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Required Interpreter Skills and Education

Professional court interpreters should possess educated, native-like mastery of both English and a second language, display wide general knowledge characteristic of what a minimum of two years of general education at a college or university would provide, and perform the three major types of court interpreting: 1) sight translation, 2) consecutive interpreting, and 3) simultaneous interpreting.  See details >>.

Testing and Certification 

The State Court Administrative Office offers certification testing to persons interested in becoming a non-English-language court interpreter.  An overview of the written examination is available for candidates​​SCAO does not hire interpreters, but does test and certify individuals to interpret for Michigan's trial courts. Persons who pass the certification exam, will be issued a certification card and have his or her name added to the official list of certified interpreters.  Currently, depending upon interest, certification tests can be offered in these languages:
Filipino (Tagalog)
Haitian Creole


For information about reciprocity of federal court interpreter certification or certification from another state, contact the Language Access Certification Program.

Description of Test

The test is designed and developed by a team of experts from several parts of the country who have extensive knowledge of court proceedings, the job requirements for court interpreters, and/or advanced training or high levels of fluency in English and other languages. These experts may include federally certified court interpreters, judges, lawyers, scholars, and/or legal professionals. 

The test measures knowledge and fluency in both languages and the ability to successfully render meaning from source to target language in each of the three modes of interpreting that are required of a court interpreter:
    • Sight Translation of Documents
    • Consecutive Interpreting
    • Simultaneous Interpreting
During the sight translation portion, the examinee reads aloud a document in the second language for which the test is being taken (target language). When that reading is completed, the examinee is given the document in English and asked to read it in the target language.
During the consecutive interpreting mode, the examinee interprets English language questions into the second language for which the test is being taken (target language) and target language answers into English. A test proctor administers the consecutive interpreting portion by playing the recorded courtroom simulation on a CD player. The examinee listens to sentences, the CD is paused, and the interpreter then interprets from memory. 
During the simultaneous interpreting mode, the examinee, wearing headphones, listens to a prerecorded English passage and, while listening, interprets aloud into the nonEnglish language.
The entire court interpreter certification test takes approximately one hour. Test tapes are scored by a team of two certified interpreters who have been trained by the National Center for State Courts for rating the certification tests. Candidates must score at least 70 percent on each part of the test in order to pass. Efforts are made to report scores to the candidates within 60 days.

Oral examinations are administered in June and October.  

Annual Registration

MCR 8.127 requires annual registration of all interpreters and interpreter firms who wish to do business with Michigan courts.  


​Staff Contact

E-mail: languageaccess@

(517) 373-9526


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