Izumi Suzuki Interviewed About U.S. Interpreter Certification System

The November 25, 2016 issue of the Yomiuri Shinbun carried an article entitled “The Jakarta Case – 200 Court Interpreting Errors,” which discussed interpreting issues that arose during a trial in Indonesia in which Japanese were involved. The article included information from a brief interview that the reporter conducted with Izumi Suzuki about how court interpreters are certified in the U.S., the importance of having certified interpreters, and the challenges faced by courts in having qualified interpreters available. The part of the article reporting the interview with Ms. Suzuki reads as follows:

Yomiuri Shinbun article

Article in Yomiuri Shinbun, 11/25/2016

Overseas, some countries have established qualification systems for court interpreters to ensure quality.  In the immigrant nation of the United States, the federal court holds certification examinations, primarily for Spanish.  In state courts, there also are various other examinations for languages such as Arabic, Cantonese, Khmer, Portuguese, and Vietnamese.

Lists of qualified interpreters are made public on the state court websites, etc., and remuneration varies according to whether or not they are certified and at what level, making it easier to find high-quality interpreters.  Federal courts and some states also have detailed, logical regulations stating, “Do not omit words when translating.”

According to Ms. Izumi Suzuki, who holds certification as a Japanese-language court interpreter in California, the examination is divided into written and oral portions, and there is also a test based on interpreting an audio recording of a judge or attorney interacting with a witness.  In order to maintain certification, interpreters must complete at least 30 hours of professional development and 40 hours of interpreting work every two years.

In Australia, there is also an interpreter qualification examination, on which one must attain a certain level in order to work as a court interpreter.

In any country, however, there are few interpreters in less-common languages for which there is little demand, so the reality is that ensuring their quality is difficult. Ms. Suzuki points out, “To ensure some minimum level of quality, simply establishing sensible regulations for interpreters can be helpful.”

[translated in-house at Suzuki-Myers and Associates]