A court interpreter helps those involved in court cases to communicate. Generally, a court interpreter is expected to facilitate communication and understanding between the courts and a non-English speaking party. A court interpreter can also find employment opportunities in meetings between lawyers and their clients, deposition hearings, sessions that prepare witnesses for court proceedings and interviews with court support personnel.
Anyone interested in becoming a court interpreter should have a native-like fluency in the court's official language and the the language that he intends to help interpret. The interpreter should be familiar with formal vocabulary as well as informal language such as slang. Generally, an education equivalent to an associate's degree program, knowledge of court terminology and procedures and talents in dealing with attorneys, court personnel and the public are favorable to a career in court interpreting.
A court interpreter is expected to keep his or her translation as close to the original communication as possible. For example, all tones, tenses and grammatical persons are to be preserved. Adding or deleting anything from the original communication is generally forbidden due to the sensitivity of official court material. Translations can be either simultaneous or consecutive. Additionally, a court interpreter may be expected to interpret non-oral communications such as legal documents.
The training required to become a court interpreter varies from state to state. Some states require no certification, while federal certification exists for the languages of Spanish, Navajo and Haitian Creole. Because states vary widely in their certification requirements, many employers ask potential employees if they have been certified by the American Translators Association. Employers may hire individuals who have an association with this organization because of its accreditation requirements.
Court interpreting may be offered as a minor at colleges and universities around the country. Certificates may also be earned in general translating or interpreting. Those interested in becoming a court interpreter should consider taking part in court interpretation seminars and workshops. Joining local translating and interpretation organizations can also help with job prospects due to networking and the organizations' industry newsletters.
In the United States, Spanish is the language that is most frequently interpreted in court. However, there is also a need for other languages to be interpreted. The popularity of languages will likely depend on the area in which the interpreter lives and the ethnic makeup of its surrounding population. A court interpreter may find his work thoroughly interesting because those who are involved in court cases may come from a wide variety of backgrounds.