How to Become a Legal Interpreter

Aug 15, 2019

Legal or court interpreters are present in legal settings, to translate oral communication from one language to another. This means that they have to be fluent in at least two languages and handle legal terminology steadily. It's a job that requires high concentration and sharp thinking.

In order for a person to become a court interpreter, they need to meet certain standards. If you’re curious to learn how to become a legal translator, we’ve got you covered.

Here are the steps in the process of getting a legal translation certificate and working as a legal interpreter.

Languages Fluency

The number one precondition for becoming a legal interpreter is for you to be fluent and proficient in at least two languages.

Assuming that English is your native language, your second language needs to be impeccable as well.

If you’re not bilingual, you should:

  • take up foreign language lessons as soon as possible
  • polish both your English and your foreign language skills

The sooner you start the better your foreign language skills are going to be.

Bachelor’s Degree

To be able to provide legal translation services, you’re going to have to earn at least a Bachelor’s degree.

Undergraduate programs and majors or minors you would benefit from the most are:

  • translation studies
  • legal studies
  • diction
  • phonetics

Any of these will look great on your resume for an interpreter so make sure you acquire as much knowledge as possible during your college years.

Once you get your Bachelor’s degree, you can move on to the next step in the process.

Get Additional Training

Since there is no specific undergraduate program for becoming a legal translator, it’s best that you seek additional training.

Look for training programs and courses offered by:

  • local or national interpreters associations 
  • state courts
  • language and interpreting companies

Enroll in a program offering specific training for future legal translators and invest some time in learning about the specific requirements of that position. These programs cover specific skills you’ll need as a court interpreter, which include:

  • simultaneous translating
  • court procedures
  • cultural sensitivity
  • overall law and judicial system

Get the education and training you need for continuing to pursue a career as a legal translator.

Gain Experience

Before you apply for a position as a legal interpreter at a court office, you should try gaining some experience.

You could do so by working or volunteering for:

  • a translation company or service
  • a community organization

Gain some experience to become more self-assured, and to have additional experience to put in your resume for becoming an interpreter.

Find Employment

Depending on the court you’ll be applying to work for, you’ll need to fulfill their requirements.

That means that you’ll need to:

  • pass a certification exam

The exam is given by institutions such as:

  • Consortium for Language Access in the Courts
  • American Translators Association
  • Translators and Interpreters Guild

Once you pass their exam and receive a formal certificate, you’ll be able to apply for a job as a court interpreter at a court you’ve chosen.

Additional Thoughts

Becoming a legal translator is a process which requires both gaining the necessary knowledge and skills, and respecting the official procedures of certification.

You need to ensure you’ve got the skills necessary for performing well on the job. In addition, you need to prove you’re skilled and well-trained by receiving the certificate.

To sum up, here are the steps you need to check:

  • becoming proficient in two languages
  • getting a formal education and a Bachelor's degree
  • getting specific training
  • volunteering and acquiring experience
  • getting an official certificate


The steps above will help you get hired as a legal translator. All you have to do is work hard, and smart, and meet all the standards.

Use these steps as guidelines and start working on your career as a legal interpreter today.