Thank you for your interest in working with the Office of Language Access (OLA) as a per diem court interpreter. Here is some general information that will help you learn about policies regarding recruitment, screening, and applying to work as a per diem court interpreter.
M.G.L. c. 221C was added on December 23, 1986, creating a court interpreter office for the Trial Court that guarantees and protects the rights of non-English speakers in legal proceedings by providing them with qualified court interpreters. OLA is responsible for recruiting, training and certifying its staff and per diem court interpreters, and for assigning these interpreters to the Massachusetts courts who request them.
Court interpreters must have a superior level of linguistic proficiency and an understanding of the ethical standards that govern their work. At a practical level, working as a freelance or per diem court interpreter also demands the ability to cope with changes in assignments and last minute requests. Cases that need interpreters may get dismissed (cancelled) and continued (postponed), often with little or no advance notice to OLA or the interpreter. Likewise, courts may experience a sudden need for interpreters at any given moment. In both cases, OLA works closely with its pool of interpreters and the courts to provide quality interpreter services for those who need it throughout their legal process. Because of the ever-changing nature of court business, OLA can’t guarantee or predict the number of assignments any interpreter will receive at any given time.
Recruitment and screening of applicants
OLA regularly recruits new interpreters for languages needed throughout the state. Based on documented need, OLA begins recruitment by reviewing Application Questionnaires on file. Whenever necessary, OLA will also actively seek potentially-qualified applicants by contacting academic institutions, language-specific organizations, interpreter and translator associations or programs, and more.
Potentially-qualified applicants are screened for their linguistic proficiency, professional experience, and academic background. A preliminary review of the applicant’s qualifications will determine if they meet the minimum requirements.
- Bachelor’s degree or equivalent college degree from the applicant’s country. (A copy of credit transcripts or diploma will be required at the interview.) Some exceptions may apply for some less-used languages.
- Advanced level of proficiency in both English and the other language. This means proficiency that reflects college-level instruction at the oral and written level. The candidate must have superior academic knowledge of both languages to pass a written screening exam that includes grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and translation exercises. Exceptions may apply for some less-used languages.
- Prior interpreting and translating experience and/or training aren’t required, but are preferred and will receive preference in recruitment.
Certification of OLA interpreters
OLA is the only institution with the authority to grant state certification for Trial Court interpreters in Massachusetts. OLA offers certification only to interpreters who have completed all pre-certification requirements. To be certified in any language, you must have:
- A minimum of 1 year of service with OLA (some exceptions may apply.)
- A passing grade on the written exam developed by the National Center for State Court’s Consortium for Language Access.
- An assessment by OLA of the interpreter’s compliance with the Code of Professional Conduct (Section 4:00 of the Standards and Procedures.)
- An observation of the interpreter in court.
- For some languages, the certification process includes an oral exam that tests the interpreter’s level of skills in Simultaneous and Consecutive interpretation, and Sight Translation (definitions in Section 2:00 of the Standards and Procedures.) Interpreters in languages that there isn’t an oral exam available for at the moment will apply for certification by submitting required documentation that demonstrates they comply with a set of standard criteria. For more detailed information, please see Section 5:00 of the Standards and Procedures.
For more information about court interpreting, please visit the websites of interpreter organizations, such as the Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators.