Sustained by a steady influx of non-English-speaking families relocating to California, the number of jobs for interpreters is projected to escalate by a whopping 46 percent within the next 10 years, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many enviable spots are available within the local criminal justice system, where linguists in Los Angeles are already earning an average of $300 daily.

(Photo Courtesy of Piers Armstrong)

(Photo Courtesy of Piers Armstrong)

“Many of our students are from struggling immigrant families or are themselves immigrants,” said Piers Armstrong, director of the Spanish-English legal interpreting and translation certificate program at California State University, Los Angeles. “For many, accession to court interpreting is a social as well as a material achievement.”

Armstrong, an accomplished instructor, translator and interpreter, said his school’s program prepares ambitious students for a potentially lucrative position as a certified court interpreter.

“Most of our students aspire to work as California certified court interpreters, which requires passing a very challenging exam. So a key element in our mission is preparation for that test,” said Armstrong. “Our teachers are court interpreters, who serve as role models for our students.”

What distinguishes legal interpretation?

“Legal interpreting requires great objectivity and detachment. The legal interpreter cannot improvise so as to facilitate communication. He or she must render directly the utterances produced by the legal actors.”

How has the need for court interpreters progressed since 2010?

“Judges are becoming more aware of the importance of interpreters and correct professional procedures. This is leading to a gradual improvement in interpreters’ proficiency and in their image.”

In what way will a court interpreter’s role change by 2024?

“The judicial council will continue to expand the set of languages for state certification. We must keep an eye on the demographics, particularly whether California continues to be an immigrant-rich state.”

What is your pointed advice for aspiring court interpreters?

“Before you take an exam, you must practice long and hard in any formal or informal domain you can find. Do not expect to pass the exam the first time and do not give up if you don’t pass it. Take the long view.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to

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