Legal Interpreting Guidelines in Puerto Rico

Regulations for legal interpreters in Puerto Rico differ from those in other US states and territories.

Legal Language Services ranks the US federal district in Puerto Rico as a district with moderately regulated legal interpreting requirements.

In general, 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 and territories, 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 Puerto Rico.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in Puerto Rico

Court systems in Puerto Rico periodically offer exams for certification in Spanish, Navajo and Haitian Creole.

Candidates must pass the written exam in order to qualify to take an oral examination. The oral examination measures a candidate’s ability to accurately perform simultaneous as well as consecutive interpretation and sight translations as encountered in the federal courts.

Puerto Rico also recognizes certified interpreters from states offering Consortium-based certification as well as federal certification and the National Judiciary Interpreter and Translator Certification Exam.

In addition to Spanish and English, Puerto Rico accepts certification in the following languages, based on certification by the Consortium for Court Interpreter Certification:

  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Chuukese
  • French
  • Hmong
  • Ilocano
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Mandarin
  • Marshallese
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Somali
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

Common Languages Spoken in Puerto Rico

According to a recent American Community Survey, English is only spoken by about 4.51% of the Puerto Rico population. This means that approximately 95.49% of the Puerto Rico population speaks a language other than English.

Here’s a look at the top 7 non-English languages spoken in Puerto Rico:

Common Languages Spoken in Puerto Rico

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • Chinese*
  • Italian
  • German
  • French Creole
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Other languages spoken in Puerto Rico include Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Hebrew, other Indo-European languages, Finnish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, other specified North American Indian languages, Korean, Polish, Swedish, Japanese, Cantonese, Greek, Bulgarian, Mandarin, Panjabi, Urdu, Yiddish and Romanian.

*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 Puerto Rico

A certified interpreter is an interpreter who has passed an oral exam as well as a three-part written exam and who has completed an orientation seminar.

For other languages, individuals may contact local federal courts to determine if that court has a need for the language of expertise. The local federal court will determine on a case-by-case basis whether the prospective interpreter is able to work in the court system.

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

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