To become a certified interpreter, begin by studying the language or working toward a degree in the language or discipline. Next, choose a certification training program specifically aimed at interpreters and translators. Take and pass the NAI or ATA exam to become certified.
The certification exams offered include the National Association for Interpreters, or NAI, exam, and the American Translator Association, or ATA, exam. The NAI provides study materials, and the ATA has practice tests on its website. The ATA also has an education and experience requirement for exam eligibility. The NAI certification lasts for four years, while the ATA certification lasts three years. Both associations offer recertification with continuing education requirements.
Studying the language you wish to interpret includes learning all industry-specific terms for professions such as law, medicine, government and business. To be truly fluent, it is also necessary to be familiar with idioms, figures of speech and colloquialisms of the language. A certification program builds on the knowledge obtained in school by teaching the ethical side of interpreting and prepares students for the exams that officially certify them as translator or interpreters. Students are not required to complete these courses to register for the exam, but the courses are helpful. The American Translator Association publishes a list of approved schools and courses on its website.