Legal Interpreting Guidelines in Illinois

Illinois US mapRegulations for legal interpreters in Illinois differ from those in other states.

Legal Language Services ranks Illinois as a state with moderately regulated legal interpreting requirements.

Your legal interpreter must have the appropriate level of certification that meets your language needs. This is especially true if you require a court interpreter.

This does not mean, however, that you should hire a certified interpreter for every situation.

In addition to statewide requirements, some legal venues in Illinois require that legal interpreters be certified by specific organizations. Whether or not an interpreter is certified — let alone the level of certification — will have an effect on how much you are charged for legal interpreting services. Please be aware that some counties in Illinois may have specific legal interpreting regulations in addition to the statewide requirements.

Do you need a certified interpreter?

Due to the added cost of certified professionals, it may not be a sound strategy to use certified legal interpreters if certification is not legally required for your proceeding. In fact, some situations may not benefit from certified interpreters. In particular, where subject matter expertise and/or special skills are required, certification may be a secondary consideration in securing a competent interpreter.

As previously noted, non-certified legal interpreters can provide professional interpreting services at a more affordable price. As in other states, a certified interpreter will command a higher fee for legal interpreting services. Prices will be affected based on the level of certification.

Legal Language can help you determine the best interpreter, certified or otherwise, for your legal interpreting needs in Illinois.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in Illinois

Cook County offers exams for certification in Spanish and several other languages based on the guidelines of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification.

The state of Illinois does not offer federal court certification.

In addition to Spanish, Cook County offers certification in 12 other languages:

  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hmong
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Mandarin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Somali
  • Vietnamese

Common Languages Spoken in Illinois

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 21.74% of the Illinois population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, almost 82% of the non-English speaking population in Illinois speaks one of the following 10 languages:

Spanish 58.60%
Polish 7.54%
Tagalog 2.94%
Chinese* 2.25%
German 1.89%
Korean 1.89%
Arabic 1.75%
Urdu 1.61%
Russian 1.61%
Italian 1.56%


Other languages spoken in Illinois include Gujarathi, Greek, Hindi, French, Vietnamese, Romanian, Kru/Ibo/Yoruba, Lithuanian, Cantonese, Telugu, Syriac, Japanese, Malayalam, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Tamil and Mandarin.

*This table was created based on respondents’ written answers, the majority of whom wrote “Chinese” while others specified “Cantonese” or “Mandarin.”

Classification of Interpreters in Illinois

The Illinois Judicial Department does not define legal interpreters. Cook County has only one classification:

  • Certified Interpreter: An interpreter who has become certified based on the guidelines of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification or who has taken Cook County’s written and verbal test.

Not all venues in Illinois require certified interpreters, even for Spanish-language cases. Please consult with Legal Language Services for the rules pertaining to your specific venue and language.

Judicial Districts in Illinois

There are 5 judicial districts in Illinois that encompass 102 counties:

  • 1st Judicial District of Illinois
    Counties: Cook
  • 2nd Judicial District of Illinois
    Counties: Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, Winnebago
  • 3rd Judicial District of Illinois
    Counties: Bureau, Fulton, Grundy, Hancock, Henderson, Henry, Iroquois, Kankakee, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, McDonough, Mercer, Peoria, Putnam, Rock Island, Stark, Tazewell, Warren, Whiteside, Will
  • 4th Judicial District of Illinois
    Counties: Adams, Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, DeWitt, Douglass, Edgar, Ford, Greene, Jersey, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Mason, McLean, Menard, Morgan, Moultrie, Piatt, Pike, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott, Vermillion, Woodford
  • 5th Judicial District of Illinois
    Counties: Alexander, Bond, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, Edwards, Effingham, Fayette, Franklin, Gallatin, Hamilton, Hardin, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Johnson, Lawrence, Madison, Marion, Massac, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pope, Pulaski, Randolph, Richland, Saline, Shelby, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Washington, White, Williamson

Call Legal Language Services at 1-800-788-0450 to find Illinois interpreters who meet state interpreting rules for courtroom trials, hearings, depositions, arbitrations and other legal proceedings.

Please Note

The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information about legal interpreting guidelines in Illinois is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, Legal Language Services is not responsible for any errors or omissions.