10 Must Know Legal Terms To Become An Interpreter


Those who have looked into how to become an interpreter will know that industry knowledge in the field you’re interpreting for is extremely important. If you aren’t familiar with the language that is used while you’re interpreting, it will be difficult for you to interpret to your client. But that’s not all…

Even if you have heard the industry related words before, that doesn’t necessarily mean you know what they mean. It also doesn’t mean your client knows what they mean. In order to become an interpreter you need to prepare yourself to help people understand terms they may not be familiar with. The best way to do this is through an explanation of the term or phrase in question.

You may also run into a scenario where the word exists in English, but not in the native language you are interpreting for. In this case you will either need to know an equivalent word or phrase in the target language that encompasses the same idea, or else explain what the word means. In both scenarios you need to fully understand key industry terms, so you can interpret it properly, and describe it in the client’s native language if need be.

Somali Court Interpreter So what does this mean for people interested in how to become an interpreter for the Legal industry?

For a legal interpreter, or aspiring legal interpreters, this means understanding the phrases and terms most commonly used in the legal system and the courtroom – some that you may not know without studying.

There are many ways you can learn these terms and phrases, but for now we’ve provided you with 10 important ones, and what they mean.


10 Common Legal Terms You May Not Know

  • Arraignment – proceeding where the criminal defendant is told of the charges against him or her in court, and is asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
  • Bail – two meanings, either the amount of money required to release the defendant from jail while the trial is pending, or the release of the defendant prior to the trial under specific conditions assuring they will appear in court.
  • Plaintiff – the person or business that has filed a formal complaint with the court.
  • Plea – the response the defendant gives at the arraignment when asked “guilty” or “not guilty”.
  • Colloquy – in criminal court, conversations that take place between the judge and lawyers to ensure the defendant gave his or her plea knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently.
  • Deposition – a statement made before an authorized officer, used to examine witnesses or to be used later in trial.
  • Felony – serious crimes punishable by up to one year in prison (generally).
  • Habeas Corpus – a judicial order for police offers to present a prisoner and justify his or her continued confinement.
  • Interrogatories – a discovery method that is made up of written questions that will be answered in writing, under oath.
  • Subpoena – command under court authority for a witness to appear and testify.


So You Want To Become An Interpreter, But Don’t Know Where To Start

Spanish Court Interpreter The above list is only a small bit of the vocabulary students will have to learn when preparing to become an interpreter for the legal industry. Watching criminal shows and reading up on legal blogs is a very basic way to begin to learn about the terminology used in the legal system; however, the best way to train to become a legal interpreter is by taking an interpreter training course.

Legal interpreters need to pass difficult exams in order to be certified by state and federal courts. Vocabulary is only part of the exam, with interpreter techniques making up the other part. Language Connections offers a 7 week Legal and Court Interpreter Training Program, that will help students prepare for the certification exams.

The course covers court interpreter roles, ethics, and subject matter the students will need to know, in small class environments. Our instructors are professional legal interpreters, and teach based off of their years of experience.

So you want to know the best way to become an interpreter? Check out an interpreter training course today, and get started on learning the vocabulary and skills necessary to succeed!


Speak a second language? Put it to work! Become a professional interpreter! Register now for our upcoming Legal Interpreter Training course.

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Yana Fisher

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