Frequently Asked Questions

There are frequently asked questions for interpreters and for judges on this page.

For Interpreters:

1. What are the dates for the next certification session?
The next orientation class will be in January 2018. Candidates must pass each step of the program before registering for and progressing to the next step.  Apply for certification program »

2. I want to become a certified court interpreter, what do I need to do?

  1. Complete the online preparatory course;
  2. Attend the two-day court interpreter orientation that covers interpreter ethics, protocol, basic criminal procedure, and the three modes of interpretation used in the courtroom;
  3. Pass a written exam covering vocabulary, criminal procedure, and court interpreter ethics with a score of 80% or better;
  4. Attend the two-day skills building seminar that covers sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation;
  5. Attend the one-day simultaneous workshop;
  6. Pass all three portions of the National Center for State Court's approved interpreter certification oral exam with a score of 70% or better on each of three sections: sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation;
  7. Submit to a criminal background check;
  8. Sign a disclosure of contact information; 
  9. Sign an oath promising to comply with the Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Code of Conduct and Procedure.

3. I'm bilingual, is that sufficient to become a certified court interpreter?
No. Professional court interpreting requires more than being bilingual. Court interpreting is a highly skilled profession that requires training, education, experience and knowledge of legal terminology in both languages.  The Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Program is not a training program. It only provides the process in which a candidate can become a Certified/Qualified Interpreter; therefore, it is imperative candidates have experience and training prior to seeking certification.

We encourage those individuals interested in this program to read over the self-assessment guide (PDF) provided by the Consortium at the National Center for State Courts website. The Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination Program also has a self-assessment test you can review online.

4. I'm already certified by another state or the federal government, can I obtain certification by reciprocity in Indiana?
Yes. You may be eligible for certification by reciprocity if the certifying state or federal government maintains the same (or higher) scoring standards as Indiana. Learn more about certification by reciprocity.

5. What is the written exam like?
The written test contains 135 multiple-choice questions and measures a candidate's knowledge of the following areas central to the work of a court interpreter:

  • English Language: One indispensable component necessary to function as a professional court interpreter is a high degree of proficiency in the English language. Accordingly, the written examination assumes a high degree of literacy in the English language and familiarity with a range of language constructions. A candidate will be tested on comprehension of written English vocabulary and common English idioms.
  • Court-Related Terms and Usage: A second area of knowledge essential to successful professional performance is familiarity with the terminology and procedures of the court system. The written examination also measures recognition of common court-related situations and vocabulary.
  • Ethics and Professional Conduct: The third area of knowledge required of professional court interpreters encompassed in the written test is general knowledge of ethical standards guiding the performance of duties. The written exam includes questions aimed at measuring a candidate's knowledge of ethical behavior and professional conduct.

6. What is the oral certification exam like?
The oral certification exam tests proficiency in the three modes of interpretation used in the courts: sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation. A candidate must achieve a score of 70% or better on each portion of the test to pass. Tests are given individually, tape recorded, and scored by two federally certified interpreters who are trained as raters.

7. Do I have to pass all three portions of the oral exam at once?
No. The State of Indiana currently does not require all three portions of the oral exam to be passed in one sitting. You may retake the sections you did not pass, when the next oral exam is offered, for a fee of $25 per section ($50 per section for non-Indiana residents) tested. You have two years from the date that you attended Skills Building and the Simultaneous Workshop to pass the oral exam. Failure to pass the oral examination within this time frame will result in you having to retake Skills Building and the Simultaneous Workshop before sitting for the oral exam again.

8. My language is not on the list of languages that Indiana offers certification in, can I still be a Certified Interpreter?
The Indiana Supreme Court recently designated a new level of interpreter for languages in which no oral exam exists, this new designation is called a Qualified Interpreter.  To become a Qualified Interpreter you must:

  1. Complete the online preparatory course;
  2. Attend the two-day court interpreter orientation that covers interpreter ethics, protocol, basic criminal procedure, and the three modes of interpretation used in the courtroom;
  3. Pass a written exam covering vocabulary, criminal procedure, and court interpreter ethics with a score of 80% or better;​​
  4. Attend the two-day skills building seminar that covers sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation;
  5. Attend the one-day simultaneous workshop;
  6. Score Superior or the highest level in the Oral ProficiencyInterview in both English and the target language.  If candidate is seeking qualification in American Sign Language, he/she must submit his/her RID certification;
  7. Submit to a criminal background check;
  8. Sign a disclosure of contact information;
  9. Sign an oath promising to comply with the Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Code of Conduct and Procedure.

9. Do I have to be a Certified/Qualified Interpreter to work in the Indiana courts?
Currently, you do not have to be certified to work in Indiana courts. However, courts are strongly encouraged to use certified interpreters, and many trial courts in Indiana only will hire certified interpreters.

10. How can I get hired to work as a court interpreter and what would I get paid?
Please be aware that certification does not constitute a guarantee of employment. Currently, some Indiana courts employ independent contractors for court interpretation while other Indiana courts utilize the services of staff court interpreters or agency interpreters. Therefore, the possible income for a court interpreter can vary. Factors affecting the availability of work for independent contractors include the volume of cases requiring interpretation in a specific language, the employment policies of the applicable court, and the availability of certified interpreters in each locality. Contact your local courthouse to find out how interpreters are hired in each county.

11. How do I find out about program changes, test dates, and training opportunities?
Whenever you have questions about the court interpreter program, please visit this website. We endeavor to post any changes to the program promptly. If the answer to your question is not found at any of these previously listed sources, you may contact the Program Administrative Assistant, Kylie Smith at 317-234-3935 or via email at: kylie.smith@courts.in.gov.

12. I'm ready to register for the program, what should I do now?
Online Resources section of this website. You also should study the Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Code of Conduct and Procedure.

For Judges:

1. When do I need to request an interpreter?
The decision to appoint an interpreter should be made as early as possible.  If unsure of the need, voir dire the litigant or witness by asking open-ending questions in English during a brief hearing.  Some examples of questions may be:

  • How did you arrive at court today?
  • How did you learn English?
  • What is the most difficult thing about communicating in English?

2.  What's the difference between interpreting and translating?
These two terms are often used interchangeably but completely different skills are required for each.  Interpreting means to transfer a verbal message from the source language into a verbal message in the target language. Translating means to transfer a written message from the source language into a written message in the target language.

3.  When should you use an in-person interpreter versus telephonic interpreting?
The Indiana Supreme Court has a telephone interpreting service, Language Line.  Use Language Line for brief routine matters only. For trials, guilty plea hearings, or evidentiary proceedings, an in-person interpreter should be used.

4.  Can I just have family members, friends, minor children, or a bilingual attorney interpret a court proceeding?
No.  Only a certified or qualified interpreter who is neutral and does not know the parties should interpret a court proceeding. If you need assistance in locating an interpreter, please contact the court interpreter program manager.

5.  Does the court have to pay for the court interpreter?
In most cases, yes.  To provide equal and meaningful access to limited English proficient individuals who access the judicial system, it is the responsibility of the court to pay the costs for an interpreter.  If you have questions about whether you should pay, please contact the court interpreter program manager for assistance.