What languages are in high demand for court interpreter jobs?

The job outlook for interpreters and translators

Court Interpreter Certification

Across the country, the job outlook for interpreters and translators will see an 18% increase over the next 5 years.  This is largely because there is a diverse population that requires legal representation and the immigrant presence in the US is only increasing.  In fact, court interpreter jobs are so abundant that many untrained professionals are being hired for niche or rare languages, like indigenous languages from Mexico. To become a court interpreter, it’s important to have a strong command of English and the target language, as well as a strong understanding of the US legal system and legal terminology.  The high barrier that this expertise, often referred to as “legalese,” poses, explains why some states have a large concentration of speakers of certain language groups and yet still has a shortage of court interpreters for that group. Legal and court interpreter training is necessary to acquire a legal or court interpreter certification.

Massachusetts state court interpreter certification

Each state has its own requirements and certification process. For example, a court interpreter in Massachusetts would need a state court interpreter certification to work.  It’s also recommended that they specialize in any of following languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian and Haitian Creole (since they are in high demand). These language groups are predominant in the East Coast and the need for competent legal interpreters and translators who have mastered them is growing consistently.

Court Interpreter jobs

Top states for court interpreter jobs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top states with court interpreter jobs are California, Virginia, New York, Texas and Arizona. Although, there are three main languages that are generally in demand­- Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese- different language groups are growing in each state. For starters, In California and Virginia, there is a growing need for Tagalog and Korean for court interpreters. On the other hand, in Texas, the court interpreter jobs are now seeing an ever-increasing demand for Punjabi, Tagalog and Simplified Chinese.

What languages are in high demand for court interpreter jobs in other states?

In New York, court interpreters are required for Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali. Additionally, there has been an increase in the indigenous languages of Mexico and Central America like Quiche, Mam, Nahuatl, Tlapaneco, and Mixteco.  Because most people who speak these languages cannot interpret directly into English, they must resort to relay interpreting: first to Spanish, then English. In Arizona, due to the large population of refugees that have been sent over the past 20 years, the top languages for court interpreter jobs are Arabic for Iraqi, Somali and the Sudanese populations.  Bosnian is also largely in demand for Croatian and Serbian immigrants from Bosnia.  The largest group in Arizona that may need interpreting services is roughly 10,507 Vietnamese refugees.

The effect of historical immigration trends on court interpreter jobs

Some groups are more predominant in specific areas due to historical immigration trends. In Massachusetts, the largest population of Portuguese Americans is on the East Coast, since they originally settled in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. New York and Chicago hold the largest population of Indians in the US. As of 2013, the largest immigrant populations are from India or China, supplanting Mexico as the top source of newly arriving immigrants. This has a direct effect on court interpreter jobs, considering the “top languages” will be constantly shifting depending on immigrant concentration and education.

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