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
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
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.
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
- An interpreter, like other officers of the court, must maintain high
standards of personal and professional conduct.
- An interpreter must interpret or translate thoroughly and precisely,
adding or omitting nothing. Interpreters must never interject their personal
moods and attitudes.
- 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.
- 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.
- The interpreter must not disclose any communication that is privileged by
law without written consent of the parties or pursuant to a court order.
- 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.
- An interpreter shall not give legal advice and shall refrain from the
unauthorized practice of law.
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
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
For a complete list of languages and more detailed information about these