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Court System Home » Language Interpreter Services » Information for Interpreters

Information for Interpreters

What is court interpreting?

Court interpreting is when a qualified professional communicates the spoken message from one language to another in a court hearing or trial. The three modes of interpreting used in the courtroom are consecutive, simultaneous, and sight translation.

Interpreting is different than translating, although these terms are often confused in everyday speech. Translating is when someone turns something written from one language to another. At its simplest, interpreting involves spoken language and translating involves written language.

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What do court interpreters do?

Court interpreters help people who are limited English proficient (LEP) – those who have a limited understanding of spoken English or who are not fluent English speakers – understand court proceedings in their primary language.

A competent court interpreter is able to fluently speak English and another language and has an extensive legal vocabulary in both languages.

Interpreters must have:

A court interpreter needs to be able to do several things at the same time: listen, understand, summarize, retain ideas, and restate the exact meaning of the message.

The interpreter is to:

  1. ensure that the proceedings in English accurately reflect what the non-English-speaking person said; and
  2. place the non-English-speaking person on equal footing with those who are fluent in English.

Learn more about the necessary qualifications to become an interpreter.

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What is consecutive, simultaneous and sight translation?

Court interpreters use three types of interpreting in the courtroom.

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For what kinds of cases do court interpreters interpret?

Interpreters may be asked to interpret in virtually every case type in the state court system. Matters range from personal injury cases, small claims, landlord/tenant disputes, traffic, domestic violence, divorce and child custody, child support, sexual assault, drug offenses, murder, DUI, to name a few.

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Are there different levels of interpreters?

Yes. There are registered and certified interpreters. Each level involves different training requirements with a certified interpreter having achieved the highest level of training and successfully passing the National Center for State Courts' written and oral exams.

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What is a “registered” court interpreter?

A “registered” court interpreter is someone who has successfully completed the interpreter training series through the Language Interpreter Center (LIC). The LIC maintains a list of “registered” court interpreters who can provide interpreter services to the Alaska Court System.

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What is a “certified” court interpreter?

Certified court interpreters are individuals who have mastered speaking both English and a second language.

Certified court interpreters are able to perform the three major types of court interpreting (sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting) and have passed a series of written and oral examinations.

Many new interpreters do not have all of these qualifications necessary for court interpreting. However, these skills can be improved over time through observation, study, and practice.

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What steps can I take to become a registered interpreter?

If you are bilingual and have a good command of English and another language, complete steps 1-4. to become a “registered” interpreter:

Step 1: Contact the Language Interpreter Center (LIC), attend the information session, and complete the screening process.

The LIC is a collaborative, multi-agency, public-private effort to train bilingual individuals to interpret in the legal, medical and community settings. The LIC will discuss the initial screening process with you.

Contact Information

Language Interpreter Center
431 W. 7th Avenue, #208
Anchorage, AK 99501

Program Manager Barb Jacobs

Step 2: Successfully complete Introduction to Interpreting conducted by the Language Interpreter Center and its legal, medical, and social service partners.  

Step 3: Successfully complete Orientation to Court Interpreting training provided by the Alaska Court System and the Language Interpreter Center.

Step 4: Participate in the practice sessions. 

After you successfully complete these steps, your name is added to the LIC’s “registered” list of court interpreters.  The LIC provides interpreter services for the Alaska Court System and will match your interpreting skills with the interpretation needs of the court system.

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What steps can I take to become a certified court interpreter?

To become a certified court interpreter, you will need to complete steps 1-4 listed above and steps 5-6 listed below.

Step 5: Successfully pass the NCSC’s written examination.

The written examination from the National Center for State Courts is in English and has two parts: (1) multiple-choice test and, (2) written language assessment. The multiple-choice part has 135 questions covering general English proficiency, court-related terms and usage, and ethics/professional conduct.

Get an overview of the Written Examination Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

Next Written Exam Date: TBA

To register for the written examination, contact: Program Manager Barb Jacobs,

Step 6: Successfully pass the NCSC’s oral examination.

If an interpreter candidate passes the written examination, he or she can take the oral examination developed by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).  The Language Interpreter Center and the Alaska Court System administer  the oral examination once a year.

To pass the oral exam, interpreters must have a mastery of English and the other language at the level of a native speaker, and have a thorough understanding of legal concepts in both of the languages.  In addition, interpreters must be extremely proficient in doing sight, consecutive, and simultaneous interpreting, and be able to convey messages accurately, completely and quickly.

