Frequently Asked Questions
What is a certified interpreter?
An interpreting candidate becomes "certified" after successfully passing a competency test administered by the judiciary branch of government or other similar entity. The Exam measures the person's language and interpreting abilities. In California, for example, the exam is administered by the Judicial Council.
The exam tests general knowledge of a language and is not specific to a particular field. Interpreter candidates who pass the written exam (with at least 80% accuracy) qualify to take the oral exam portion that consists of sight translation, consecutive interpretation, and simultaneous interpretation.
Using the services of a certified interpreter gives you the confidence that the individual has been tested by a credible certifying body. A certified interpreter is a professional who can handle, not only the demands of court interpreting, but all your interpreting needs.
What are the qualifications of court interpreters?
Court interpreting is a profession that demands high levels of knowledge and skill. In fact, merely speaking two languages is hardly sufficient. Professional court interpreters must:
• Have native-like mastery of both English and a second language, with usage consistent with that of educated speakers.
• Have wide general knowledge, characteristic of what a minimum of two years of general education at a college or university would provide.
• Perform the three major types of court interpreting:
1 Sight translation: oral translation of documents, e.g., pre-sentence reports, letters to judges, birth certificates, marriage certificates, contracts, agreements, etc.
2 Consecutive interpreting: interpreting questions from judges, lawyers, at business meetings, or press conferences (from English into another language) and the witness's or party's answers (from that language into English)
3 Simultaneous interpreting: interpreting everything while it is being said during a proceeding from English into the language of a person sitting at counsel table.
• Perform each of these types of interpreting in a manner that includes everything that people say, preserves the tone and level of language of what people say, and never changes or adds anything to what people say.
• Deliver interpreting services in a manner faithful to (1) all sections of the Code of Professional Conduct for Interpreters, Transliterators, and Translators and (2) all policies regarding court interpreting promulgated by the court.
Why should I use a certified interpreter for non-court-related matters?
Using a certified interpreter gives you the confidence that the individual in question has been tested by a certifying body. A professional who can handle the demands of court interpreting is someone who will perform well in your non-court assignment.
Why should I use a certified interpreter for my conference?
Some interpreters have a college degree in Interpretation. Many have been interpreting exclusively at conferences for many years and have mastered the skills required for such a demanding job. While others have attained certification status from the Courts, a designation that attests to their professional skills in both languages. Certified court interpreters have been tested in the consecutive mode of interpretation, simultaneous mode, and sight translation (reading a document in a foreign language and speaking in English, and vice versa). Interpreters handle sensitive matters that may have a significant impact on people’s lives, such as at a criminal sentencing event. Using a certified interpreter gives you the assurance that the individual will be able to carry our your assignment with skill and professionalism. Bear in mind that, although a certified interpreter has been tested by a respected and accredited entity, credentials alone do not guarantee a good fit. It behooves you to carefully interview the interpreter you wish to hire or have a reputable language services agency do the interviewing for you.
How does a certified interpreter prepare for an assignment? How can I help?
The first question an interpreter usually asks a client about an assignment is: What’s the subject matter? It is best to provide, either directly or indirectly, as much information as possible on the subject. You may refer the interpreter to the event website, fax or email the agenda or the caption, or refer her to a company’s website for additional information. This will enable the interpreter to conduct preliminary research, compile her knowledge on the subject, and search for vocabulary in advance of the assignment. She may take a field-specific glossary or dictionary with her to aid in the interpretation, or she may create a glossary based on the information she has received. If the assignment is a conference, such work may take several hours or even a couple of days of preparation. Again, it is essential that the interpreter get as much information ahead of time as possible in order to provide better service.
How does court interpreting differ from conference interpreting?
Court interpreters use their skills differently than conference interpreters. In court, the interpreter must not change the nuances of the language used and must not add or omit anything; the interpretation must be faithful and accurate. Court interpreters must adhere to the Code of Ethical Procedures. By contrast, conference interpreters can take the liberty of summarizing what the speaker says. If the speaker makes a mistake, for example, or tells a joke that doesn't translate well, the interpreter can use professional discretion to correct the input or accommodate the speaker when speaking in the target language. In other words, the interpreter can help the speaker save face. Many conference interpreters are not court interpreters and only specialize in conferences. However, many court interpreters are also conference interpreters. These individuals can adapt their professional skills to suit the event.
Helpful tips when working with a professional interpreter
- Always speak in the first person; do not ask the interpreter to relay information or ask the other person a question. The interpreter is your mouthpiece, so speak directly to the other party as if you were both speaking the same language.
- Languages do not share a one-to-one equivalent meanings and terms. For example, it takes 20 to 30% more words to interpret in Spanish what you have said in English. Speak a bit more slowly than usual. Interpreters can interpret at speeds of 160 words per minute if they know the subject matter, but may have trouble keeping up if the terms are unfamiliar or if they need to retrieve a word from their passive vocabulary.
- An interpreter’s goal is to say everything you say. You can help the interpreter by accommodating her when she asks you to repeat a question, phrase, or term.
- Because their work is mentally taxing, interpreters need breaks, perhaps more often than anyone else in the room. Remember that speakers take turns in a conversation: When you stop talking, someone else begins. The interpreter, however, doesn’t get to take advantage of this cognitive “pause”—she is actively processing everything that is being said and then speaking herself. For this reason, breaks are necessary.
Please read this very informative brochure by the American Translators Association:
INTERPRETING....GETTING IT RIGHT. http://www.atanet.org/docs/Getting_it_right_int.pdf
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