Through various legislative acts and executive orders, court interpreting has received recognition as a vital part of the judicial system. Yet, the demand for court interpreters has far exceeded their availability. Meanwhile, the courts, language services companies, and the court interpreters themselves are currently facing several critical issues.
1. Problems with Certifying Court Interpreters
Certification ensures that interpreters have the necessary skills to relay legal information and testimony in a specific language. The problem is that there isn’t always a program for certification. There is no exam for Hawaiian interpreters, for example. Oklahoma’s court interpreter certification program started only four years ago. These aren’t isolated examples, either; more certification programs are needed all over the country.
2. Shortage of Court Interpreters for Indigenous Languages
In several jurisdictions, there’s been an upsurge in defendants who speak indigenous languages. In Oregon, requests for indigenous language court interpreters increased by 42% from 2015 to 2016. There, more court interpreters have been requested for indigenous languages like Mam, O’aniob’al, and K’iche.
It’s crucial that the interpreter can speak the same specific dialect as the defendant. Unfortunately, the number of court interpreters who speak indigenous languages is not enough to meet the need.
3. Inconsistent Need
The need for any specific language to be interpreted is far from predictable. This is especially true of languages that are spoken by fewer Americans. When a defendant requests a Hawaiian interpreter in Maui, the court must meet her needs, even when she is the only person to make such a request that year.
Interpreters can’t just relocate to where they’re needed, because the need keeps changing locations. That means they have to be ready to travel, or work via virtual interpretation platforms.
4. Lack of Funding for Court Interpreters
Despite the legal requirement to provide interpretation services, court budgets rarely have adequate room to hire enough court interpreters and keep them on staff. Minnesota’s Mower County nearly let their court interpreter go to cut costs.
In the end, the county decided the interpreter was too vital to their goals and shouldn’t be dismissed. Many other counties face the same financial dilemma. In many cases, it’s the freelance interpreters that take over those roles.
5. Difficulties with Scheduling
Scheduling court interpreters can be a nightmare for everyone concerned. Courts must first determine the need for an interpreter for a case. Then, they have to find a qualified court interpreter who can be at court at the right time to interpret the needed language.
Language services companies must contact the interpreters they work with and set up the appointments, either for in-person interpreting or virtual interpreting services. The interpreters themselves must arrange their schedules to be available for that and often several other court interpreting jobs in a day.
Interpreter scheduling is easier when you use an interpreter platform tailored to the needs of the language services industry. Contact Interpreter Intelligence today to find out about a unique interpreter platform that helps with scheduling, payments, and interpreter management. The challenges of court interpreting are real. Interpreter Intelligence is ready to help you find the solutions.