STEP 1. Pass a Background Check
To begin the certification process, interpreter candidates must pass a background check conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). To initiate the background investigation, candidates must fill out and send in the forms entitled "Criminal Background Check" (AOC-INT-4) and "Information Form" (AOC-INT-5) to the address indicated at the bottom of each form. All forms needed to initiate the background check process can be found by visiting the "Resources for Interpreters" section of this web site. Please note that the background check is free for interpreter candidates. AOC background checks are typically completed within one month from the time of submission of the appropriate forms.
STEP 2. Attend and Complete the Orientation Workshop
The Orientation Workshop is designed to introduce all interpreter candidates to the profession of court interpreting in a language-neutral setting. Topics covered during this initial orientation include a general introduction to the profession of court interpreting, a high-level overview of the Kentucky Court of Justice, an in-depth discussion about Kentucky's court interpreting certification process, the three modes of interpreting and materials for continued development, and Kentucky's Code of Professional Responsibility for Sworn Proceedings Interpreters. The cost to attend the Orientation Workshop is $75.00 for in-state participants, and $100.00 for candidates currently living outside the state of Kentucky. Interpreter candidates can find the dates for upcoming Orientation Workshops, as well as all necessary enrollment forms, on our Approved Training Calendar. Candidates may only attend the Orientation Workshop after successfully completing STEP 1.
STEP 3. Pass the English Written Exam
All spoken language interpreter candidates must pass the English Written Exam. The English Written Exam consists of 135 multiple-choice questions, and candidates must obtain an aggregate score of 80% or higher to pass the exam and move on to the next step in the certification process. The test costs $50.00 and is typically offered two weeks after the Orientation Workshop at our main office in Frankfort, KY. If an interpreter candidate fails to obtain a minimum score of 80% on the English Written Exam, the candidate must wait at least six months before taking the exam again. Candidates may only take the English Written Exam a total of two times without special permission from the Office of Language Access (OLA), so it is imperative that applicants be as prepared as possible before sitting for the exam. Only candidates that have completed STEPS 1 and 2 of the process are eligible to sit for the English Written Exam. Interpreter candidates can find the dates for upcoming English Written Exam administrations, as well as all necessary enrollment forms, on our Approved Training Calendar.
STEP 4. Pass an Oral Proficiency Interview in each Working Language
Interpreter candidates must pass an Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) for each of their working languages, including English, to the satisfaction of the AOC. The OPI consists of a conversation with one or more professional language evaluators either in person or over the phone at one of our staff locations across the state. The topics covered during the OPI aren't necessarily legal in nature; the purpose of the OPI is to determine how well applicants express themselves on a general level in the tested language. While the cost of the OPI varies according to the language to be tested and the availability of professional raters, the average price is approximately $150.00 per interview.
Interpreter candidates' performance during the OPI is rated using the proficiency guidelines recommended by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Unless otherwise specified by the OLA, all interpreter candidates must receive an OPI rating of "Advanced" or higher for each working language to proceed to STEP 5. If an interpreter candidate fails to obtain an "Advanced" classification on the OPI, the candidate must wait at least six months before retaking the OPI for the language in question. Candidates may only take the OPI a total of two times per language without special permission from the OLA. Eligible candidates may request to schedule an OPI by contacting the OLA at (502) 573-2350.
STEP 5. Complete 4 Hours of Court Observation
Interpreter candidates must complete four hours of court observation under the supervision of a certified staff interpreter before they may sit for the Oral Certification Exam. Court observation is an integral part of the real-life training that is necessary to become a court interpreter, and it is also an excellent way to prepare for the certification exam itself. Only those candidates who have completed STEPS 1 through 4 may complete the initial four hours of court observation. Eligible candidates can schedule their first four hours of court observation by contacting the OLA at (502) 573-2350. Interpreter candidates will be required to complete 20 additional hours of court observation at the end of the certification process.
STEP 6. Pass the Oral Certification Exam
Interpreter Candidates must score a 70% or higher in each of the three sections of the Oral Certification Exam in one sitting. The three sections correspond to the three modes of interpreting (Sight Translation, Consecutive Interpretation, and Simultaneous Interpretation). The test is generally offered in Kentucky twice per calendar year, although requests for additional test dates may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Candidates may only take the Oral Certification Exam a total of two times without special permission from the OLA. The fee to sit for the exam ranges from $300.00 to $600.00 depending upon the language to be tested. Test results are usually available within 8 to 10 weeks after taking the exam. Eligible candidates may register and pay for the Oral Certification Exam by contacting the OLA at (502) 573-2350. Only candidates who have completed STEPS 1 through 5 will be allowed to sit for the Oral Certification Exam.
STEP 7. Complete the Required Hours of Court Observation
After successfully fulfilling the requirements outlined in STEPS 1 through 6, interpreter candidates may then complete the remaining hours of court observation under the supervision of a certified staff interpreter. This final round of court observation is intended to be similar to "on-the-job training," and it is during this time that interpreter candidates really learn what the job entails and how to perform their duties efficiently within the scope of the parameters set by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Depending upon the needs of the Kentucky Court of Justice, the OLA may allow interpreter candidates to accumulate their final 20 hours of court observation (or some portion thereof) while working (and receiving remuneration) as a certified court interpreter. Eligible candidates can schedule their remaining hours of court observation by contacting the OLA at (502) 573-2350.
STEP 8. Approval and Contract
After STEPS 1 through 7 have been completed, the OLA will initiate the contracting process. Once all contract documentation has been received, the OLA may, in its discretion, offer a contract to an interpreter candidate who has met all the foregoing requirements. Once the contract has been accepted, the AOC shall classify the interpreter candidate as a "Certified Interpreter," add the interpreter's name to the AOC Interpreter Directory, and issue an official certificate.
If you have questions regarding Kentucky's Certification Process for Spoken Language Interpreters, please feel free to contact the Office of Language Access at (502) 573-2350. We wish you the best of luck as you work towards certification!