frequently asked questions


Translator or interpreter?

Interpreters know both the words and the culture behind the words—in two or more languages. If you are working with written documents you need a translator.

If you want to interact with people on the spot—a board meeting in Japan, a lab visit with Mexican visitors—you need an  interpreter.

Simultaneous or consecutive?

A consecutive interpreter may be able to work longer segments at a time than a simultaneous interpreter. But any way you look at it, it’s a tremendously stressful job; interpreters need to rest their vocal chords and minds at regular intervals.

How long is a work day?

Time is the base unit for billing; in some markets a half-day or daily rate is used. In others, 2-3 hour minimum may apply. Be sure to discuss this with your interpreter and agree on basics—including overtime rates and conditions—before the assignment starts.

Other factors that influence price

Travel time is charged when it takes more than a defined timeto reach the assignment site —often one hour. Travel costs and mileage are added to this. Note that an interpreter on a longer assignment will expect all expenses—meals, hotel, etc.—to be covered. Location, too, can affect price: hazard pay may apply in a country made unsafe by political unrest, or even in a prison environment. Likewise, some assignments will require special insurance coverage.

What about professional ethics?

Organizations involved in interpreter training have developed their own standards of professional ethics, confidentiality and procedure, which can only be learned through structured, specialized input. Materials provided are treated in the strictest confidence.


Why am I required to use a Certified Interpreter?

Gov Code § 68561.  (a) Except for good cause as provided in subdivision (c), any person who interprets in a court proceeding using a language designated by the Judicial Council under subdivision (a) of Section 68562 shall be a certified court interpreter as defined in Section 68566 for the language used.

What constitutes a court proceeding?

Cal Gov Code § 68560.5(a) "Court proceeding" means a civil, criminal, or juvenile proceeding, or a deposition in a civil case filed in a court of record.  However, "court proceeding" does not include a small claims proceeding.

Who can use the designation “Certified Interpreter”?

Cal Gov Code § 68566.  A natural person who either (1) holds a valid certificate as a certified court interpreter issued by a certification entity approved by the Judicial Council, or (2) until January 1, 1996, is named and maintained on the list of recommended court interpreters previously established by the State Personnel Board or established by an entity provisionally approved under subdivision (b) of Section 68562, shall be designated a "certified court interpreter."  No other person or entity shall use the title "certified court interpreter" or represent that he or she or it is certified to interpret in or for the courts.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential, flexible, and inexpensive alternative to filing a case in court. A neutral party (Mediator) facilitates communication and negotiation between two or more parties involved in a conflict.  The mediator assists both sides in expressing their interests, helps the parties recognize areas of agreement, and guides the discussion towards a mutually acceptable solution. The decision-making authority rests with the parties, not the Mediator. The role of the Mediator is to assist the parties in identifying the issues and finding solutions. At the end of the mediation, an agreement is drawn up.