The United States of America doesn’t have an official language. Although English is spoken by most of the country’s residents, there are plenty of people who live here who speak English as a second language or aren't fluent in English at all. If limited English speakers find themselves at the mercy of the court, then they have the right to an interpreter so that they may understand their court proceedings.
According to BizJournals.com, there are approximately 992 certified Spanish interpreters in the state of California. And there are around 200 interpreters certified in other languages like Arabic, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Korean. These are highly in-demand jobs that offer pay of around $265 a day in a courtroom and up to $150 per hour working privately with lawyers and other clients.
That same report shows that around 1100 Californians take the certification exam every year to become a certified interpreter. But according to supervising analysts for the Judicial Council’s court interpreters program, fewer than 15% pass it. This is because it takes much more than simply being bilingual to do the job.
So what else does the job require? Well, for starters, a court interpreter must be completely familiar and comfortable with legal jargon. They may also be required to have the specialized lingo of an expert witness, and they must also be familiar in local idioms or street slang. They need to be able to interpret quickly and accurately, without interjecting their own opinions or nuance, and they must be able to keep themselves from reacting to disturbing testimony.
Furthermore, someone speaking to a judge may not have come in with a prepared statement, the way a conference speaker might, or the way a business person might come in with a pitch. Oftentimes, people speaking to the court get flustered or frustrated, particularly due to the added language barrier, and a court interpreter must relay the totality of the intention. A court interpreter must remain totally unbiased and not inject their interpretation with their own assumptions about the case. But they must also account for the intention on behalf of the speaker so that meaning is clearly interpreted, not just the literal words.
Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications. Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.
In addition to writing blogs for us, Brian Gruters manages translation projects for corporate clients. He started with Language Translation in 2015.
Brian brings several years of experience as a Spanish to English translator to his work. He has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona and a master’s in Environment and Resource Studies from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
As a writer, Brian is mostly interested in language, science, and environmental conservation issues. He writes for various publications, as well as his blog, briangruters.com.
Jennifer Bustance is a California-based freelance writer, playwright, and novelist originally from Troy, Michigan. Her plays have been performed all over the country, and her prose has appeared in various online and print publications.
Jennifer is a teaching artist with the Playwrights Project, San Diego Writers, Ink, and UCSD Extension. She is the Playwright in Residence at the Scripps Ranch Theatre and a founding member of their New Works Studio. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University and a BA from Sarah Lawrence College.
Chris Maroulakos has worked at Language Translation since 2007, and he is currently the director of operations. He has been a blogger and managing editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear since 2008, and he also worked as a blogger and associate editor for NBC San Diego's SoundDiego music blog.
Chris holds certifications in SDL Trados Studio for Translators (Advanced Level), SDL Trados Studio for Project Managers, and SDL MultiTerm for Translators and Project Managers. He is Inbound Certified by HubSpot and also has certifications in Localization and Localization Project Management from California State University Chico, the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA), and the Localization Institute.
He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a BA in Communications and with minors in Italian and International Studies.