A court translator speaks on behalf of individuals who do not speak English (www.uscourts.gov). This service is critical since it ensures a non-English speaking individual receives a fair trial. Court translators are also involved in interpreting for individuals with hearing and speech impairments. Translators work at three different interpreter levels depending on their qualifications and ability to meet federal government criteria. Certificate and bachelor's degree programs prepare individuals for a career as a court translator.
Students must demonstrate proficiency in at least two languages and have a high school diploma for admission to these programs. While in high school, a student prepares for a translator career by taking classes in foreign language, English and reading comprehension. Some academic institutions require students take an entrance exam, testing proficiency in English and Spanish, in order to earn a certificate in court interpreting in Spanish.
Certificate Programs for Court Translators
Certificate programs prepare individuals to meet basic requirements and become translators. Coursework introduces students to rudimentary translation elements and build upon those concepts in differing levels of translation and interpretation courses. Common courses include:
- Court interpreting fundamentals
- Court procedures
- Translation for interpreters
- Sight translation
- Advanced interpreting
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Bachelor's Degree Programs for Court Translators
In addition to written and spoken language translation and a broad education program, interpreter training bachelor's degree programs include training in American Sign Language. Coursework satisfies the educational requirements for becoming a court translator. These programs focus on skills and behaviors needed in a judicial setting. Students enrolled are expected to have backgrounds in law, life sciences, anthropology, and sociology.
An interpreter training program resulting in a bachelor's degree offers a broad curriculum in linguistics and social justice, as well as translation and interpretation theory. Specific coursework includes:
- Grammar and composition
- Target language phonetics
- Linguistic perspectives
- Legal and business translation
Employment Outlook and Career Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes all interpreters and translators together. In the 2014-2024 decade, the BLS estimates 29% job growth for translators and interpreters. These workers earned $44,190 as a median annual salary in 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education and Certification
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has three categories of interpreters comprising certified interpreter, professionally qualified interpreter and language skilled interpreter. To become a certified interpreter, individuals must pass the Spanish-English Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination given by the Administrative Office. The professionally qualified interpreter must be fluent in languages other than Spanish, Haitian Creole or Navajo, which are the languages covered by the certified interpreter credential. Credentials include authentication, documentation, the passing of the State Department's interpreter test or the passing of the United Nations' interpreter test.
Interpreters of sign language should hold the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf specialist certificate. Language skilled interpreters have not qualified as a professionally qualified interpreter, but have demonstrated a clear ability to interpret court proceedings from English to another language and back to English.
Bachelor's degree programs are also available to those looking to further their judiciary interpretation skills. An interpreter training program may be a course of study leading to a bachelor's degree in interpretation and translation.
While not required for a career in translation and interpretation, a student may decide to earn a master's degree. A master's degree program may allow a student to concentrate on one language throughout the program, such as Russian, French, Japanese, German and Spanish. Classes may take place in an interpreting center in lieu of a traditional classroom.
Court translator degree and certificate programs prepare graduates for work in the field. Certificate programs provide students with foundational knowledge, while bachelor's curriculum is multi-disciplinary and features units in American Sign Language.