Spoken Language Interpreter

Dear Prospective Interpreter:

Kentucky’s Court Interpreter Certification Process consists of a series of steps that must be completed in sequential order. Candidates may only advance to a new step after successfully fulfilling the requirements of each preceding step. All steps may be completed in as little as 6 months during what is called a “Testing Cycle”. The AOC offers three full Testing Cycles per calendar year (February-May, June-September, and October-January). If a candidate is unable to complete the certification process within one full Testing Cycle, the candidate has the option of participating in the following Testing Cycle as long as the cycle is completed within a year. If a candidate in unable to complete the entire certification process after two consecutive Testing Cycles (or 1 year), the candidate must return to Step 1 of the process and fulfill all requirements again starting from the beginning.

Below is a step-by-step summary of Kentucky’s Court Interpreter Certification Process for Spoken Language Interpreters.

STEP 1: Pass a Background Check

To begin the certification process, interpreter candidates must pass a background check conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). In order to initiate the background investigation, candidates must fill out and send in the forms entitled “Criminal Background Check” (AOC-INT-4) and ‘Information Form’ (AOC-INT-5), both of which can be found on our forms website. Please use the background check form on our website (this background check is free).

This is the first step in the process, and applicants will not be able to advance to STEP 2 until receiving clearance from the AOC. AOC background checks are typically completed within one month from the time of submission of the appropriate forms.

STEP 2: Complete the Orientation Workshop

The Orientation Workshop is designed to introduce all interpreter candidates to the profession of court interpreting in a language-neutral setting. Topics covered during this initial orientation include a general introduction to the profession of court interpreting, a high-level overview of the Kentucky Court of Justice, an in-depth discussion about Kentucky’s court interpreting certification process, the three modes of interpreting and materials for continued development, and Kentucky’s Code of Professional Responsibility for practicing interpreters. There is a $75.00 participation fee to attend the workshop. Interpreter candidates can find the dates for upcoming orientations on our website. Applicants may only attend the Orientation Workshop after successfully completing STEP 1.

STEP 3: Pass the English Written Exam

All spoken language interpreter candidates must pass the English Written Exam. The English Written Exam consists of 135 multiple-choice questions, and applicants must obtain an aggregate score of 80% or higher to pass and move on to the next step in the certification process. The test costs $50.00 and is offered 2 weeks after the workshop at our main office in Frankfort, KY. If an interpreter candidate fails to obtain a minimal score of 80% on the English Written Exam, the candidate must wait at least six months before taking the exam again. Candidates may only take the English Written Exam a total of two times without special permission from the AOC, so it is imperative that applicants are as prepared as possible before sitting for the exam. Only candidates that have completed STEPS 1 and 2 of the process are eligible to sit for the English Written Exam. Eligible applicants can find the registration form on our website.

STEP 4: Pass an Oral Proficiency Interview in each Working Language

Interpreter candidates must pass an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) for each of their working languages, including English, to the satisfaction of the AOC. The OPI consists of a conversation with one or more professional language evaluators either in person or over the phone at one of our staff locations across the state. The topics covered during the OPI aren’t necessarily legal in nature; the purpose of the OPI is to determine how well applicants express themselves on a general level in the tested language. While the cost of the OPI varies according to the language to be tested, the average price is approximately $150.00 but could be more depending on the rarity of the language and the availability of the raters.

Interpreter candidates’ performance during the OPI is rated using the proficiency guidelines recommended by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Unless otherwise specified by the AOC, all interpreter candidates must receive an OPI rating of ‘Superior’ for each working language to advance to STEP 5. If an interpreter candidate fails to obtain a ‘Superior’ classification on the OPI, the candidate must wait at least six months before retaking the OPI for the language in question. Candidates may only take the OPI a total of two times per language without special permission from the AOC, so it is imperative that applicants are as prepared as possible before scheduling the interview. Eligible candidates may request to schedule an OPI by contacting The Office of Language Access at (502) 573-2350.

