I understand that many businesses and corporations that require interpreting and translating services are not aware of specific qualification requirements or contracting laws; there are many interpreting agencies that do not follow strict guidelines in providing professional and proficient services. A report done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics for 2008-2009 (old report) found that 22 percent of interpreters and translators are self-employed. If that is true, are agencies requiring them to verify a business license, qualifications and certifications?
I would like to explain a few things about this particular industry in order to help potential clients make the right choice in choosing an interpreting services company.
What is the difference between certified and qualified Interpreter?
When I was operating as an Agency I had established a contract, with characterization for these terms that correlate directly with a definition given by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. “Certified interpreter” is a person who has passed the California Court Interpreter certification Examination and who has fulfilled the corresponding Judicial Council requirements are referred to as certified interpreters. The state personnel board also provides a certification test for medical and administrative hearing interpreters for California. “Qualified interpreter” is a person who is not a certified interpreter and who speaks the language to be translated into English fluently and who speaks English fluently and that poses a minimum of 2 years of interpreting experience.
Different rates are established by the court system and interpreters themselves based on their experience and the amount of years they have been in the industry. Unfortunately, many interpreters will increase their rates based on a fellow interpreters increase. Businesses must recognize rates should be based on NOT ONLY certification, qualifications, experience, type of appointment and also whether or not the client requires a certified interpreter vs. a qualified interpreter. In most cases a certified interpreter is not required; therefore businesses should NOT have to pay a certified rate. More importantly, businesses need to realize that many “Certified” interpreters are NOT DEEM QUALIFIED for all Venues. Note: I’m NOT YET CERTIFIED, yet I’ve had to replace many “certified interpreters” that have been excused from their assignments due to the “Lack of Experience, Qualifications with the terminology”…I have over 17+ years of Professional experience in a variety of venues – from: Legal to Environmental, Political, Medical, etc… I also have experience in both Consecutive and Simultaneous mode of Interpretation vs. many interpreters who ONLY have experience in one or the other.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics wrote “There is currently no universal form of certification required of interpreters and translators in the United States.”Although different states have implemented oral and written tests to verify capabilities, there are still many interpreters that base their experience and qualifications from translating for family members and having grown up in a bilingual household.
I would also like to point out that the term “certified” can be misused by the interpreters and many will claim they are certified to gain a higher rate of pay, or more assignments. When I used to search for their information in the databases to verify certification, sometimes I was unable to locate their name(s) on the Judicial Council websites. Note: There is a list available to the public with the names of persons who are deceased, retired, or de-certified – no longer certified to interpret in the court systems. Often times interpreters will continue to claim they are certified to maintain a high pay rate, or to get more assignments and agencies are unaware that they are using an interpreter who claimed to be “Certified” when in deed they were either no longer certified, de-certified, etc.
As the industry continues to grow with the diversity of our nation, I had implemented a strict screening process for interpreters and translators that pushed this industry into a level professionalism that it deserved. A teacher within their first year of teaching does not have the same experience, or rate of pay as a tenured instructor; the same should be established for interpreters and translators. If there are counties that require a business license for independent contractors then it should be implemented and not overlooked by agencies, businesses, doctors, lawyers, etc. – Why? Because just like employees, there is more and more “Independent Contract Interpreter both Certified and Qualified”, claiming to be Employees of the agency or the contracting party, meaning that more and more Law Suit abuse is occurring within this industry. That is why setting standards is very important to our agency, although management takes high measures in implementing these steps “employees” will not always adhere, causing problems for the agency. We try our best to be an agency who will NOT overlook requirements just to attain an interpreter for an assignment. We go the extra mile to ensure that our clients receive what they deserve.
If you are looking for a Qualified, Professional, Experienced Interpreter / Translator for any of your events, documents, or venues – please don’t hesitate in contacting me