the drop down menu and click "Get Certified"
- On the Student/Teacher side, under the Language Certification for General Proficiency ACTFL at the bottom of the page, select "Choose Test".
- Under Speaking, on ACTFL OPIc, Click on "Select Test"
- Click "Continue to Schedule"
- Follow the links to apply for a test
After you receive your passing results, please send a copy of your results to the Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3-Day Skill Building Workshop and 2-Day Exam Prep Workshop
- 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 Exam Prep Workshop.
The workshops will help candidates improve their interpreting skills and help prepare them for the Oral Proficiency Exam.
Due to the pandemic, the workshops will be held online in 2021.
*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.
Click here to register for the workshops: Workshop Registration Form
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.
Due to the pandemic, the Oral Proficiency Exam will be offered with strict safety protocols in place.
2021 testing dates are:
- April 5-6, 2021 (Invitation Only)
- October 4-5, 2021
You must register and pay the registration fee by August 27, 2021. There are no exceptions to the registration deadline.
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. If your registration and payment have not been received by the deadline you will not be able to take the exam.
On the day of the exam candidates must undergo and pass an over the phone health screening in the morning. Candidates will be required to wear a face mask until the exam begins.
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 exam requires one hour, and candidates are scheduled for the exam by registration date.
Click here to register for the Oral Proficiency Exam: Oral Proficiency Exam
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.
- "I speak..." Language List
Flash cards with "I speak [language]" written in several languages.
- Utah State Court Accounting Manual
- Language Access Committee
- English-Spanish Legal Terminology
- Ethics Opinions: Court Interpreter Conduct
- Ethnologue: Languages of the World
- Find a Court Interpreter
- Interpreter Coordinators
Contact information for the people who schedule court interpreters
- Request a Court Interpreter
Solicitud de intérprete judicial
Xin được cung-cấp một thông-dịch-viên tòa án
- Rule 3-306.01-05. Court interpreters.
- File a formal complaint: Formal Complaint Form - PDF | Word
- Formulario oficial de quejas - PDF | Word
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.