Overview to Working in Oregon's Courts

Introduction

Every year, Oregon uses over 180 languages in their courtrooms. The demand for qualified court interpreter professionals is growing. 

Court interpreting has its own special set of challenges but is very rewarding in the service it provides to the courts and community. The hearings range from minor traffic infractions to domestic dissolutions to criminal trials.

A common misperception is that simply being bilingual is enough to interpret in the courts. The task of interpreting requires 32 different knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) including cognitive:


Language skills
Speaking skills
Listening comprehension skills
Interpreting skills
Behavioral skills
Reading comprehension skills

Each area involves a number of cognitive abilities such as alternating attention, auditory processing speed, central processing speed, conceptual reasoning, divided attention, fine motor control, fine motor speed, selective attention, response inhibition, sustained attention, visuospatial classification and sequencing, visual perception, processing speed, scanning and tracking working memory.

 Being bilingual is not sufficient to meet the high standard that is required to interpret for court proceedings.

 Court interpreters must have knowledge and vocabulary of:

  • court proceedings
  • court procedures

Court interpreters must possess the physical, mental and emotional stamina to be able to concentrate intensely for long periods of time and to withstand the sometimes disturbing subject matter involved in court cases.

Also, court interpreters must maintain the high ethical standards required by the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

A court interpreter is not:

an advocate 

a social worker 

a legal advisor      

a helper

a confidant

a taxi driver

a counselor

a cultural liaison

 

Court interpreting requires a high level of language accuracy in a different way than social services or medical interpreting. Everything in court is interpreted meaning for meaning with no omissions or summarization. Standard court interpreting uses both simultaneous and consecutive modes of interpreting as well as sight translating.  Interpreters for the courts never cease learning and must be dedicated to continuing their education.

Scheduling

Scheduling of interpreters for the Oregon Judicial Department is based upon:

  • (court) interpreting experience/education
  • qualifications/credentials
  • court interpreting preparation (i.e. attendance at court observation and workshops)
  • observation of interpreting skills (mentoring)
  • ability to interpret in all three modes of interpretation (sight, consecutive, and simultaneous)

Preparation for Interpreting

Please send Court Interpreter Services an email to Court.Interpreter.Program@ojd.state.or.us with your complete name, mailing address, any other pertinent email addresses and phone number(s), as well as what languages you speak, so that we can add you to our mailing list.

It will be helpful to understand the role of the court interpreter by reading the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). After carefully reading the code of responsibility, an interpreter candidate can begin doing court observation to improve legal vocabulary and to learn court proceedings and protocol. This can be done in any circuit courts which are open to the public. The two busiest courthouses for interpreters in the state of Oregon are:

  • Multnomah County Courthouse 1021 SW 4th Ave, downtown Portland.
  • Washington County Courthouse 150 N 1st Ave, downtown Hillsboro, CIS Office in Room 308C.

Courthouses are generally open Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm. The best time to observe court is around 9:00 in the morning and 1:30 in the afternoon.

Observation Forms

Resources

Please go to our Resources Page if you are interested in learning more about court interpreting, or would like to improve your interpreting skills.