Want to get certified but don’t know where to start?

One of the questions I am often asked, as a California Certified Court Interpreter, is “How did you prepare for the Oral State Exam?” Well, unfortunately there is no easy answer. Here, in the United States, it is not mandatory to attend a special university or school in order to qualify to take the exam and get certified. You simply take the test, cross your fingers, and hope you pass! HOWEVER, it is wise to prepare as best as possible. Not only to help prepare you for the exam, but to be knowledgeable and have the tools that are necessary in your tool box to be a qualified, professional and excellent interpreter. I highly recommend as a student interpreter to check out annual conferences for organizations such as the National Association of Judicial Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the American Translators Association (ATA) in order to get early exposure to professionals in the field, materials, resources and most of all to LEARN. There are several ways to prepare yourself for embarking on this wonderful journey of interpreting and translation, so do it wisely, it will only make you a better interpreter and prepare you for the field. And so, for all those of you who are wondering what sort of tools you can use for self-study I’ve made a list. Hope this helps! And FYI, full disclosure: No one, and no organization has paid me to mention their name or materials. This list was compiled as a personal reference of resources.  Of course, you may or may not agree with some of the suggestions I have, and that is OK! Different methods work for different people. These are only tips on what worked for me!

  • Study with at least 1 one person, even better if you study in a group of 3-4 people this way you can give each other constructive criticism, learn new concepts/terms/expressions, time each other
  • Brush up on vocabulary, lots of glossaries!!! Articles of clothing (including accessories), traffic/automotive, legal penal/civil, idiomatic expressions, physical descriptions, slang, drugs, firearms, medical and any other you can think of. You have to imagine you are in court and interpreting very random witness testimony from people with all sorts of education backgrounds, who speak differently, have accents, and come from different parts of the world where the language you are interpreting is spoken in. This test has a little bit of EVERYTHING
  • Use QUIZLET (make it your best friend) it’s a free app. The great thing about Quizlet is that you can put it on “play” mode while you drive, each term will play out loud. You can put a star on the terms you need to study and review them later. They are basically flashcards. You can also quiz yourself on it. For Spanish: search for UCLAEX (professor Alexander Rainof’s program from UCLA. These flashcards are already there; use them to your advantage)
  • SHADOWING- this is extremely useful. I turn on the radio in my B Language (the language you are least dominant in) to help my pronunciation and familiarity with words. AM Radio usually has good talk shows. You can also use Podcasts, or YouTube to play speeches or talk shows. Choose a topic you enjoy, make this fun! Shadowing helps improve speed and it is great to practice on your way to take the exam…speaking of the day of the exam DO NOT STUDY ANYTHING NEW the day of. A new term might come up and make you panic. So just relax, get plenty of sleep the night before, and have a nice coffee J, or tea, or juice, whatever is your go to, that morning! But do warm up on the day of the exam by interpreting only the text you are familiar with or using the shadowing technique to get those vocal cords warmed up.
  • Be confident- relax, consider it a regular day at work. While taking the test if you do not know a word you can keep it in the source language (the original language) so that you do not lose your rhythm or train of thought. Focus. Especially on the simultaneous portion, I found that I wasn’t focusing as much since I kept thinking about the mistakes or words I missed on sight and consecutive.
  • For the sight translation portion: keep a steady pace as if the text were written in the target language (the language you are interpreting into). If you start slow continue slow, don’t speed up and slow down suddenly. Make sure you study common documents and common formal words such as “to whom it may concern” “your honorable honor” “local jurisdiction”. Study official documents such as police reports, affidavits, birth and death certificates and guardianship.
  • For the Consecutive portion: it is great to develop techniques and “codes” for note taking. For example, for defendant you may want to use the symbol for delta Δ, for defendant or CT for court, quotations marks for people speaking/saying/telling, for example: instead of writing My doctor said, you can write “DR”. I normally draw a square for car or house. There are several little codes you can create but only by practicing you will develop and stick to the ones that work for you.
  • You can go to the California website www.courts.ca.gov where you will find useful resources such as glossaries and study tips. http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-glossary.htm
  • You can use Podcasts to listen, interpret, and write down any unfamiliar terms.
  • Holly Mikkelson Books- EDGE 21 and The Interpreters Edge TURBO all have great materials and audio CDs with a lot of practices. You can purchase it on the ACEBO website.
  • Watch movies with subtitles.

HOPE THIS HELPS! What helped you prepare? Feel free to share in the comments.



Johanna Gonzalez