Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a certified interpreter?

A certified interpreter is an individual who has passed the Court Interpreter Certification Examination or the required examination for American Sign Language and fulfills the Judicial Council requirements. The certified interpreter must pass a written and oral exam in English and the other language for which they are being certified.

What is a registered interpreter?

Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state certifying examination are required to pass the English Fluency Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements in order to become registered interpreters of a non-designated certified language.

What can I expect from an interpreter?

Interpreters have an important job in the courtroom. They interpret court proceedings for parties with limited English skills or for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

While performing his or her duties, the court interpreter:

  • will need to hear you speak in your native language, and may ask you questions such as where you are from or if you have ever used an interpreter before.
  • will assist you in communicating with persons in the courtroom, including your lawyer, court staff and the judge.
  • will interpret everything you say into English.
  • will interpret everything said in court into your native language.
  • will interpret everything that is said, without adding, omitting, or changing anything.
  • is bound by the rules of confidentiality and will not repeat to anyone what you say privately to your lawyer.
  • cannot give you legal advice.
  • cannot talk to you about your case.
  • cannot explain what certain words or terms mean.
  • cannot answer questions about what will happen in court.
  • cannot have private conversations with you, your family or friends.

What is the difference between interpretation versus translation?

Interpretation is the process by which oral communication is provided from one language to another. The original is either spoken or signed language, and the interpretation is delivered in another spoken language or in a signed language.

Translation is the process by which written text is converted from one language into another. The original is in written form, and the translation into the other language is also produced in written form. In both interpretation and translation, the goal is for the tone, style, and content of the original to be maintained in the other language.

Sight translation is a form of interpretation in which the content of a written text in one language is given orally (on sight) into another language.

NOTE: Interpretation and translation, while both language-related, are not identical disciplines. Credentialing is different for each, with both requiring a specific knowledge, training and practice.

Which languages are State certified?

There is a total of fifteen (15) languages currently certified by the State: American Sign Language, Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

When does a case qualify for a court-appointed interpreter?

Interpreters may be appointed for the following case types:

  • Criminal
  • Traffic
  • All Juvenile Cases
  • Child Support (AB1058)
  • Mental Health
  • All Family Law Cases, including Domestic Violence Cases
  • All Elder Abuse Cases
  • All Civil Harassment Cases
  • Unlawful Detainer Cases
  • Termination of Parental Rights Cases, and cases that involve custody or visitation of children
  • Conservatorship and Guardianship Cases

Who pays for the services of an interpreter in Superior Court?

In all case types, the cost of the court-appointed interpreter will be paid by the Superior Court from appropriations available to the judiciary.

When counsel request an interpreter and either appears late, does not appear, is not ready to proceed or has failed to cancel the services of the interpreter, the court may require the attorney to pay the interpreter fees.

Who pays for the interpreter in a non-court event or court ordered service?

When the District Attorney, Public Defender or defense counsel need the services of an interpreter away from the courthouse, they should make arrangements to contact, contract, and pay the interpreter. Please refer to "Search for an Interpreter" .

How do I request an interpreter for my hearing?

To obtain a court provided interpreter, the party or the party's attorney may complete and submit the Interpreter Request Form and email the request to: InterpreterServicesDivision@riverside.courts.ca.gov. You may also complete the Interpreter Request Form and submit the form in person at the clerks' office.

All requests must be made in advance with as much notice as possible, and prior to the hearing date in order to secure an interpreter (a minimum of two-business day notice for Spanish and Sign Language interpreters and five (5) business days for all other languages).

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