STEP 5: Complete 4 Hours of Court Observation

Interpreter candidates must complete four (4) hours of court observation under the supervision of a certified staff interpreter before they may sit for the Oral Certification Exam. Court observation is an integral part of the real-life training that is necessary to become a court interpreter, and it is also an excellent way to prepare for the certification exam itself. Only those candidates that have completed STEPS 1 through 4 may complete the initial four hours of court observation. Eligible candidates can schedule their first four hours of court observation by contacting The Office of Language Access at (502) 573-2350. Interpreter candidates will be required to complete 20 additional hours of court observation at the end of the certification process.

STEP 6: Complete The Skills Building Workshop

The Skills Building Workshop is designed as a last-minute prep course for individuals that are expected to begin interpreting in Kentucky’s courts in the very near future. While many of the topics will be presented in a language-neutral format, specific content and hands-on exercises may also be offered using a language-specific approach when feasible. Topics covered during this training include a detailed discussion of the Kentucky Court of Justice and interaction with a judge, pragmatic protocols and procedures for court interpreters, court interpreter ethics, including the role of the interpreter. Participants will also take part in several hands-on training exercises geared towards helping them use their linguistic and court interpreting knowledge in real-life applications. There is a $50.00 participation fee to attend the Skills Building Workshop. This workshop will also count towards the required hours of Court Observation.

Interpreter candidates can find the dates for upcoming orientations by going to the OLA calendar online or by contacting the Office. Applicants may only attend Part 2 of the Orientation Workshop after successfully completing STEPS 1 through 5.

STEP 7: Pass the Oral Certification Exam

Interpreter Candidates must score a 70% or higher in each of the three sections of the Oral Certification Exam in one sitting. The three sections correspond to the three modes of interpreting (Sight Translation, Consecutive Interpretation, and Simultaneous Interpretation). The test is only offered in Kentucky twice per calendar year. Candidates may only take the Oral Certification Exam a total of two times without special permission from the AOC, so it is imperative that applicants are as prepared as possible before sitting for the exam. The fee to sit for the exam ranges from $300.00 to $500.00 depending upon the language to be tested. Test results are usually available within 8 to 10 weeks after taking the exam. Eligible applicants may register and pay for the Oral Certification Exam by contacting The Office of Language Access at (502) 573-2350. Only those applicants that have completed STEPS 1 through 5 will be allowed to sit for the Oral Certification Exam.

STEP 8: Complete the required Hours of Court Observation

After successfully fulfilling the requirements outlined in STEPS 1 through 7, interpreter candidates may then complete the remaining hours of court observation under the supervision of a certified staff interpreter. This final round of court observation is intended to be similar to ‘on-the-job training’, and it is during this time that interpreter candidates really learn what the job entails and how to perform their duties efficiently within the scope of the parameters set by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Interpreter candidates must also complete and submit the forms entitled “Acceptance of the Kentucky Certification Policy” (AOC-INT-3) and the “Acceptance of Interpreter Oath and Code of Professional Responsibility” (AOC-INT-6), both of which can be found on our website.

STEP 9: Approval and Contract

After all 8 steps have been completed and all paperwork is received, the OLA will offer a contract to the interpreter. This contract must be completed, signed, notarized, and mailed back in to the OLA. Once the contract has been accepted, the AOC shall classify the interpreter candidate as a ‘Certified Interpreter’, list any such individual in the AOC Directory of Certified Interpreters, and issue a Certificate of Certification.

Depending upon the needs of the Kentucky Court of Justice, the AOC may allow interpreter candidates to accumulate their final 20 hours of court observation (or some portion thereof) while working (and receiving remuneration) as a certified court interpreter. The AOC Directory of Interpreters includes the name and contact information of all Certified and Registered court interpreters. If you wish to have your name and contact information listed on the AOC Directory you must submit a completed the “Release Form” (AOC-INT-7). The form is found on our website.

If you have questions regarding Kentucky’s Certification Process for Spoken Language Interpreters, please feel free to contact The Office of Language Access at (502) 573-2350.

We wish you the best of luck as you work towards certification!