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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 >>.
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Testing and Certification 

The State Court Administrative Office offers certification testing to persons interested in becoming a non-English-language court interpreter.  An individual must pass the written English proficiency examination​ to be eligible to take the oral certification examination.  An overview of the written examination is available for candidates .  The written examination is offered twice each year in October and July.

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 upon registration of their credentials as follows:
  1. Qualified Interpreter ​ -  To register as a qualified interpreter, an individual must pass the written English proficiency examination and the consecutive portion of the oral examination if an oral examination is offered in the target language.  To maintain qualified status, the interpreter must be actively pursuing full certification by testing at least once a year until full certification is achieved. (NOTE:  In accordance with the National Center for State Courts policies, applicants cannot take a partial examination until they have passed two portions of the oral exam in one sitting.)
  2. Provisionally Certified Interpreter - To register as a provisionally certified interpreter, an individual must pass the written English proficiency examination and two portions of the oral examination in one setting.  To maintain the provisionally certified status, the interpreter must pass the final portion of the oral examination within three years.  They must test at least once a year during that time period.
  3. Certified Interpreter - To register as a certified interpreter, an individual must pass the written English proficiency examination and all three portions of the oral examination.  

Currently, depending upon interest, certification tests can be offered in these language
​Arabic
Cantonese
Filipino (Tagalog)
French
Haitian Creole
Hmong
Ilocano
Khmer
Korean
Laotian
Mandarin
Polish
​Portuguese
Russian
Spanish
Vietnamese​

 

 

To apply for reciprocity of federal court interpreter certification or certification from another state, please mail your written request along with official copies of your scores to: 
State Court Administrative Office
​Language Access Certification Program
P.O. Box 30048
Lansing, MI  48909

Description of  Oral Examination

Oral examinations are administered in April and October.  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.

NOTE:  In accordance with the National Center for State Courts policies, applicants cannot take a partial examination until they have passed two portions of the oral exam in one setting.
 

Annual Registration

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

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​Staff Contact

E-mail: languageaccess@
courts.mi.gov

(517) 373-9526

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SCAO Staff Directory