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Court Interpreter Program



How to Become a Court Interpreter in Delaware

The below information is provided as a courtesy to help candidates obtain quick responses to frequently asked questions.

A court interpreter is a person who possesses native-like proficiency in English and at least one foreign language and:

  • is skilled in all modes of interpretation
  • abides by the Delaware Code of Professional Responsibilities for Court Interpreters
  • has knowledge of legal terminology; and
  • is familiar with court procedure and protocol.

The Administrative Office of the Courts maintains a Court Interpreter Registry that is distributed to the Delaware courts throughout the state. There are credentialing and registration requirements that must be fulfilled to be listed in the Delaware Court Interpreter Registry. The full credentialing and registration process is listed in the AOC—Qualification and Registration.

Candidates must:

Attend the mandatory Orientation Seminar for Prospective Court Interpreters. Orientations are offered yearly throughout the state. There is a fee of $65 for Delaware residents and $120 for out-of-state residents who live within 100 miles round trip from any Delaware Courthouse. The orientation introduces candidates to the court interpreter profession, the Code of Ethics, court procedure in Delaware, the Written and Oral examinations, and provides information on how to prepare for the exams. The Orientation Seminar is not language-specific. Interpreter candidates must also pass a criminal background check.

Pass the Written Examination, an English-only multiple choice test that measures the candidate’s knowledge of general terminology, legal terminology, court procedure, and interpreter ethics. There is a fee of $50 for Delaware residents and $75 for out-of-state residents who live within 100 miles round trip of any Delaware Courthouse.

Pass all four sections of the Oral Examination in the candidate’s language combination, if available. The candidate will be designated as a state certified court interpreter in Delaware upon successfully completing this step. There is a fee for the oral examination. Currently, the Administrative Office of the Courts offers certification exams in the following languages: Arabic, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian, Cantonese, French, Haitian-Creole, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Turkish. If no nationwide standardized oral examination is available, the candidate may undergo an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). Interpretation skills are not tested during the OPI. Candidate may also be required to take an Interpreting Assessment Interview. There is a fee for the OPI and for the Interpreting Assessment.

Simultaneous interpretation—The interpreter listens to the English language and, at the same time, interprets what is being said into the foreign language for the Limited English Proficiency (LEP) person. To ensure the interpretation does not interfere with court proceedings, court interpreters whisper or use specialized equipment.

Consecutive interpretation—The interpreter listens to sections of speech in one language (source language), waits for the speaker to complete the section, and then renders the interpretation in the other language (target language) without adding, omitting, or changing anything. This becomes part of the record. Court interpreters must have command of formal language, jargon, street language, and slang in English and in their foreign language(s). Consecutive interpretation is used during testimony at the witness stand and when a Limited English Proficiency (LEP) party addresses the Court.

Sight Translation— The interpreter reviews, then reads a document in one language (source language) and provides an oral rendition in the other language (target language).

It is important to understand the difference and to use these terms correctly. An interpreter works with the spoken word and provides an oral rendition of units of speech from the source language into the target language. A translator transfers written documents from one language into another language in writing.

The Administrative Office of the Courts administers the Court Interpreter Program and does not certify translators.

Yes. Being bilingual does not guarantee success as a court interpreter. Your language and interpretation skills must be validated if you wish to interpret in the Delaware courts.

The entire certification process can take up to a year or more.

No, but interpreters encounter extremely complex language in the courts. An interpreter’s command of their working languages is usually equivalent to college level or higher.

The courts may only hire or contract people who are legally authorized to work in the United States. There is no citizenship requirement.

A very limited number of interpreters are full-time employees.

The majority of interpreters are hired on a freelance basis by the courts and are paid for the services they provide on an ‘hourly’ basis. Once listed in the Court Interpreter Registry, interpreters are contacted directly by each court, as needed. Assignments may range from less than an hour to a full day depending on the type of proceeding. Each interpreter is responsible for taxes and his/her own benefits. There is no guarantee that an interpreter will be called for work after they are placed on the Court Interpreter Registry.

Many candidates have interpreted informally or have worked as interpreters in different settings. Court interpreting is a respectable and fulfilling career, but it is not for everyone. We encourage candidates to research the profession and observe judicial proceedings to see if court interpreting is right for them. A 40-hour community interpreter course is the minimum training candidates should have before applying to a court interpreter program.

Interpreters must be disciplined and begin studying on their own. Court broadcasts, television shows, and movies give candidates the opportunity to view a courtroom and familiarize themselves with protocol and legal terminology. Borrowing or purchasing interpretation practice kits are helpful to prepare to for exams and refresh skills. Foreign periodicals and internet sites are helpful resources and often provide written material for sight translation. Recording court shows and watching videos allow candidates to pause and practice consecutive interpretation. Interpreters can use the news or talk-shows to practice simultaneous interpretation. Keep in mind that using practice kits, shows, and videos are usually only helpful if the candidate records themselves while interpreting and a transcript of the audio is available to compare and make corrections to the candidate’s interpretation.

There are many glossaries available on the internet that can help interpreters study. Whenever possible, candidates should visit different courthouses and begin to familiarize themselves with the environment. They will find that observing trials and other hearings will help them learn. During visits, candidates may meet experienced interpreters who can provide insight on becoming a certified court interpreter.

Visit the Delaware Court Interpreter Program website for information about the program, certification exams, continuing education, and resources. Exam dates, when available, will be posted on the Delaware Court Interpreter Program – Certification/Qualification Program page. You may contact the Court Interpreter Program Coordinator if you have additional questions via email at jennifer.figueira@delaware.gov .