Requirements for Court Interpreters in Arkansas

Application for Spoken & Sign Language

An applicant must be at least 21 years old and have the legal right to live and work in the United States. 

Spoken Language Requirements 

  1. Application Process

    An applicant must be at least 21 years of age and have the legal right to live and work in the United States. Applicant must submit to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) a completed Personal Information Form for Arkansas Court Interpreters attaching:

    • a recent passport photo;
    • proof of education (copy of G.E.D., high school diploma, or post-secondary transcript).

    Any applicant whose application is denied shall be promptly notified.

  2. Orientation

    Upon completing application process requirements, an applicant must register for the Orientation. Each applicant must successfully complete an orientation training. The Orientation is designed to familiarize the applicant with the Arkansas court system and provide instruction on the role of the interpreter and the skills and ethics required of an interpreter in the courtroom. The Orientation is one of several steps involved in the initial training of a court interpreter.

    Participants will attend the Orientation at their own expense and must pay a non-refundable registration fee of $200.00 to cover materials and the processing costs for the exams. Dates and locations will be announced well in advance.

  3. English Language Assessment Exam

    On the final day of the Orientation, the applicant must take the English Language Assessment Exam, which is an objective, multiple choice test developed under the auspices of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

    Before coming to the Orientation, each applicant will receive a copy of Administrative Order No. 11, Arkansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Foreign Language Interpreters in the Judiciary and the Overview of the English Language Assessment Exam. These documents should be studied in preparation for taking the English Language Assessment Exam. The Code is an important component of the test.

    English Language Assessment Exam:
    Part I - English Proficiency
    Part II- Court-Related Terms & Usage, and Ethics and Professional Conduct.

    A passing score is a combined score of 80% on Parts I and II of the English Language Assessment Exam.

  4. Oral Proficiency Interview Computerized - (Foreign Language Assessment)

    Applicants who achieve a passing score on the English Language Assessment Exam will be eligible to take the Oral Proficiency Interviewcomputerized (OPIc) in the foreign language that they will interpret. Applicants must register to take the OPIc within three (3) months of receiving notice of passing. The OPIc is a valid and reliable testing method that measures how well a person speaks a language. The OPIc is administered remotely by a private testing provider contracted by the AOC. Applicants are required to score a minimum of “Advanced High” on the proficiency scale established by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Testing dates and locations will be announced well in advance.

  5. Sight Translation Foreign Language Assessment

    In the event the OPIc is not offered for the applicant’s foreign language by a testing provider approved by the AOC, the applicant will be given a Sight Translation Language Assessment. This assessment consists of 10 sentences written in English. The applicant will be recorded reading the English sentences and then providing a sight translation of each sentence into the foreign language. This assessment is not a translation test but is used to evaluate the applicant’s proficiency in the foreign language. The recorded test will be sent either to raters of that particular language provided by the National Center for State Courts to a language expert approved by the AOC. The raters will evaluate the applicant’s performance on the Sight Translation Language Assessment on syntax, false cognates, general grammar, idioms and vocabulary and provide the AOC a pass/no pass score based on the applicant’s proficiency in the language.

  6. Validity of Exam Scores

    Scores of the English Language Assessment Exam, the Oral Proficiency Interview-computerized (foreign language) or Sight Translation Language Assessment exam will remain valid for two (2) years from the date on which a letter is mailed to an applicant stating that he/she has achieved a passing score.

    Any applicant who does not achieve a passing score shall be promptly notified.

  7. Background Check Release Form

    Applicants who achieve a passing score on the English Language Assessment Exam and the OPIc- (foreign language) or the Sight Translation Foreign Language Assessment must complete and submit a notarized Background Check Release Form, allowing the AOC to request a background check of the applicant from the Arkansas State Police.

  8. Oral Proficiency Examination for Court Certification

    An applicant who successfully completes an Orientation, achieves a passing score on the English Language Assessment Exam, the OPIc (foreign language) or the Sight Translation Foreign Language Assessment and passes the background check will be eligible to take the Oral Proficiency Exam for Court Certification (OPECC).

    The OPECC is an objective test developed under the auspices of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The OPECC measures language knowledge and fluency in both languages and ability to successfully render meaning from target to source language in each of the three modes of interpreting that are required of court interpreters. The three modes of interpreting are:

    • simultaneous interpreting, from English to the applicable foreign language;
    • consecutive interpreting, English to the applicable foreign language and applicable foreign language to English; and;
    • sight translation of documents, (two parts) (1) an English document into the applicable foreign language and (2) a document in the applicable foreign language into English.

