Blog & Information
All 50 states have well established prerequisites, testing and certification processes for their court interpreters. To find out the requirements for your state, look for the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) site for your state. If you Google “AOC interpreter certification” and the name of your state, you will be directed to the site for additional information and the testing dates that are relevant for your area.
Unlike court interpreting in the U.S., where all 50 states have a process overseen by their respective AOCs, medical interpreting has only had state certification since 1991 for one state. The State of Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) certified medical and social service interpreters. National healthcare interpreter certification is only available for specific languages, and has only been available since 2010. Oregon has skipped implementing a state process and requires national certification for healthcare interpreters working in state hospitals. This is a growing trend in many states.
For more information regarding Washington’s state certifications for medical and social services interpreting, visit: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/fsa/language-testing-and-certification-program
DSHS-WA currently certifies medical interpreters in the following eight languages:
- Chinese Cantonese
- Chinese Mandarin
DSHS currently certifies social service interpreters, medical interpreters, translators, DSHS active and potential bilingual employees and licensed agency personnel in the above languages.
For all other languages, The Department authorizes social service interpreters and medical interpreters using a screening test. All other languages are screened and authorized by DSHS, but only the eight languages listed above are certified languages for medical interpreters in the State of Washington.
The national certifying bodies also certify only in specific, high demand languages. Beginning in 2010, two national certifying bodies, Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Certification Board for Medical interpreters (NCBMI) began certifying interpreters whose second language is Spanish.
Each year since then has resulted in the introduction of an additional language certification test. Currently, CCHI has certified approximately 1,800 healthcare interpreters nationally as CHIs, and NBCMI has certified approximately 1,300 medical interpreters nationwide.
Combined, both of these national certifying bodies, CCHI and NBCMI, offer healthcare interpreter certification for seven languages: Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. Pre-requisites to register for the written and oral proficiency tests include a high school diploma and a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreter training.
For the Deaf community, the certifying body that assesses and certifies ASL interpreters is known as Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). Although there is currently no medical sub-specialty training for ASL interpreters, they do offer specialized training in interpreting for mental health. However, contrast their number of certified interpreters with the spoken language certifications and you will be impressed.
Currently in the U.S. there are more than 16,000 RID certified ASL interpreters! The prerequisites for obtaining and maintaining certification are stricter for ASL interpreters than for spoken language interpreters. Among the stricter prerequisites for ASL are a college degree plus six units of CEUs every year to keep ASL certifications current.
If you are an interpreter, I urge you to pursue national certification. If you supervise a program or own an interpreter agency, I strongly urge you to encourage your staff and agency interpreters who work for you to pursue national certification.
Special for IEO
The number of nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS increased 2.8% from 2003 to 2013, for a total of 1.41 million organizations.[i] Meaning that even during the recession they showed momentum, and they contributed an estimated US $905,9 billion to the economy (2013).[ii]
Professional associations are a type of nonprofit and they aim to serve the needs of specialized groups. In exchange for their services they earn exemptions from the government according to IRS and states’ rules and regulations. The IRS offers a wealth of information on non-profits, how to incorporate, required language, how to choose the type that fits your objectives, etc. See the reference section below for a collection of related websites.[iii]
Once you identify the form your entity will take, it is time to develop the documents that will guide it into the future.
The Articles of Incorporation are your association’s constitution. It will define its name, place of business, objectives, how it will be governed, and terminated. Click here for some useful information.
Another important document is the Bylaws. It defines the rules of engagement. For example, in the Articles of Incorporation the association determines that Board members will be elected by voting members. In the Bylaws you determine how often these elections will take place, how they are staggered to allow for old and new members to work side-by-side, how long the terms are, how many times one can be reelected, how the elections will be carried out, how to handle board vacancies, how to handle members’ complaint, etc. Click here to see samples.
The third document you need is your Procedures Manual, the playbook. In it the association defines routine procedures to avoid duplication of tasks, increase efficacy and efficiency, appoint who is going to do what and how. Keeping with the elections theme, in the Procedures Manual there would be templates for the documents used during election: notice to members, package for candidates, calendar of elections; rules on how to establish an Election/Nominations Committee, etc. I found a good starting point for a Procedures Manual here.
Another important point: all documents are organic and should be updated as needed. The growth and maturity of the organization are to be reflected in those documents for the good health of the organization.
It is important to understand that a non-profit is a business: You have a product, goals, stakeholders (you call them “members”). You need a corporate identity; instead of departments, you have committees; you will need administrative personnel. You will need to define talking points, long-, short- and short-short-term goals, then, you assign those to someone. Meaning, identifying the need for an action is not enough, you need to assign the action to someone who will be held accountable.
Finances are a very important part of your growth and continuity. Once you reach a strong financial position (3 times your operating expenses, for example), create a Reserve, an Operational and a Projects accounts. The Reserve Account is a guarantee for the future of the organization and should not be tapped except for emergencies; the Operational Account includes petty cash, recurring payments, etc.; and the Projects account is supposed to cover expenses with the entity’s main goal(s). The way the Board decides to divvy up the treasury, determines how funds are to be allocated from there on, i.e. funds coming into the entity are to be divided into each of those accounts. They can be accrued and divided at the end of a previously agreed upon period, but all accounts should receive a portion of funds coming into the treasury. You also need to plan for continuity. The three framework documents, the reserve account and elections are your strategic pilars.
