Court Interpreter and the Oral Examination

A Court Interpreter is someone who works with the court system to provide language interpretation for those who do not speak fluent English. It is a demanding profession that requires much more than being bilingual. A court interpreter plays a vital role in court proceedings as he translates spoken words from one language to another in legal settings, such as courtrooms and law offices. Undoubtedly, the most important skill for an interpreter is the ability to speak two languages fluently, but conversational fluency is only the starting point, because court translators and interpreters must also understand the court system and its vocabulary and terminology.


In many States, a college degree or certification is not essential to become a court interpreter. Still, court interpreting is a profession that demands a high level of knowledge, skills and abilities. To pass the oral court interpreter exam, interpreters must possess a mastery of the English language and the target language equivalent to a highly educated native speaker, and have a thorough understanding of legal concepts in both languages.

The job of an interpretation can be divided into three main categories: (i) Simultaneous, (Ii) Consecutive and (Iii) Liaison. Simultaneous interpretation occurs while the speaker is still talking. Consecutive interpretation occurs after the speaker has paused, usually sentence by sentence. Liaison is usually used for public service, such as in a hospital or legal setting.

Targeting these three modes, oral examinations are conducted to test the ability of a court interpreter to work successfully and render a complete and accurate interpretation or translation. Sight translations are also a part of these oral examinations. Sight translation can be defined as the reading of a text by the interpreter from the source language into the target language, simultaneously, in a manner in which the content of the document can be easily understood by the audience.

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