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Interpreter Information

The Interpreter Unit is part of the Court Services Division. Our mission is to serve the court and community by providing language assistance to the Limited English Proficient (LEP) court users and the hearing impaired.

The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, is committed to providing equal access to justice. Providing court interpreters, whose duty is to act as a medium between the court and anyone who needs language assistance, is essential to meeting this commitment.

The Court employs interpreters at 8 courthouses. These staff and additional contract interpreters serve the court and public by providing access to justice in over 50 languages.

Learn more about California’s Court Interpreter Program (CIP) and how to become an interpreter by visiting:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This Court is committed to providing free interpreter services for litigants who need them. When the demand for interpreters exceeds interpreter availability, the Court will follow the order of priority specified by state law. (Evid. Code, § 756) :

  • All Criminal, Traffic, and Juvenile cases
  • Domestic Violence, Civil Harassment and Elder Abuse cases
  • Unlawful Detainers (evictions)
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship
  • Family Law cases (custody or visitation)
  • Other Family Law cases
  • Other Civil cases

We ask that you submit in advance your request for interpreter services, to help us provide you with language assistance. The Court may be able to share interpreters across case types or may need to reschedule a matter to a date when an interpreter in your language will be available. If an interpreter cannot be provided by the Court, you may request an extension of time to bring in your own certified, registered, or qualified interpreter. To search for an interpreter in the State Judicial Branch online directory, visit Court Interpreter Program webpage.

A court interpreter interprets the words used in a court proceeding for a witness or party who speaks or understands little or no English. A court interpreter must accurately interpret for individuals regardless of their educational background or vocabulary, and do so without changing the speaker's language register or level of formality. Interpreters are also sometimes responsible for translating written documents, often of a legal nature, from English into the speaker's target language or from the target language into English.

The goal of the Court is to provide free language access services to any participant in a case who does not speak, read or understand English well. Court proceedings are conducted in English. If you do not speak English well, you may need an interpreter to speak to the judge, and to understand what others are saying. For more information on how to request a free interpreter, please click here for the Court’s online Interpreter Request form page.

The Court, on request, will do its best to provide you with an interpreter who speaks your language. It may not always be possible for the Court to find one, particularly on short notice. To locate an interpreter that speaks your language, check on the State Court Judicial Council website. On the left side of the Judicial Council's Interpreter home page are some links - you will want to click on the link that says "Search for an interpreter" which will take you to a web page with links to several lists of interpreters, as well as a searchable directory of interpreters who are in good standing with the Judicial Council.

Using a court interpreter can be awkward, because you have to go through another person to get your information or talk to the judge. Follow these tips when using an interpreter in a courtroom:
- Listen carefully to the interpreter.
- Wait for the interpreter to finish talking before you answer.
- Speak slowly so the interpreter can hear everything you say.
- Do not interrupt, even if someone in court says something bad about you. You will get a chance to speak.

Is Special Training Recommended to Become a Court Interpreter?

Yes. Court interpreting is a very demanding job that requires complete fluency in both English and the foreign language. The level of expertise required for this profession is far greater than that required for everyday bilingual conversation. The interpreter must be able to handle the widest range of language terms that might be presented in the courts, everything from specialized legal and technical terminology to street slang. Most people do not have full command of all registers of both English and the foreign language and, therefore, require special training to acquire it. Although anyone may apply to take the state certification test, applicants are encouraged to complete formal, college-level course work and training in both languages and modes of interpreting before applying for the examination.

Learn more about California’s Court Interpreter Program (CIP) and how to become an interpreter by visiting: . Direct further questions to the toll-free number 866-310-0689 or send an e-mail to

What is the Difference Between a Certified and a Registered Interpreter?

Only interpreters who pass the Court Interpreter Certification Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters. Currently, there are Court Interpreter Certification Examinations for 14 designated languages: Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Interpreters of spoken languages for which there is no state certifying examination are required to pass the English Fluency Examination and fulfill the corresponding Judicial Council requirements in order to become registered interpreters of a non-designated language.

What is the Job Market Like for Court Interpreters?

There is a great demand in Santa Clara County for certified and registered court interpreters. Many certified and registered court interpreters work as permanent employees while others work as freelance contract interpreters, hired by the day or the half day by the courts. A contract interpreter must be willing to travel from one trial court to another, and often from one county to another, to be assured of full-time work, click here to read more information on our Interpreter Contractor Resources page. You can read more about the salary, benefits, and duties of a Superior Court of Santa Clara County staff interpreter on our Employment Opportunities page.

If you are interested in becoming an interpreter, please visit the Judicial Council's "Become an Interpreter" page .

Is Certification Required to Become a Sign Language Interpreter?

Under California Evidence Code §754(f) a qualified sign language interpreter is an interpreter who has been certified as competent to interpret court proceedings by an organization approved by the Judicial Council. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. is currently the only organization authorized by the Judicial Council to certify court interpreters for the hearing impaired.

If you require the services of a sign language interpreter, please submit your request for accommodation to the Court’s ADA Coordinator.

How do I Become a Translator?

A translator reads and writes documents. Contact the American Translators Association at 703-683-6100 or visit its Web site at .

What is Google™ Translate?

Please click here for information regarding Google™ Translate and to view the Court's Language Translation Disclaimer.