Court interpreters must have complete mastery of the languages they’re translating, in order to deliver a precise, speedy interpretation.
Previous profession: Service coordinator at a non-profit organization
Years spent working as an interpreter: 5
Language(s) fluency: Spanish. I learned English when I was 13 years old.
My path to court interpreting: I used to interpret informally for friends and relatives. In college I majored in Spanish Literature building a stronger foundation in both my first language and English. A friend informed me about the court interpreters’ Language Skills Screening exams and I took them.
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: Working as an interpreter for the court system is very fulfilling, as it provides the opportunity to help members of our community. It also offers great benefits and job security.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: If you have native-like mastery in two or more languages, and a passion for language, you will absolutely enjoy interpreting.
I didn’t grow up in a hearing-impaired household, so staying active in the hearing-impaired community has been crucial to strengthen my skills as a sign language interpreter.
Previous profession: Executive Assistant
Years spent working as an interpreter: 3-1/2
Language(s) fluency: English and conversational Spanish. My high school Spanish teacher also taught American Sign Language (ASL), and in my junior year, I decided to take a beginner’s ASL course. I went on to graduate from college with a dual degree in ASL and Organizational Communication.
My path to court interpreting: I was torn between teaching ASL and interpreting, when a friend informed me about an opening in the court system for an ASL interpreter. I submitted my application and completed the interview process. I remember jumping out of my seat when I got the job!
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: People in the courts are phenomenal. It’s like a family. From day one, my colleagues have been incredibly supportive.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: Interpreting takes patience, dedication, professionalism and the conscious ability to remain neutral. You must have a passion for helping others, facilitating communication, and be motivated to learn and grow.
A court interpreter plays a crucial role, helping achieve the courts’ mission of equal access and justice.
Previous profession: Marketing director for a textile company in Korea
Years spent working as an interpreter: 5
Language(s) fluency: Korean and English. I studied English from middle school through college in Seoul, Korea.
My path to court interpreting: An acquaintance informed me about interpreting opportunities with the courts. I applied, then took and passed the required Language Skills Screening exams.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: As an interpreter you must be neutral, but at the same time you have to be compassionate. You also need linguistic talent and outstanding communication skills.
I play a direct role in eliminating language barriers in the courtroom for non-English speakers. Along with the opportunity to help others, I have gained valuable experience about the courts, from a different perspective than when I worked for the police department.
Previous profession: Former NYPD detective. Currently working as a private investigator in addition to interpreting.
Years spent working as an interpreter: 13
My path to court interpreting: When I worked for the New York City Police Department, I spent a great amount of time in court. I witnessed when a person was required to participate in legal proceedings that were conducted in a language that was unfamiliar, and saw that the assistance of an interpreter was crucial. Following my retirement, I decided to become an interpreter, after a court clerk suggested I take the test for court interpreting.
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: I try to encourage others to enter the profession for the experience and as a form of community service, where they would be helping someone to communicate and resolve a situation that can possibly have a major impact on their life and future. Finally, I would invite those with language skills to court, so that they can see firsthand what a disadvantage it is for a person to appear before a judge or to communicate with an attorney without the ability to speak for themselves.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: One must be able to master two languages and enjoy assisting others.
Interpreting is a beautiful thing. It’s about helping people.
Previous profession: Wardrobe assistant on feature films, professional embroiderer
Simultaneous profession: Painter (acrylic)
Years spent working as an interpreter: 14
Language(s) fluency: Haitian Creole, French and English. I grew up speaking Haitian Creole and French in a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I studied English in college.
My path to court interpreting: One day I accompanied a relative who needed an interpreter to the New York State Worker’s Compensation Board. There were other people there who spoke Haitian Creole and a compensation board employee asked if I would mind helping out. That experience led me to study for the certification exam.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: Understanding your client’s culture is a plus, and you also need great listening skills.
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: I’ve always wanted to help people the best way I could, but didn’t know it would be this way.
I feel I am useful to society. I can impact the community. I’m like a bridge, connecting two societies.
Previous profession: Employee for a multinational corporation
Years spent working as an interpreter: 17
Language(s) proficiency: English, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu. At the school I attended in India it was mandatory to learn English and two other native languages.
My path to court interpreting: The division of the company I was working in New York was moving to Connecticut and I didn’t want to relocate. I met an interpreter who noticed I spoke several languages and suggested that I look into an interpreting career.
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: You meet different people all the time. You’re an interpreter as well as someone who can educate others about the culture of the community for which you interpret.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: A vast knowledge of the English language and the ability to translate information word-for-word without leaving anything out.
Court Interpreting is an extremely rewarding profession. Many court cases rely on the assistance of an interpreter. Interpreters are a vital component of equal access to the courts.
Previous profession: I began my interpreting career after graduating from high school.
Years spent working as an interpreter: 23
Language(s) proficiency: English and Spanish
My path to court interpreting: My dream was to be a French interpreter. I studied French in elementary school. My sister was a language major in college and I loved looking through her books. She focused on French and Italian and she is now a senior interpreter in Kings County Supreme Court. My sister encouraged me to take the Spanish interpreters' exam because I had a good working knowledge of the Spanish language. Today, I help develop training programs for court interpreters.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: I would suggest acquiring a broad vocabulary in both languages, practicing the transition from one language to the other as well as honing your listening and retention skills. A love of language and zeal to help others are what it takes to excel as a court interpreter.
Interpreting is becoming a very broad field, gaining wider recognition. The world is a very diverse place. Without interpreters, what would courts do?
Previous profession: Sales representative for a British trading firm based in the Ukraine
Years spent working as an interpreter: Since 1995. Initially I was a freelancer. I’ve been a full-time court interpreter since 2001.
Language(s) proficiency: I am fluent in Russian, Twi, Ga and Fante as well as English.
My path to court interpreting: When I came to the United States, an attorney friend suggested I apply for an interpreting job with the courts.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: This job is suitable for people from all walks of life who have the ability to retain a lot of information and then translate it into another language. Make it a point to visit your local courts to gain a broad perspective of what to expect in the courtroom while on the job.
There is no typical day of a Court Interpreter. Every day is different!
Previous profession: Commercial airline pilot
Years spent working as an interpreter: 2
Language(s) fluency: English and Spanish
My path to court interpreting: I spent five years looking for a job after I retired from my previous profession. I learned from a neighbor about court interpreting opportunities and decided to enroll in the Court Interpreter Program at Queens College. Subsequently, I took and passed the New York State written and oral exams, and was then hired by Nassau County Courts.
Rewards of the court interpreting profession: What I enjoy most is the satisfaction of being able to assist people that are in need of an interpreter. Most of these people are scared or nervous about going to court, and their anxiety is apparent. You can actually see the relief in their faces when I introduce myself as an interpreter.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: To be as professional as possible and provide an accurate interpretation without deviating from the intended context.
Knowing several languages opens great horizons.
Years spent working as an interpreter: 20
Language(s) fluency: Spanish, Russian and English
My path to court interpreting: I began my interpreting career after I graduated from Hunter College with a degree in Spanish literature.
Skills and attributes needed to pursue a court interpreting career: Enroll in an interpreting program offered by a college or university. As a court interpreter you’re constantly studying. The more you interpret, the better you become.