Are you thinking of pursuing a career as a legal interpreter at the federal or state level? If so, you will need to take and pass written and oral examinations that test your language proficiency and interpreting skills. In addition, your knowledge of legal procedure will also be evaluated. For example, to pass these examinations you must become well-versed with the stages of a trial, the nature of specific crimes, and the difference between criminal and civil law. Learning the legal terminology associated with the judicial process will also help you with the oral examinations, where you will be assessed on how precisely and fluently you can interpret the specialized language of the U.S. legal system.
Fortunately, there are a wide variety of resources and methods to master the formal legalese of the judicial setting. Attend in-person and online trainings for legal interpreters, such as NCI’s annual Court Interpreter Training Institute. Become familiar with the resources available in your public library in relevant fields such as criminology and law—law libraries are usually open to the public and allow you to photocopy or scan articles. Build your own personal glossaries and develop a library of references and dictionaries related to legal procedure, including bilingual legal dictionaries and dictionaries of legal terms. And of course, take advantage of the Internet, one of the most valuable resources for legal procedure research! The following four links provide just a small sampling of information that is widely available on the Web:
- U.S. Courts Website. This link provides information on the sequence of civil and criminal legal proceedings and explains many important legal terms:
- Legal Info Website. This link contains a wealth of information on the stages of criminal trials and detailed overviews of dozens of crimes:
- States Attorney Website, Illinois. The stages of a criminal trial in one state. (Try to find similar information for your own jurisdiction!)
- NOLO Website. Contains an overview of a criminal trial and additional detailed information related to the legal process.