The strength of your organization rests with your members. Keeping them engaged and committed is vital for a vibrant organization. Showcasing your members’ talents is a great way to foster loyalty and commitment. In the organization I presided, board members were encouraged to participate in at least one committee. Committees were chaired by non-board members and the board member became the liaison to the Board, providing direct access. Through committee work, members become familiar with the workings of the organization and, later on may serve on the Board. Members will become engaged when there are well defined goals that meet their needs, when they see their work recognized, when their involvement has a specific beginning and end, when their dues are turned into value beyond the actual cost.
Creating aggregate value for their membership is easy to accomplish through relationships with other associations and vendors. Offer those associations and vendors the opportunity to speak to your members or to sponsor an event, such as providing refreshments in exchange for their name on the program and promotional material as sponsors. Offer also to speak at their meetings. Contact the American Translators Association (ATA), International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA), Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters to see about continuing education points. Some presentations can cross professions: medical terminology can be used by translators and medical, court and conference interpreters.
Just like a family or other organic groups, there are phases in the life of an organization. Once I was point-blank asked if I was sick because I chose to leave a leadership position. Leaders also have to set goals and realize when it is time let other voices have their thunder.
It is emotionally cathartic to go through the experience. And it is very important to know the signs. Sometimes the signs do not come from your organization, but from people close to you who miss your presence in their lives; sometimes it is the organization that is acting like a well-reared teenager. Either way, the moment comes to let others have the strength of their voices heard. It is your moment to feel proud, step back and enjoy.
By Gio Lester, special for Interpreter Education Online
[i] Non-profit Sector in Brief 2014 – http://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/alfresco/publication-pdfs/413277-The-Nonprofit-Sector-in-Brief–.PDF
National Center for Charitable Statistics: http://nccs.urban.org/statistics/upload/US_Nonprofit_Numbers-2.pdf
This week’s blog will be the first part of a four-part series. We’ll be looking at the difference between interpreter certification versus interpreter training (that often leads to a certificate).
Part 1 will clarify the difference between what it means to be a certified interpreter as compared to having obtained a certificate of training. Part 2 will detail all of the currently available certifications for interpreters, at both the state and federal levels, for ASL (American Sign Language) and for spoken language interpreters. Part 3 will cover training requirements related to these certifications and how to find quality training for yourself locally. We’ll look at quality training for interpreters and translators, and look at courses specifically created for interpreters who work in healthcare and the courts. Part 4 will review quality trainings available online.
Being bilingual does not automatically indicate or equal the ability to interpret. Just as the needed skill sets for interpreting as compared to translating are remarkably different, a similar case can be made for bilingualism not being a sufficient guarantee of competency for one to work as an interpreter. This is particularly true for Heritage speakers.
Increasingly, more and more hospitals are moving to a policy of only allowing certified interpreters, even if booked through an agency, on-site. All 50 states individually require all interpreters to be certified or registered as a court interpreter with the AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts).
It is important for interpreters to understand which certifications provide valid credentials so they may choose intelligently among the options that are available to them.
So, let’s understand what it meant when someone says they are “certified.” Many people conflate the meaning of ‘certified’ with having a ‘certificate.’
A certificate of completion, or a certificate of attendance, is not the same thing, nor is it equal to being nationally or state certified. Being certified means your proficiency has been assessed impartially by a third party. It is official recognition by the certifying body that you possess certain qualifications and meet certain standards. A certificate, on the other hand, attests to attendance and successful completion of a course of study or targeted training. Certificates are issued by the same entity that offered the training, rather than an impartial third party who developed and administered the proficiency tests.
There are many national certifications available to spoken language and ASL interpreters, for specific practice areas such as court, conference and healthcare, but there aren’t nearly as many certifying bodies.
Here below are the acronyms you should be looking for as you research interpreter trainings, as these organizations are the only certifying national bodies for interpreters. ASL interpreters do not have a medical sub-specialty credential yet that is offered by their national certifying body.
The official certifying bodies for each sub-specialty are as follows:
For spoken language interpreters in courts:
- AOC (Administrative Office of the Courts), each state has their own AOC
For spoken language interpreters in healthcare:
- NBCMI (National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters)
- CMI (Certified Medical Interpreter)
- CCHI (Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters)
- CHI (Certified Healthcare Interpreter)
For spoken language interpreters in conferences:
Becoming certified offers many advantages in terms of employability, rates paid, as well as your own professional development. All certifications require continuing education units to stay viable, and these CEs need to be completed within specified time-frames. This ensures that all certified individuals keep their skills sharp and up to date to deliver the best language access services to clients.
You should visit the site for the organization that administers the certification tests for your area of specialization. They will spell out what is required to obtain, as well as what is required to maintain, your certification.
