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Courts want more certified interpreters

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Utah currently has certified interpreters only in Spanish, but efforts are under way to get the state to offer certification programs for two new languages next year. Most likely, those would be Vietnamese and Bosnian.

Certification involves a rigorous testing process to ensure the translator is not only fluent in Spanish and English, but also can translate at a rate of 120 words per minute simultaneously while someone is talking in court, a task not every bilingual person can do.

In addition, certified interpreters must be well grounded in both languages (this year, 50 percent of the applicants who tried the initial diagnostic test failed it), be able to interpret written legal documents in both languages, understand legal terminology, pass an ethics test, pass a criminal background test, attend a two-day workshop and spend time observing interpreters in court.

Interpreters also must live up to a tough code of ethical standards including never giving legal advice or expressing personal opinions, avoiding the appearance of a conflict of interest, not getting too friendly with a defendant or anyone else connected with the court, protecting the confidentiality of privileged information, and even maintaining a demeanor that is as unobtrusive as possible.