Introduction to the Office of Language Access
Languages OLA interpreters provide
OLA uses the services of approximately 175 interpreters, 40 of whom are full-time staff interpreters. Languages served by staff and per-diem interpreters include Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Cape Verdean, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin), Creole/French, Ethiopian, Farsi, Greek, Haitian, Hebrew, Indian (Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu), Italian, Khmer, Korean, Nepalese, Japanese, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tigrinya, Turkish, Twi, and Vietnamese.
OLA fills daily requests for foreign language interpreters from approximately 140 court divisions in Massachusetts, including District, Juvenile, Housing, Probate and Family, Land, and Superior Courts. It provides interpreters in approximately 35 languages on a daily basis and generally has interpreters in over 60 languages on its list.
OLA interpreter staffing
Most OLA interpreters go through a rigorous screening, introductory orientation, and mentoring before being assigned to court. They are first assigned to interpret in court as Screened Interpreters. The OLA certification process requires that they work for at least 1 year as professional court interpreters before they apply for certification.
The other requirements for certification are:
- Observing interpreting in court
- Confirmation that they’re compliant with their Code of Professional Conduct
- Passing grade of 80% in a written diagnostic test
- Passing grade of 70% in an oral interpreting proficiency exam, if available
Certification isn’t available in all languages. Some interpreters who meet all certification criteria, but for whom no oral exam is available, are “qualified” as Certified Interpreters.
If an interpreter isn't available in a requested language, the Trial Court has a contract with LanguageLine, a service that provides interpreters over the telephone in many foreign languages. LanguageLine may be used for intake interviews at the probation department, at clerk and registry counters, and for arraignments or other simple, short proceedings. It takes only a few minutes to set up the conference call, and all you need is a speaker telephone. Please email the OLA at firstname.lastname@example.org for help with the call number and user ID you’ll need to set up the call, or for more information.
The OLA sometimes uses the services of previously approved interpreter companies in cases where an interpreter is needed in person, but no one is available on the OLA list.