Court interpreting is a highly skilled profession. It requires more than being bilingual—you must be trained, experienced and knowledgeable about legal terminology in both languages. The Interpreter Certification program is not a training program, so before you seek certification, you should already have training and experience in interpretation. Before you apply, review the National Center for State Courts’ self-assessment guide.
Indiana offers certification in more than 15 languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, French, and Polish. If your language is not on the list of available oral examinations from the National Center for State Courts, you are likely eligible to become a Qualified Interpreter.
Steps to certification
Unless you are already certified federally or in another state and seek certification by reciprocity, you’ll need to complete the following steps within two years to become a certified court interpreter in Indiana.
- Register and be accepted to the program
- Complete the online English written exam prep course
- Attend the two-day court interpreter orientation covering interpreter ethics, protocol, basic criminal procedure, and the three modes of interpretation used in the courtroom
- Pass a written exam covering vocabulary, criminal procedure, and court interpreter ethics with a score of 80% or better
- Attend the two-day skills building seminar that covers sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation
- Attend the one-day simultaneous workshop
- Pass all three sections of the National Center for State Courts’ approved interpreter certification oral exam with a score of 70% or better on each section: sight translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation
- For certification-eligible languages that have an abbreviated oral exam, pass an English proficiency test
- Submit to a criminal background check
- Sign a disclosure of contact information providing a valid phone number and email to be listed on the Certified Interpreter Registry
- Sign an oath promising to comply with the Indiana Supreme Court Interpreter Code of Conduct and Procedure
Becoming a qualified interpreter
If your language is not on the list of certification-eligible languages, then we have no oral exam for you to take. You can instead become a qualified interpreter in your language by following the same ten steps above except #7 and #8. Instead of the oral exam, you must score Superior or the highest level in the Oral Proficiency Interview. The Oral Proficiency Interview may consist of a Legal Interpretation Test and English Listening and Speaking Test or Listening and Speaking Test in both English and the target language .
- The Legal Interpretation Test is administered via telephone and consists of a pre-scripted dialogue. The candidate would interpret after each segment of dialogue.
- The Listening and Speaking Test is administered via telephone and consists of 22 questions requiring the candidate to respond in the same language. This test takes approximately 15-20 minutes.
If you are seeking qualification in American Sign Language, your last training event is skills building where you must submit your RID certification.
To become a certified or qualified court interpreter in Indiana courts, you must adhere to our Interpreter Guidelines, which outline program procedures.
What to expect from exams
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: Interpreters must have a high degree of proficiency in the English language and familiarity with a range of language constructions. You will be tested on comprehension of written English vocabulary and common English idioms.
- Court-related terms and usage: Interpreters must be familiar with the terminology and procedures of the court system. You will be tested on recognition of common court-related situations and vocabulary.
- Ethics and professional conduct: Interpreters must have general knowledge of ethical standards guiding the performance of duties. You will answer questions aimed at measuring a your knowledge of ethical behavior and professional conduct.
Tests proficiency in the three modes of interpretation used in the courts:
- sight translation
- consecutive interpretation
- simultaneous interpretation
A candidate must achieve a score of 70% or better on each section of the test to pass. A candidate may score no lower than 65% on either of the two sight translation portions. Tests are given individually, tape recorded, and scored by two federally certified interpreters who are trained as raters.
You do not need to pass all three sections of the oral exam in one sitting and may retake the sections you did not pass when the next oral exam is offered. Failure to pass within two years of enrolling in the program will result in having to restart the program.
If your language has an abbreviated National Center for State Courts' oral exam, you must take the English proficiency test. This test will be administered along with the abbreviated oral exam. The English proficiency test is a Listening and Speaking Test administered via telephone and consists of 22 questions requiring you to respond in English. The test takes approximately 15-20 minutes.
Getting work after certification
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.