Legal Interpreting Guidelines in Massachusetts

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

Legal Language Services ranks Massachusetts as a state with heavily 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. 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.

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 Massachusetts.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has several levels of classification for legal interpreters.

Massachusetts state authorities periodically offer exams, both written and oral, for certification in Spanish and several other languages based on the guidelines of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification.

The state of Massachusetts also offers federal court certification and accepts certification from member states of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification and NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators).

In addition to Spanish, Massachusetts offers certification in 17 other languages:

  • Arabic
  • Bosnian
  • Cantonese
  • Croatian
  • French
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hmong
  • Ilocano
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Mandarin
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Somali
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Common Languages Spoken in Massachusetts

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 21.07% of the Massachusetts population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, more than 72% of the non-English speaking population of Massachusetts speaks one of the following to languages:

Spanish 35.60%
Portuguese 14.10%
French 5.27%
Chinese* 5.27%
French Creole 4.22%
Italian 3.42%
Russian 2.94%
Vietnamese 2.75%
Greek 1.95%
Arabic 1.76%

 

Other languages spoken in Massachusetts include Mon-Khmer/Cambodian, Polish, Cantonese, German, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Kru/Ibo/Yoruba, Tagalog, Japanese, Gujarathi, Albanian, Hebrew, Armenian, Tamil, Telugu, Persian, Urdu and Bengali.

*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 Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Judicial Department defines legal interpreters in the following three ways:

  • Certified Interpreter: An interpreter certified by the Office of Court Interpreter Services, or one certified by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Certification requires a passing grade on a written exam, compliance with a code of professional conduct, an observation in court, and an oral exam (for some languages).
  • Qualified Interpreter: A certified interpreter who has also passed the examination and is qualified to interpret in the federal courts by the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The terms “professionally qualified interpreter” and “qualified interpreter” may also be used in common parlance to refer to court interpreters who have been trained and recognized by reputable interpreting national and international institutions.
  • Screened Interpreter: A court interpreter who has (1) met the minimum requirements for a court interpreter, (2) passed the screening and interview processes, (3) passed the screening examination, if given, (4) completed the mandatory training, and (5) completed the Mentoring Program.

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

Judicial Districts in Massachusetts

There are 14 judicial districts in Massachusetts that encompass 14 counties. However, certification requirements in Massachusetts are statewide and remain consistent across all local jurisdictions.

Call Legal Language Services at 1-800-788-0450 to find Massachusetts 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 Massachusetts is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, Legal Language Services is not responsible for any errors or omissions.