Client Education

  • What is a Court Interpreter?

  • The Role of the Interpreter

  • Modes of Interpreting

  • State of Washington Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters

  • Washington State Court Certification

    What Is a Court Interpreter?

    The court interpreter and translator is a specially trained professional who possesses a variety of skills that distinguish him or her from bilingual persons who simply speak two languages.

    For the non-English speaker, the interpreter plays a vital role in facilitating communication within the judicial system to ensure the due process which is guaranteed in both the state and federal constitutions.

    The Role of the Interpreter


    Faithfully render speech from one language into speech of another language.


    Accurately render written materials from one language to written materials of another language.

    Modes of Interpreting


    Listening to the speaker first, interpreting immediately afterwards. This mode is generally used for witness testimony or interviews.


    Interpreting virtually at the same time the speaker speaks, with only a few seconds delay. The interpreter speaks softly and/or uses special equipment. This mode is generally used in court when the non-English-speaking party is not being addressed directly.

    Sight Translation

    Interpreting aloud from a written document.

    Although not all interpreters are necessarily translators, court interpreters may also translate legal documents and transcriptions. Interpreters and translators are also called upon to transcribe tapes and/or translate these transcriptions for court proceedings.

    State of Washington

    Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters

    Certified and non-certified language interpreters for the court must be familiar with and must abide by the following State of Washington Code of Conduct for Court Interpreters, adopted in GR 11.2 effective November 17, 1989. The following is condensed from the official version:

    1. An interpreter, like other officers of the court, must maintain high standards of personal and professional conduct.
    2. An interpreter must interpret or translate thoroughly and precisely, adding or omitting nothing. Interpreters must never interject their personal moods and attitudes.
    3. If an interpreter has any reservation about his or her ability to satisfy an assignment competently, the interpreter must immediately communicate that reservation to the appointing authority.
    4. No interpreter shall render services in a matter in which he or she is a potential witness or is an associate, friend, or relative of any of the parties, unless the appointing authority allows an exception for good cause. Nor shall any interpreter serve in any matter in which the interpreter has an interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome. Nor shall any interpreter serve in a matter in which he or she has participated in the choice of counsel.
    5. The interpreter must not disclose any communication that is privileged by law without written consent of the parties or pursuant to a court order.
    6. An interpreter must report immediately to the appointing authority any solicitation or effort by another to induce or encourage the interpreter to violate any law, any provisions or rules referring to the practice of language interpreting or any provisions of this Code of Conduct.
    7. An interpreter shall not give legal advice and shall refrain from the unauthorized practice of law.

    Washington State Court Certification

    Washington State offers court certification in nine languages, Arabic (Egyptian), Cantonese, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Russian, Somali, Spanish, and Vietnamese; for many other languages not available for certification, registered status is available. Training courses and certification exams are given annually based on need. If you are interested in becoming certified or registered in Washington State, please contact Ms. Katrin Johnson. The interpreter line for AOC is +1(360)705-5301; you can leave your name and address for information about the certification testing schedule.

    For a complete list of languages and more detailed information about these credentials, click here.

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Copyright 2005-2011 Washington State Court Interpreters & Translators Society. 
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: November 03, 2012

PO Box 1012 
Seattle, WA  98111-1012