Spanish/English Interpretation: Career Information

A Court Interpreter's Vital Role

The primary role of a state certified court interpreter is to interpret for defendants or witnesses in superior court (criminal, civil and juvenile proceedings), and for depositions. Court assignments include arraignments, preliminary hearings and all aspects of trials through and including sentencing. Examples of duties include interpreting intense cross-examinations and complex jury instructions; statements by judges, attorneys, and expert witnesses who frequently use legal and technical terminology; and language that may seem graphic or offensive. Interpreters must precisely, accurately and completely interpret for individuals with a high level of education and an expansive vocabulary as well as persons with very limited language skills while preserving the complete meaning of the source language utterances. Interpreters are also responsible for sight translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into Spanish and vice versa.

Judicial Council of California

Legal/Court Interpretation Career Opportunities

Interpreter examinations are mandated for employment in courts and state agencies. Once an interpreter passes the California Court Bilingual Interpreter Exam or the National Center for State Courts (Consortium) Exam, s/he will be able to work in the state courts and freelance for state agencies, health organizations, private companies, law firms, and interpreting agencies.

This program is specifically designed to prepare students to pass the California Court Bilingual Interpreter Exam and the National Center for State Courts (Consortium) Exam. While academic training does not guarantee work, it is a highly regarded reference.

NOTE: The academic certificate earned from this program does NOT authorize participants to use the designation "Certified Court Interpreter."

For further information on the profession and certification, contact:

Judicial Council of California
Administrative Office of the Courts
"Court Interpreter Program"
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 1.866.310.0689
Web: Judicial Council of California

Frequently Asked Questions about the Court Interpreter Profession

Do I have to be certified by the State of California to be a court interpreter?

Do you have to be a certified court interpreter to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service?

Is the program at San Francisco State University designed to assist people to pass the State of California court interpreter exam?

If my language skills are not strong enough to be admitted to the program at this time, what can I do to improve my skills?

Will this program be of value to me if I do not want to become a state certified court interpreter?

Where can I find out more information about the State of California certified court interpreter exams?

Where can I find out more about careers in legal interpretation?


Do I have to be certified by the State of California to be a court interpreter?
Yes. In addition, while some attorneys in private practice still use interpreters who are not state certified in depositions and interviews, this practice is becoming less common.

Do you have to be a certified court interpreter to work for the Immigration and Naturalization Service?
Many positions with the USCIS do not require certification from the state; however the USCIS may institute its own exam in the near future.

Is the program at San Francisco State University designed to assist people to pass the State of California court interpreter exam?
Yes, this program was designed specifically with the state court interpreter's examination in mind, and all faculty are certified federal and state court interpreters. While completion of this program is no guarantee of success on the state examination, it should be of great assistance.
NOTE: In some cases academic study only may not be sufficient to raise language skills to the level needed to pass state and federal examinations on the first attempt. Additional intensive language practice for a period of time may be necessary.

If my language skills are not strong enough to be admitted to the program at this time, what can I do to improve my skills?
Read as much as possible and as widely possible in both English and Spanish, including good novels, plays, newspapers and magazines. Articles about government and the criminal justice system are also recommended. Read Spanish periodicals directly from Spanish-speaking countries rather than ones from the United States, where styles are heavily influenced by English. Also, take every opportunity to speak Spanish and English in a wide variety of settings.

Will this program be of value to me if I do not want to become a state certified court interpreter?
It will help for possible employment with social service agencies, hospitals, private attorneys for depositions and client interviews, and business firms with international clientele.

Where can I find out more information about the State of California certified court interpreter exams?
Judicial Council of California
Administrative Office of the Courts
"Court Interpreter Program"
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 866.310.0689
Web: California Court Interpreter Program
Email: courtinterpreters@jud.ca.gov

CA Court Interpreter Program
Prometric
1260 Energy Lane
St. Paul, MN 55108
866.241.3118 (United States and Canada)
+1.651.647.1723 (International)
Web: Prometric

Where can I find out more about careers in legal interpretation?
Judicial Council of California
Administrative Office of the Courts
"Court Interpreter Program"
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 866.310.0689
Web: California Court Interpreter Program
Email: courtinterpreters@jud.ca.gov