Earning an interpreter certification degree is one of the best ways to prove to potential clients that you are a capable interpreter. It’s not always an easy thing to do (I personally think interpreting is harder than translating), but it can be well worth the effort.
It used to be that the only place where you could get certified as an interpreter in the United States was through the federal court system.
I remember when I was in college studying to be a translator that we had a guy come talk to our class one day. He was a federal court interpreter, and while his job sounded cool, I could not understand how anyone could ever pass a federal court interpretation certification exam.
Talk about tough.
But now, there are more places than just the court system where you can go to get certified as an interpreter. Their exams might be just as hard to pass, but more options means that interpreters can pick and choose the right interpretation certification for them. I mean, if you’re going to be an interpreter for someone other than the court system, it doesn’t make sense to have to be certified strictly by the courts.
So, once you’ve decided that you want to become a certified interpreter, it would be good to keep a couple of things in mind, especially as you shop around to find the best place for you to get certified as an interpreter.
Choose Your Language Pair
First of all, you want to make sure that the institution that offers the certification will train you in your target and source languages. If you are an interpreter between Thai and Spanish, for example, there’s no need to go to an institution that concentrates on English and Spanish interpretation. Pretty obvious.
What’s not so obvious, though, is that some interpreter schools don’t even work with different languages. Instead of teaching you how to actually interpret, the instructors will merely give you an understanding of the theory of interpretation, without focusing on any practical application.
This is not what you want.
I come from the line of thinking that while translating and interpreting are fine to study as abstract concepts, you actually need to be engaged in the language work to really get a feel for what it’s like
Choose Your Specialization
Not all interpreter certifications are alike.
I just mentioned that it used to be that you could only become specialized as a court interpreter. That’s no longer the case.
However, the legal and medical fields are very popular areas of specialization for interpreters. Because of this, obviously, a ton of interpreter training programs and interpreter certification programs focus on catering to interpreters working in these fields.
However, if you’re interested in becoming an interpreter for the United Nations, or would rather be a general conference interpreter, these training programs aren’t going to do you a whole lot of good. You’ll want to make sure that you find an interpreting program that will give you experience in the field you’re focused on.
I’ve already written about where to get information about both federal court interpreter certification as well as locations (at least in the United States) to find more information and links about becoming a state court interpreter in Texas.
However, in order to help interpreters and those interested in becoming better interpreters, I’ve put together this list of places to go to get more interpreter training. This list is constantly being updated and if there is any information you would like to add to the list, please email me and let me know.
- Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
This is a national membership organization that is dedicated to helping those who are deaf or hard of hearing communicate with people who hear. If you’re interested in sign-language interpreting, for example, this is the place for you to go.
- Reedley College Health Care Interpreter Credit Certification Program
This is a college heath interpreter certification program based out of Reedley College in California. I don’t believe the interpreter certification is available as part of their online curriculum yet, but hopefully it will be available online in the near future.
- San Francisco State University Spanish/English Interpretation
This is another California school that offers an interpreter certification; however, this one is for legal or court interpreting. Like Reedley, however, this program is not offered online.
- The University of Georgia Spanish/English Interpreter Certificate Program
Another in-class interpretation certification program, this option out of the University of Georgia is a month long with classes held on Saturdays.
- Northeastern University Regional Interpreter Education Center
This center, funded by the US Department of Education, is a great resource for sign language interpreters. If you’re looking to improve your interpretation skills, and especially if you live in the northeastern United States, you should definitely check out the resources here.
- BeTranslated.com’s List of Translation and Interpretation Schools
Probably the most comprehensive list of interpretation and translation schools throughout the world, this website is a must for anyone looking to be trained in translation or interpretation.
- Training Notices from the International Medical Interpreters Association
While the list here doesn’t necessarily include all certification programs for interpreting, this is, nevertheless, a good list for anyone looking for college or university programs specifically focused in medical interpreting.
- Cornerstone College – Healthcare Interpreter Certificate Program
Another California school (seems like a trend here) focused on training interpreters for the healthcare and medical fields. The course requires a total of 120 hours, including 80 hours of an externship.
As you can see, most of the schools and programs out there that focus on interpretation are heavily geared towards the medical field. What that means is that if you’re a medical interpreter, you’ve got a wide variety of choices. However, if you want to interpret in other areas, you’re going to have to dig around a bit more to find a program that is suitable to your specific needs.
P.S. If you’re interested in more tips and techniques on how to become a better language professional, read my book.