The In’s and Out’s of the Certification Process for Interpreting.


There are many interpreting and translating companies out there claiming to be certified. How do you, as a consumer, know what is real? Also, what is the certification process for interpreters and translators, and why are some languages certified, while others are not? Hang tight, as we will go over all of these questions and more so you can make informed decisions on who you work with for your interpreting, translating, and transcription needs. 

Can a Company Be Certified?

If you are searching for an Interpreting & Translating company, you might come across companies that say they are certified. Yet, a company itself does not have a way to be certified; only it’s Interpreters. If you are speaking with companies, make sure to ask what they mean by certified and if they are portraying a certified platform, and truly providing certified professionals? For Allied Interpreting & Translating, we built our platform on certified & registered interpreters and translators from the ground up, our CEO Silvia Goldsztajn is a certified Spanish certified interpreter and translator herself. She gained her certification over 39 years ago and handpicks the interpreters and translators that make up the team. Allied values the ethics, professionalism, and accuracy of certified interpreters and translators, and sees the importance of working with professionals that meet or exceed the industry standards and qualifications of their role.  

Certified Vs. Registered Interpreters

In California, a certified court interpreter is an interpreter who has passed the required exam process through the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or the Bilingual Interpreting Exam. In California, there are 14 certifiable spoken languages, and once certified, the interpreter enrolls with the Judicial Council. The certified languages are Spanish, Cantonese, Russian, Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The spoken language certification process consists of a Written Exam and a Bilingual Interpreting Exam (cited from Judicial Council Letter – California Courts). Please note that Western Armenian and Japanese currently remain certified languages, candidates may not take Oral Proficiency Exams to become a registered interpreter in these two certified languages. (cited from Judicial Council Letter – California Courts). 

A registered interpreter is an interpreter of a spoken language other than the certified languages, who has passed all the required exams and enrolled with the Judicial Council. Registered interpreters are required to pass the Written Exam and the Oral Proficiency Exam in English, and the Oral Proficiency Exam in the non-English language in order to become registered.

Certification process of Interpreters & Translators 

In California, certified interpreters and translators are tested by the judicial council of California. There are other certification platforms, such as the American Translators Association, Chartered Institute of linguists, Northern California Translators Association, International Federation of Translators, and Accredited Language. Out of the listed option above, The American Translators Association is among one of the most selective associations with a pass rate of only 20%. Potential translators must illustrate their desire to work in the profession. The association then certifies them once a proficiency examination is passed. Certifications are provided to the 13 languages, listed above that require certification, as of February 28, 2018. 

Why is Certification necessary? 

Certification and the types of certifications are most important for legal matters involving an interpreter or translator. In most cases in the legal field, documents that are translated require a “certification of accuracy,” which means that a certified translator has signed the translated document affirming that the document is the absolute correct translation. If the translation does not match the original, it may not be admissible in court. Rule of thumb: Any document presented in a government or legal body should be certified. Interpreters must prove they meet the standards of the court and are qualified for the role they are fulfilling.       

The Importance of Legal translation 

The importance of legal translation goes beyond words, as it holds its importance in every case and many aspects of the case. Here are a couple of examples of how this importance can be applied:

1. Real Estate attorneys: California translation act, Civil Code Section 1632 states that when presenting a binding contract with a non-English speaker, the merchant is obligated to provide a translated version of the terms and conditions of the contract before finalization.  

2. Immigration attorneys: may need to translate their retainer agreements into the mother tongue of the client.

3. If you or your clients work overseas, the contracts drawn with your clients should be checked by a translator that is certified and knowledgeable. 

4. If you are reviewing a contract that is in the jurisdiction of another country, it is imperative to work with a translator that could articulate specific laws of that country to you to effectively assist your client. 

5. Law Documents that Require Translation (Passports, Adoption papers, Legal name change documentation, Driver’s licenses, Birth certificates, Marriage certificates, Academic transcripts and diplomas, Medical records, etc.)

As an attorney dealing with interpreting and translating, you are aware of the time-sensitive involved with each case. When it comes to translating legal documents, there are unusually strict deadlines. If a document is postponed, it would be considered ineffective and voided. To avoid simple mistakes, it’s imperative to find a knowledgeable interpreter that can cross-reference the legalities within the culture of the document promptly. 

Certification Renewal Process 

For the Certification process regarding interpreters and translators, to make sure each Interpreter and Translators is keeping up with the qualifications and proof of ability, they must renew their certification every two years. Interpreters must have 30 credit hours of continued education for certification renewal. The 30 hours must be divided between a 15-hour session with an instructor in person and a 15-hour session online.

In Closing

We hope you have gained more insight into the certification process, what and why it is necessary, and how to navigate the waters with companies that say they are certified. When words are on the line, and you need a certified or registered interpreter or translator, don’t leave your situation to chance, work with a team that can guide you in the right direction and make sure nothing is lost in translation. Allied Interpreting & Translating (323-934-2585)

If you’d like additional training for your legal firm or legal organization, you can schedule a free MCLE on the Legal Ramifications of Interpreting and Translating. 


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