Legal Language Services ranks New York 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 New York 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 New York 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 New York.

Requirements for Certified Interpreters in New York

New York state authorities periodically offer exams, both written and oral, for certification based on the guidelines of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification.

The state of New York also offers federal court certification and accepts certification from NAJIT (National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators) and the ATA (American Translators Association).

New York offers certification in 24 languages:

  • Albanian
  • Arabic
  • Bengali
  • Bosnian
  • Cantonese
  • Croatian
  • French
  • Greek
  • Haitian Creole
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Russian
  • Serbian
  • Spanish
  • Urdu
  • Vietnamese
  • Wolof

Classification of Interpreters in New York

The New York Judicial Department defines legal interpreters in the following six ways:

  • Court Interpreter (Spanish): Competitive class position primarily responsible for interpreting between English and Spanish in the courtroom and other court settings. Permanent appointment to this title is by way of a competitive civil service examination comprised of a written and an oral exam.
  • Court Interpreter (non-Spanish): Non-competitive class position filled on the basis of the applicant’s qualifications and experience, and the needs of the court.
  • Court Interpreter (Sign): Non-competitive class position for which applicants qualify through a listing on the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID), a nationally recognized credentialing agency that certifies an individual’s competency in American Sign Language. Per-diem sign language interpreters are qualified in the same manner.
  • Senior Court Interpreter: An interpreter who, in addition to providing interpreting services, supervises the interpreters in the courts, coordinating schedules, evaluating performance and resolving problems in the delivery of interpreting services.
  • Principal Court Interpreter: Highest ranking court interpreter in a citywide court or judicial district. Responsible for prompt, accurate and consistent oral, written and sign interpreting services. Principal Court Interpreters are also responsible for supervising and coordinating activities, and evaluating the performance of Senior Court Interpreters, Court Interpreters, and per-diem interpreters.
  • Per-diem Interpreters: Independent contractor, not a court employee. To be eligible for assignment, all interpreters must qualify for inclusion in the court system’s Interpreter Registry. Candidates are required to pass a written, multiple choice English proficiency examination. Upon successful completion of the written exam, candidates may be assessed on their oral language skills.

Not all venues in New York require certified interpreters, but all interpreters are required at minimum to pass a written, multiple choice English proficiency examination. Please consult with Legal Language Services for the rules pertaining to your specific venue and language.

Common Languages Spoken in New York

According to a recent American Community Survey, approximately 29.28%% of the New York population speaks a language other than English.

What’s more, more than 76% of the non-English speaking population in New York speaks one of the following 10 languages:

Common Languages Spoken in New York

  • Spanish
  • Chinese*
  • Russian
  • Italian
  • French Creole
  • French
  • Yiddish
  • Korean
  • Cantonese
  • Polish
New York City skyline - New York translation services

Other languages spoken in New York include Mandarin, Bengali, Arabic, Tagalog, Hebrew, Greek, German, Urdu, Hindi, Portuguese, Kru/Ibo/Yoruba, Albanian, Japanese, Panjabi, Malayalam, Persian, Vietnamese, Gujarathi and Ukrainian.

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

Judicial Districts in New York

Legal interpreting requirements can vary by district in New York. This state has 13 judicial districts that encompass 62 counties:

  • 1st Judicial District of New York
    Counties: New York
  • 2nd Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Kings
  • 3rd Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster
  • 4th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, Montgomery, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, Washington
  • 5th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego
  • 6th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schuyler, Tioga, Tompkins
  • 7th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Cayuga, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Yates
  • 8th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans, Wyoming
  • 9th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester
  • 10th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Nassau, Suffolk
  • 11th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Queens
  • 12th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Bronx
  • 13th Judicial District of New York
    Counties: Richmond

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 New York is believed to be accurate at the time of posting; however, Legal Language Services is not responsible for any errors or omissions.