What Testing Is Required to Become an Interpreter?


Quick Answer

Tests to qualify as an interpreter include oral language proficiency tests, oral interpreter skills tests and written examinations usually covering vocabulary and ethics. Required qualification tests vary by type of interpreting and employer requirements. Court and medical certification are the only nationally recognized interpreter certifications in the United States.

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Full Answer

Oral proficiency tests are usually recorded interviews conducted over the telephone or via computer and designed to assess one's fluency in both the source language and the target language. For example, English and Russian proficiency tests are required of a Russian interpreter. Proficiency tests assess vocabulary and pronunciation, grammar and syntax.

Interpreting skills are measured through oral examinations in the modes of interpreting: simultaneous, consecutive and sight translation. Simultaneous interpreting is interpreting what is being spoken in one language into another language as it is spoken with only a slight delay. Interpreting what has been spoken after the speaker concludes is consecutive interpreting. Sight translation is reading a document in one language while interpreting it out loud in another language. Interpreting skills tests are usually recorded for review and rating by qualified professionals.

Written examinations, often used as screening exams, measure an interpreter's language comprehension and level of understanding of various terms and processes inherent to the particular employer. Questions regarding professional ethics, things like confidentiality, professional demeanor and working relationships, are often covered in written examinations.

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