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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Knowledge, Skills and Abilities Are Required to Be a Court Interpreter?

Court interpreting is a profession that demands high levels of knowledge and skills. Many people do not realize that merely speaking two languages is hardly sufficient. If you want to perform at the level of a professional court interpreter, you must:

  • Possess a highly educated, native-like mastery of both English and a second language.
  • Possess a broad knowledge of the court system in general and the procedural components of all major case types as well as ancillary venues where interpreting services are required
  • Possess a thorough knowledge of the specialized terminology used by judges and lawyers
  • Possess wide general knowledge characteristic of what a minimum of two years of general education at a college or university would provide.
  • Perform the three modes of court interpreting, using them when appropriate:
    1. Sight interpreting (also called sight translating)--oral translation of documents, e.g., presentence reports, letters to judges, birth certificates, etc.;
    2. Consecutive interpreting--interpreting questions from judges and lawyers from English into another language and the witness' or party's answers from that language into English; and
    3. Simultaneous interpreting--interpreting everything while it is being said during a proceeding from English into the language of a LEP person (e.g. the defendant sitting at counsel table).
  • Perform each of those types of interpreting in a manner that:
    1. Faithfully and accurately transmits the source message just as it would have been expressed in the target language;
    2. Preserves the tone and level of language of the source message; and
    3. Never changes, omits or adds anything to source messages.
  • Deliver interpreting services in a manner faithful to (1) all canons of the Code of Professional Conduct for Interpreters, Transliterators, and Translators and (2) all other policies regarding court interpreting promulgated by the Judiciary.
  • Ability to speak English in a manner that is readily understood by judges, attorneys, and jurors and to moderate one's voice appropriately, speaking as quietly as possible when interpreting simultaneously and with a solid speaking voice when interpreting consecutively.
  • Ability to focus and concentrate on communications, screening out distractions such as extraneous noises, making accommodations that may be necessitated due to poor acoustics, and positioning oneself where necessary to receive communications to be interpreted
  • Ability to monitor one's own interpretation as well as the interpretation of a partner and make corrections of one's own interpreting errors when appropriate
  • Ability to use appropriate protocol to handle the many and varied challenges that will present themselves, including exercising situational control appropriately when needed to protect the integrity of the interpreter's work
  • Ability to use effective note-taking techniques to enhance accuracy of interpretation, especially when working in the consecutive mode
  • Ability to work effectively in teams when team interpreting is required
  • Ability to use specialized equipment appropriately, particularly simultaneous interpreting equipment and equipment required for delivering telephone interpretation effectively

2. What is the difference between an "approved" court interpreter and a "conditionally approved" court interpreter?

An "approved" court interpreter is someone who has qualified for the Journeyman or Master level of the profession. The Judiciary's policy is to give all interpreting assignments to these interpreters when possible.

A "conditionally approved" court interpreter is someone who has qualified at a trainee level of performance. Contract interpreters at this level may be given interpreting assignments only when no approved court interpreter is reasonably available.

3. What is the difference between an "approved" or "conditionally approved" court interpreter and a "registered" court interpreter?

Interpreters may become "approved" or "conditionally approved" only if they have reached an appropriate score on a court interpreter performance examination, sometimes referred to as an "oral" examination as it is a test that measures ability of actual court interpreting skills.

Interpreters who work in languages for which there is no such performance examination are designated "registered." These interpreters may remain in this status only for as long as no performance test has become available in a particular language. Once an exam is developed in a that language, all persons registered for that language must take the exam and qualify at some appropriate level in order to remain in the Registry. If they qualify, then they will become either "approved" or "conditionally approved." Anyone who declines to be tested within a reasonable time period or who takes the test and does not score at the Conditionally Approved level or higher will be removed from the Registry of Interpreting Resources.

4. How Does an Interpreter Credentialed Elsewhere Become Eligible to Work as a Contract Interpreter in New Jersey?

Interpreters of Spoken Languages

The first thing that an interpreter of a spoken language who has already been certified by another state or the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and wishes to work in New Jersey's Superior, Tax and Municipal Courts should do is review our policy on reciprocity. Depending on each individual's background, one or more of the first three steps of New Jersey's court interpreter approval/registration process may not be required.

The principle that guides New Jersey's policy on reciprocity is to treat persons from out of state the same way we would treat persons who went through New Jersey's court interpreter approval / registration process. New Jersey recognizes and therefore accepts the following as equivalent exams:

  1. The Spanish certification exam administered by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts; and
  2. The exams in numerous languages administered by members of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification so long as the exam taken was a Consortium exam which was given after the state became a member of the Consortium or is otherwise equivalent. New Jersey accepts the scores of tests administered in those jurisdictions and will view a person as being able to waive the New Jersey exam so long as the test scores equal or exceed the scores required for approval in New Jersey.

There is one exception to this general principle: if a person starts the testing process in New Jersey, he or she must finish it in New Jersey. There is no reciprocity for Consortium exams subsequently taken in Consortium states, but New Jersey does accept Federal certification in these circumstances. For example, if a person takes the qualifying exam in New Jersey and fails it, then subsequently becomes certified in another consortium state pursuant to passing a Consortium exam in that language, the person must be retested by New Jersey on those parts of the test that were failed in New Jersey, and pass them at New Jersey’s standard, in order to become approved to work in New Jersey.

New Jersey does not accept any other test results. That includes certification in California, Massachusetts, or New York as administered in the past and in the present time, or certification by NAJIT.

The requirement to complete the one-day Orientation Seminar may be waived under a limited set of circumstances. Persons who have not attended such training will be required to attend the seminar either before becoming registered and starting to work, or within six months of becoming registered and starting to work.

Anyone who wishes to work as a contract, self-employed interpreter must complete separate registration requirements with both the Language Services Section of the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Division of Revenue in the Department of the Treasury. Three documents need to be downloaded, filled out, and submitted to the Language Services Section:

  1. Individual Registration Form
  3. Professional Service Statement of Work (PSSW).

Before executing the PSSW and mailing it in, interpreters should carefully read it because it outlines the specifics of the contractual agreement, including the actual rates of compensation and cancellation policy. Also, a new PSSW must be executed before the beginning of each court year (July 1). These are ordinarily mailed to all registered, unrepresented contract interpreters each spring and anyone who does not execute and return a new contract by June 30 will be ineligible to provide contract interpreting services starting July 1st until a new contract is received by the Language Services Section.

In addition, one must register as a business with the Division of Revenue. Once all of these registrations have been completed, the interpreter is listed in the Registry of Interpreting Resources and is contacted directly by the courts that need their services

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