Legal Interpreting Guidelines in Washington

washington on US mapRegulations for legal interpreters in Washington differ from those in other states.

Legal Language Services ranks Washington 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 an interpreter who will be working in a courtroom. This does not mean, however, that you should hire a certified interpreter for every situation.

In addition to statewide requirements, some legal venues in Washington 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.

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 Washington. Let us help you find the best Washington interpreters.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in Washington

Washington has several levels of classification for legal interpreters.

Washington 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 Washington also accepts certification from the NJITCE (National Judiciary Interpreter & Translator Certification Examination) and the Oregon Court Interpreter Certification Program.

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

  • Arabic (Egyptian)
  • Bosnian
  • Cantonese
  • Croatian
  • French
  • Korean
  • Laotian
  • Mandarin
  • Marshallese
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Somali
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese

Washington also offers a registration credential to interpreters of the following 66 languages:

  • Afrikaans
  • Akan-Twi
  • Albanian
  • Algerian
  • Amharic
  • Armenian
  • Azerbaijani
  • Baluchi
  • Bengali
  • Bulgarian
  • Burmese
  • Cebuano
  • Chavacano
  • Czech
  • Dari
  • Dutch
  • Farsi (Persian)
  • Ga
  • Georgian
  • German
  • Greek
  • Gujarati
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hausa
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Hmong
  • Hungarian
  • Igbo
  • Ilocano
  • Indonesian
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Javanese
  • Kashmiri
  • Kazakh
  • Krio
  • Malay
  • Malayalam
  • Nepali
  • Pashto
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Romanian
  • Samoan
  • Sindhi
  • Sinhalese
  • Slovak
  • Somali
  • Swahili
  • Swedish
  • Tajik
  • Tamil
  • Tausug
  • Telugu
  • Thai
  • Tigrinya
  • Turkish
  • Turkmen
  • Uighur
  • Ukrainian
  • Urdu
  • Uzbek
  • Wolof
  • Wu
  • Yoruba

Common Languages Spoken in Washington

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 17.49% of the Washington population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, almost 78% of the non-English speaking population in Washington speaks one of the following 10 languages:

Spanish 44.54%
Vietnamese 5.37%
Tagalog 4.80%
Korean 4.75%
Russian 4.57%
Chinese 4.35%
German 3.14%
Japanese 2.23%
French 1.89%
Ukrainian 1.54%


Other languages spoken in Washington include Mon-Khmer, Cambodian, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi, Amharic, Cushite, Pajabi, Arabic, Laotian, Samoan, Romanian, Persian, Italian, Polish, Thai, Tamil, other Pacific Island languages, Portuguese and Norwegian.

Classification of Interpreters in Washington

The Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts defines legal interpreters in the following three ways:

  • Non-Credentialed Interpreter: An interpreter who has not achieved certification or registration but has met minimum requirements to be considered for court interpreting assignments when a certified or registered interpreter is not available.
  • Registered Interpreter: Because oral court interpreting examinations are not available in many languages, the Washington Court Interpreter Program offers the credential of registration to interpreters of other languages. Registered interpreters must pass a foreign language speaking assessment exam in lieu of the oral interpreting examination, and meet all other requirements listed for certified interpreters.
  • Certified Interpreter: Certification is the highest level of formal accreditation. Certified interpreters must pass both written and oral interpreting examinations related to the language with focus on interpreting in a court setting, attend mandatory classes, pass a criminal background check and take the interpreter oath. All certified interpreters receive a photo ID badge that they are required to wear while interpreting in legal proceedings. They must renew their badge every two years. Judicial officers are required to check an interpreter’s badge before he or she begins working in court.

Not all venues in Washington 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 Washington

There are 31 judicial districts in Washington that encompass 39 counties. Certification requirements in Washington are statewide and remain consistent across all local jurisdictions.

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