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Information About Court Interpreting

Every year, Oregon uses over 200 languages in their courtrooms. The demand for qualified court interpreter professionals is growing. 

Court interpreting has its own special set of challenges but is very rewarding in the service it provides to the courts and community. The hearings range from minor traffic infractions to domestic dissolutions to criminal trials.

A common misperception is that simply being bilingual is enough to interpret in the courts. The task of interpreting requires 32 different knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) including cognitive:

  • Language skills 
  • Speaking skills 
  • Listening comprehension skills 
  • Interpreting skills 
  • Behavioral skills 
  • Reading comprehension skills

Each area involves a number of cognitive abilities such as alternating attention, auditory processing speed, central processing speed, conceptual reasoning, divided attention, fine motor control, fine motor speed, selective attention, response inhibition, sustained attention, visuospatial classification and sequencing, visual perception, processing speed, scanning and tracking working memory.

Being bilingual is not sufficient to meet the high standard that is required to interpret for court proceedings.

Court interpreters must have knowledge and vocabulary of:

  • court proceedings
  • court procedures 
Court interpreters must possess the physical, mental and emotional stamina to be able to concentrate intensely for long periods of time and to withstand the sometimes disturbing subject matter involved in court cases.

Also, court interpreters must maintain the high ethical standards required by the Code of Professional Responsibility
A court interpreter is not:
  • an advocate
  • a social worker
  • a legal advisor
  • a helper
  • a confidant
  • a taxi driver
  • a counselor
  • a cultural liaison

Court interpreting requires a high level of language accuracy in a different way than social services or medical interpreting. Everything in court is interpreted meaning for meaning with no omissions or summarization. Standard court interpreting uses both simultaneous and consecutive modes of interpreting as well as sight translating. Interpreters for the courts never cease learning and must be dedicated to continuing their education.

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