Interpreters for the Law


In most of the United States and Canada there are seven terms relevant to court interpreting.

• “Court Interpreter” is a person who works in court or, by court appointment, in other judicial proceedings outside the courtroom. The Court Interpreter is both an Officer of the Court and an Expert Witness. Sometimes a long-experienced interpreter may be a friend of the Court. In court, she may interpret for a witness at the stand or for a criminal defendant or for either party in a civil matter. Outside the courtroom she may interpret for any of those parties in a deposition or examination for discovery. She may also be appointed to interpret between a criminal defendant and lawyer.

• “Certified Court Interpreter” is a protected title in some Canadian provinces and may only be used by interpreters who are certified by under examination and review by the Canadian Council of Translators Interpreters and Terminologists (CTTIC) through the various self-governing provincial professional societies – the Society of Translators and Interpreters of British Columbia (STIBC) is one such.

In the US, a court interpreter may be a Federally Certified Court Interpreter (FCCI) who has been certified by the US Federal Court Administration or state-certified –by individual state or through the National Consortium of State Courts (NCSC).

• Canada Immigration tests interpreters and calls them “Certified” which makes it difficult at first glance to determine which certification they hold. It is certainly not a professional designation.

• "Accredited Interpreter" is an interpeter whose qualifications are deemed by the court management to be acceptable and who is thus allowed to appear at trial, particularly in criminal matters.

• “Court Translator” is relatively rare and somewhat archaic term. Usually the speaker means “court interpreter” unless he is referring specifically to written documents.

• “Legal Interpreter” should be a person who is trained and qualified to work for a lawyer in an office setting but not in court. The term is not yet widely used in that sense. It is more often a mis-used to indicate a court interpreter.

• “Legal Translator” is a translator who specializes in legal documents.

• “Judicial Interpreter” is a term primarily used in the United States but spreading in Canada. In the US it seems to mean primarily Federally Certified Court Interpreters but includes other categories who aspire to federal certification but are not yet there.


The vast majority of our assignments are carried out by Certified Court Interpreters...  5516-11EN3)