How Legal Interpreter Certificates Help Legal Interpreters and Translators

How Legal Interpreter Certificates Help Legal Interpreters and Translators

A Legal Interpreter and a Legal Translator: what is the difference?


A legal interpreter works with the spoken word during depositions, in court, over the phone, in video conferences, and in interviews. A legal translator works with the written word, including contracts, briefs, discovery and other court documents, patents, medical documents, etc.


How Legal Interpreter Certificates Help Legal Interpreters and Translators

Legal Interpreter CertificatesWhen it comes to legal settings, people tend to mistake the terms translating and interpreting and use them interchangeably. “Translating” is often used to refer to “courtroom translating” or “simultaneous translation,” when people actually mean “interpretation” or “interpreting.” Likewise, there is a distinct difference between legal interpreters and legal translators. Even though both are language professionals who provide legal services, their professions require different skill sets.  It is important to understand the distinction between the two to ensure that you get the best language support. Read more to see if you need legal interpreters with legal interpreter certificates or legal translators with legal translator certification.

Tracing the History of Translation and Interpretation: How Legal Interpreter Certificates and Qualifications Came to Be


The history of translation and interpretation dates back to antiquity. The Bible, which has been translated from Hebrew into Greek in the 3rd century BC, is regarded as the first major translation in the Western world. The Jews, who were dispersed at that time, had forgotten Hebrew, making them unable to read the Bible. The text was translated into Greek, which later became the source text for translations into native languages such as Latin, Coptic, Georgian and Armenian. Meanwhile, interpreting first occurred during the 3rd millennium BC, many years after translation. Egyptian relief sculptures in a prince’s tomb in Egypt made references to an interpreter supervisor, suggesting some form of interpretation that had took place.


Court interpreter certificateFast forward to 1964, the establishment of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against any person “on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.” Due to this regulation, it became mandatory for state courts that receive federal funds to provide interpreters to Limited English Proficient (LEP) individuals at no charge for defendants. According to the law, courts must also ensure that interpreters have the necessary language and interpreting skills. One of the ways aspiring interpreters and translators can get their credentials recognized is by taking interpreter training programs and to pursue legal interpreter certification or legal translation certification.


Later in October 1978, the Court Interpreters Act of 1978 established a program to facilitate the use of certified and qualified interpreters in judicial proceedings. Any individual that are involved in a court proceeding may use an interpreter if there is a language barrier, or some form of hearing or speech impairment that could potentially hinder communication. These laws formed the basis of how to become a legal interpreter or legal translator for years to come.

Necessary Skills for Legal Interpreters and Translators to Pursue Legal Interpreter Certificates

court interpreting

What kind of person can work as a legal interpreter? A legal interpreter must be a quick thinker who feels confident in stressful circumstances, like at the court or in a conference. They must provide an interpretation of the words spoken that is as close to instantaneous as possible. Additionally, legal interpreters must be aware of the words that are being used and have the ability to select one over another in a matter of seconds.


The term “translation” refers to written communication, or the translating of legal documents, such as patents, court documents, medical documents, briefs, discovery and contracts. Meanwhile, “interpretation” refers to oral communication during depositions, in court, in conferences, and in interviews, which may involve several devices that help facilitate the process of interpretation, such as phone, video conference, and infrared systems or longer range portable FM systems.


Court Interpreter TrainingLegal interpreters and translators need to have proficient languages skills. They must also have an extensive knowledge of legal vocabulary that are relevant to their fields and the facility they are stationed at, which could be courthouses, detention centers, police stations, legislative hearings, administrative hearings, real estate offices, law offices, or jails.


Should legal translators be fast thinkers, too? Not necessarily. Since translations are not done live.  They have more time to think things through. But of course, legal translators must be precise when translating documents. They must also take into consideration linguistic nuances and cultural factors.


Can legal interpreters also work as legal translators? Yes.  In fact, many who have attended legal interpreting training programs and have received certification often work as both! Certificates for interpreters and translators open doors to many new career opportunities and success.


Get the necessary, in person training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our interpreter training programs: Medical Interpreter Training, Legal Interpreter Training or Community & Business Interpreter Training.

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