Court reporting requires excellent communication skills, including listening skills. On any given day, a court reporter must be able not only to follow technical conversations but also differentiate between speakers and record everything said.
As you can imagine, transcribing even clear and comprehensible conversations can be challenging, but what about speech that the court reporter cannot understand? Although the job may get harder, the requirement for a complete transcript remains the same.
This is where courtroom interpreters come in.
The Court Interpreters Act
In order to get accurate and useful testimony, a witness’s words must be completely understood. Unfortunately, not everyone communicates the same or speaks the same language. Therefore, the federal Court Interpreters Act of 1978 was established to guarantee clear communication between all involved (including the court reporter) by providing a uniform system for federal courts to appoint interpreters.
In addition to providing interpretation resources for courts, the Act provides that the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) shall have the power to determine and certify the qualifications of interpreters. The professional skills and abilities of a court interpreter are highly complex. They require thorough knowledge in the language spoken, and also in specialized and legal terminology, formal and informal registers, dialect and jargon, and nuances of meaning. As a result of these qualifications, the AOUSC classifies interpreters based on skills.
Types of Interpreters
The AOUSC court interpreter classifications are as follows:
- Certified interpreters. In order for a court interpreter to be certified, he must pass the Administrative Office certification examination for the language specified. Currently, certification programs have been developed for Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole dialects (Navajo and Haitian Creole are no longer offered, although certifications may be recognized). The examination requires both written and oral exams where the interpreter’s skills will be assessed based on his abilities to accurately perform simultaneous (as well as consecutive) interpretation and sight translations.
- Professionally qualified interpreter. Professionally qualified interpreters are skilled individuals who have translation abilities in all other languages aside from the certifiable Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole. Since certification programs have not yet been developed for all languages, professional interpreters must present sufficient documentation and authentication of their skills and qualifications.
- Language skilled interpreters. A language skilled interpreter does not qualify as a professionally qualified interpreter, but can demonstrate (to the satisfaction of the court ) his ability to interpret court proceedings from English to a designated language and back to English.