Just because you are certified in one sub-specialty, does not mean you can skip the certification process for a different sub-specialty. Someone who is court-certified is not sufficiently trained in medical terminology and medical ethics/standards of practice/HIPAA to do the job in a healthcare setting, even though they may possess excellent language skills in English and the target language, and excellent conversion skills for either consecutive or simultaneous interpretation. They would still lack subject matter expertise, bilingual medical terminology and knowledge of process for clinics and hospitals. The same holds true for a healthcare interpreter attempting to interpret for a court session. Acting outside your area of specialization could put your client or patient at risk, or compromise the case should it even go to appeal.
Part 2 of this blog will detail all the available certifications by practice area, so you can decide for yourself which one would be the best fit for you.
Special for IEO
Deaf children born to hearing parents are traditionally deprived of language for several years, if no one in the child’s family knows Sign Language. The deprivation can be prevented with the means of the most readily available language for Deaf children – Sign Language. Parents can learn along with their children to help promote the innate ability of children to cope, learn, and adapt to anything and everything life throws at them.
Children cannot begin to use speech until after their vocal chords mature. On the other hand, babies can begin to learn Sign Language from birth. If a parent were to start with ten basic signs, their child will be able to start communicating right away. Experts say that a child should have mastery of 25 words by the time they are 2 years old. If a parent were to use those 25 words from the day a child is born, the child could have those words mastered before other children of the same age. A parent could add a modest 3 words per week after 6 months. That would mean a child would know more than 100 words before they turn 2 years old.
The Nyle DiMarco Foundation was created by the famous Deaf actor, winner of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22 and the winner of Dancing with the Stars 2016. Its website states, “The Foundation aims to improve access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition–specifically, the bilingual education approach. Through the early intervention process, the child’s language and literacy development should be the focal point.”
There are also several children stories in ASL that can help teach your child different concepts: language, literacy, numbers, facial expressions, and various school readiness skills. Parents can learn, too. Another positive side effect: your little one will not be able to pick up the words the neighbors use to curse at each other. All kidding aside, teaching your child Sign Language from birth will help to improve their language and communication skills. It will prevent your baby from crying in frustration, since you will know what they want they first time they sign it.
Effective communication has always been a necessary tool for personal and professional encounters. Essays, books, blogs, and more, have been written about how to learn to communicate better. Most of these tips include things like paying attention to your tone, being focused on the conversation at hand, being an engaged listener, knowing what your body language is saying, avoiding overly emotional conversations until enough time has passed to look at a situation objectively, and much more. These are all very useful and relevant guidelines to effective communication.
But with the advancement of technology come new obstacles in the already challenging world of communication. Emails have become the preferred method of communication for most businesses, allowing for quick responses, group meetings, and a lot of other helpful professional uses. Email, however, does not include body language or vocal inflection, and can commonly be misconstrued. Not only does email lack the physical and audible elements of communication, but how an email is written, signed, addressed, and the fonts, caps, punctuations, etc. used can all create hurdles in your meaning coming through the way you intended.
Email is not the only technological advancement, either. Businesses are also turning to instant messaging and text messaging as faster, more efficient modes of communication. This creates entirely new barriers in communicating effectively, and can be tricky when trying to remain professional.
Communication is a difficult but inherent part of all daily routines, whether at work, home, school, or at a restaurant. As we advance and move from words to emojis, reliance on text over face-to-face, translating software, and near-daily word additions to the common dictionary, communication continues to change which requires a constant need for understanding how to communicate with efficiency and courtesy, while still remaining true to your intention. Interpreter Education Online is a leader in helping interpreters better their knowledge and education in order to help communication in different languages. But we also promote healthy business practices and offer monthly webinars on various topics to improve your general understanding of communication in the workplace, and personal advancement. Join the conversation on LinkedIn and Facebook, and let us know what works for your effective communication!
IEO has recently implemented a new series of webinars for interpreters, which kicked off with Bruce Adelson’s highly acclaimed “Interpreter Standards of Conduct and the Law.” Up next, we will be featuring “Interpreter Self-Assessment” with Eliana Lobo.
This webinar is for both novice and experienced interpreters to learn how to self-assess their own skills, and how to design skills and drills practice to improve weak areas. The presentation is geared towards working interpreters, showing them how to enhance their remote persona as well as assess their own interpreting skills. Tips and techniques for improved performance on the job and self-assessment will be offered. The opportunity to practice specific skill building exercises will be made available to the attendees in the form of a group exercise. Links to additional practice drills and skill building videos are also provided. Suggestions for how to utilize these resources and measure and assess one’s progress will be shared along with a worksheet to print out and use to track progress and skills improvement over time.
Eliana Lobo is a native speaker of English and Portuguese, with a master’s degree in Bilingual Education from Brown University, where she taught Portuguese as a Teaching Fellow, and awarded a Fulbright Grant to conduct research in Brazil. An experienced court and medical interpreter, Eliana is a WA state authorized medical interpreter, a certified Trainer of medical interpreters, and a CoreCHI healthcare interpreter. Currently, Director of Multicultural Awareness Programs & Services, a division of Bromberg & Associates, Eliana was formerly the Supervisor/ Trainer of Interpreters for seven years at Harborview, a regional trauma center/ teaching hospital, with 49 staff interpreters.