In a multilingual community such as Stanislaus County, it is the obligation of the Court Interpreter Coordinator to hire a Certified or Registered Interpreter for the non-English speaking parties. Without a Certified or Registered Interpreter, a Defendant is denied his or her right to Due Process.
Stanislaus County has a large population of Spanish, Lao, Khmer, and Punjabi speaking residents and smaller populations of Vietnamese, Assyrian, Russian, Hmong, Arabic and Farsi speakers. Every county in California is suffering from a shortage of certified and registered interpreters. There are not enough Certified and Registered Interpreters throughout the State of California to meet the growing demand.
The shortage of Interpreters is caused in part by the fact that people are not even aware that such a career exists. The following information is for those who are interested in learning more about becoming an Interpreter.
Inside the Courtroom, an Interpreter verbally translates dialogue from a source language to the target language. Interpreting is a set of skills that one acquires through study and ongoing practice. The Interpreter is a vital link between the Defendant, the Judge, the Prosecuting Attorney, the Defense Attorney, and all other interested parties.
Do not assume that being bilingual is sufficient to interpret in a courtroom. The Interpreter must have knowledge not only of legal and medical terminology, but also technical terms, idioms, slang, and other specialized vocabularies. Furthermore, the Interpreter must possess a thorough understanding and knowledge of grammar in both English and the target language. A Court Interpreter should almost be like a walking encyclopedia, since there is usually no time to consult reference materials during the court proceedings.
Currently, there are thirteen designated languages in the state of California: Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Eastern and Western Armenian, Mandarin, Russian, Punjabi and Khmer. Potential candidates must successfully complete a written and verbal exam in both English and the designated language.
This exam is offered at designated times throughout the year. If the would-be Interpreter speaks a language other than the thirteen previously mentioned, then the Interpreter is called a Registered Interpreter of a non-designated (or non-certifiable) language. The potential Interpreter is also required to pass a written and verbal English proficiency exam in order to become a Registered Interpreter.
For more specific information about the California Court Interpreting Program, please contact Judicial Council, Administrative Office of the Courts, http://www.courts.ca.gov/programs-interpreters.htm.
What are the Requirements?
Although potential Court Interpreters are not required to complete relevant college coursework, it would be to your advantage to be prepared.
As future state Certified and Registered Interpreter candidates, it is essential that you make every effort to best prepare yourself for the exams by:
- Taking classes that will improve your understanding of the English language, as well as your target language. Contact the local colleges and Universities in your area to find out what related curriculum is offered.
- Visiting the local Courthouse and sitting in on various proceedings that are open to the public. Mentally shadow the speaker or interpret the proceedings. Bring a pencil and notepad to write down legal terminology and words you may not be familiar with. From this list, develop glossaries of words and terms from which you can practice. Continue to develop glossaries for different types of cases.
- Reading about the fundamentals of our legal system and legal procedures. This is especially important for interpreting criminal matters. Each hearing in a criminal matter is essential for Due Process of the Law. Read books written in your target language. Focus on customs, evolution of the native language, emerging cultural differences, and especially concentrate on language variations between formal speech and slang.
- Understanding what your role is as an Interpreter in accordance with the Code of Ethics that all Interpreters must adhere to.
Stanislaus County Court Interpreters Program
Most courts have at least one to three Interpreter Coordinators (depending on the size of the county). In Stanislaus County, we have one Interpreter Coordinator whose main responsibility is to make sure that the daily interpreting needs of the court are properly met according to statute. Stanislaus County Superior Court provides Interpreters for Criminal and some Family Law matters.
The Court Interpreter Coordinator is obligated to hire the Certified or Registered Interpreters first, before hiring non-certified or nonregistered Interpreters. The Coordinator cannot hire a non-certified or nonregistered Interpreter, until he/she has conducted a diligent search and exhausted all possibility of contracting a Certified or Registered Interpreter for the assignment
For more information about the California Court Interpreter Program, please call (415) 865-7530