The NCSC’s oral examinations are currently available in twenty languages. Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

When an interpreter candidate passes both the written and oral examinations, the Alaska Court System certifies the candidate.

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How do I know if I am ready to take the exams?

If you have successfully finished all of the Language Interpreter Center’s training and become a registered interpreter, you may be ready to take the NCSC’s written exam.

When you pass the written exam, you may take the NCSC’s oral exam.

Read the resource articles:

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When are the next exams given?

To find out about dates for written and oral examinations please contact Program Manager Barb Jacobs,

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How many states belong to the NCSC language access consortium?

The The NCSC language access consortium consists of all 50 states and the territories and under the auspices of the National Center for State Courts located in Williamsburg, VA.  

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What training programs are available?

The Alaska Court System and the Language Interpreter Center (LIC) offer training programs to prepare bilingual persons for court interpreting.

General Information Session
This provides an overview of the interpreting profession and the training program. Following the general information session, the LIC will assist candidates with the pre-registration requirements for the specific training programs.

Introduction to Interpreting
This one-day training addresses these topics:

Introduction to Legal/Court Interpreting
This two-day training addresses these topics:


Interpreter Practice Sessions
These sessions allow candidates to practice interpreting in the three modes used in the courtroom.

Professional Development Sessions/Continued Education
These sessions are made available to the interpreters of the Language Interpreter Center to further develop their interpreter skills, improve vocabulary, and enhance their knowledge of the legal, medical, and community interpreting.

Preparation Session for the NCSC’s Written and Oral Examinations
These sessions help the interpreter candidate prepare for court certification exams.

For training dates and to register for the training programs, contact Program Manager Barb Jacobs,

If you have participated in training programs through the Language Interpreter Center and the Alaska Court System, online skills development is available.

Online training courses offered by the New Mexico Center for Language Access in partnership with the National Center for State Courts:

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What is the Interpreter Code of Ethics/Professional Responsibility?

As officers of the court, court interpreters must uphold these professional  standards:

Canon 1:  Interpreters shall render a complete and accurate interpretation or sight translation, without altering, omitting, or adding anything to what is stated or written, and without explanation.

Canon 2:  Interpreters shall accurately and completely represent their certifications, training, and pertinent experience.

Canon 3:  Interpreters shall be impartial and unbiased and shall refrain from conduct that may give the appearance of bias.  Interpreters shall disclose any real or perceived conflict of interest.

Canon 4:  Interpreters shall conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the dignity of the court and shall be as unobtrusive as possible.

Canon 5:  Interpreters shall protect the confidentiality of all privileged and other confidential information.

Canon 6:  Interpreters shall not publicly discuss, report, or offer an opinion concerning a matter in which they are or have been engaged.

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What resources are available for court interpreters?

Language Interpreter Center
The Language Interpreter Center is a collaborative, multi-agency, public-private effort to create a pool of qualified language interpreters for public and private entities statewide.  The Center provides trained and certified interpreters for court and legal interpreting.

National Center for State Courts (NCSC)
Coalition of state court systems who develop standardized exams to test interpreter skills and qualifications. The NCSC’s website lists resources on court interpreting, language barriers, cultural issues, interpreter training resources, with links to other helpful sites.

Alaska Court System
Provides links to the Language Interpreter Center, general court information, trial court records, court forms, CourtView, Family Law Self-Help Center, Law Library, legal research links, Alaska government websites.

American Translators Association
A professional organization of translators and interpreters that conducts conferences, hosts discussion groups, distributes publications, and provides helpful links.

Useful information on world languages provided through a searchable database, as well as publications on cultures, software, and a bibliography on past research work.

National Association of Court Managers
An English glossary of common legal terms in plain English.

National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)
A professional organization of court interpreters and legal translators providing conference announcements, degree programs, discussion groups, publications, and resource inks.

For more information or questions about language services in the Alaska Court System, contact:

Brenda Aiken
Resource Development Officer
Language Services Coordinator
Alaska Court System
820 West Fourth Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501-2005

Stefanie Burich
Interpreter Services Coordinator
Alaska Court System
820 West Fourth Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501-2005

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How are interpreters paid?

Administrative Bulletin 82 Payment of Interpreters Adobe Acrobat PDF logo

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Rev. 5 November 2014
© Alaska Court System

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