    In order to qualify to interpret in Arkansas courts a person must successfully complete Section I, step 8 by demonstrating proficiency in the three modes of interpretation.

    An applicant must score at least 70% in each mode to qualify as an Arkansas Certified Court Interpreter. For Arkansas scoring purposes, parts one and two of the sight translation mode are combined for one score; however, if one part of the sight translation is below 65%, even if the combined score is more than 70%, the section will not be considered as passing. To achieve a passing score, an applicant must successfully complete all three sections of the exam in one sitting.

    The fee for taking the OPECC is $250.00, which must be submitted upon registration. Examinees will be notified in writing of a pass or fail result. Testing dates and locations will be announced well in advance.

    No person shall use the title “certified” interpreter in conjunction with his or her name without a valid Court Interpreter Certification issued by the AOC.

  9. Testing Limits for the OPECC

    For some languages, several versions of the NCSC OPECC exist. If multiple versions are available, the Candidate will take a different version of the exam each time the Candidate tests. The first testing cycle will begin the year the Candidate completes the requirements for court interpreter certification. Candidates may retake the certification exam a maximum of four (4) times within a period of three (3) years. Candidates must wait a minimum of 6 months between tests.

    Candidates for certification whose language has only one version of the OPECC or an abbreviated exam must wait at least 12 months before retaking the exam. The one version of the exam or abbreviated exam can be taken a maximum of three times within a three year period. If a new version becomes available while a Candidate is eligible to test, the applicant must wait at least 6 months before taking the new version. The three year testing limit applies.

    Candidates who do not obtain certification within the three year time limit may apply in writing to begin the process again.

  10. Classification of Foreign (spoken) Language Court Interpreters
    1. Certified Court Interpreter

      An applicant who has successfully completed Section I and achieves the 70% minimum passing score on each of the three parts of the OPECC pursuant to Section I, step 8 will be considered an Arkansas Certified Court Interpreter.

      An individual who achieves Court Interpreter Certification may use the title “certified” in conjunction with his or her name, and his or her name will be listed on the Certification Roster of Arkansas Certified Interpreters and may be added to the Registry of Certified Court Interpreters.

    2. Candidate for Court Interpreter Certification

      An individual who achieves a minimum score of 60% on each of the three parts of the OPECC will qualify as a Candidate for Court Interpreter Certification. For Arkansas scoring purposes, parts one and two of the sight translation mode are combined for one score; however, if one part of the sight translation is below 55%, even if the combined score is more than 60% the section will not be considered as passing for purposes of becoming a Candidate for Court Certification.

      Upon obtaining the status of Candidate for Court Interpreter Certification, at the discretion of the AOC OCIS, a Candidate may be assigned to interpret in Arkansas district courts for short, non-evidentiary hearings. Assignments will be scheduled as close to the Candidate’s residence as possible. Whenever possible, the Candidate may be accompanied by an AOC staff interpreter who will observe the candidate. During this observation period, the AOC staff interpreter will provide the Candidate with interpreting techniques and/or vocabulary to improve skills and offer guidance on courtroom protocol and ethics. The AOC staff interpreter will provide written progress reports to both the Candidate and the AOC Office of Court Interpreter Services (OCIS).

    3. Registered Interpreters

      Applicants who wish to work in Arkansas state courts in a language for which there is no Oral Proficiency Examination for Court Certification (OPECC) developed and available by the NCSC, must successfully complete Section I, Steps 1 to 7 and take an Oral Proficiency Interview-computerized in English (OPIc). The OPIc-English is a valid and reliable testing method that measures how well a person speaks the language.

      Applicants are required to achieve a minimum score of “Advanced High” on the proficiency scale established by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). The fee for the OPIc English is $75.00. Examinees will be notified in writing of a pass or fail result. Testing dates and locations will be announced well in advance.

      An applicant who has successfully completed Section I, Steps 1 to 7 and has successfully achieved a passing score on the English OPIc will be considered a Registered Interpreter and at the discretion of the AOC OCIS will be eligible to interpret in any Arkansas court proceeding.

      At the discretion of the AOC OCIS, the Requirements under this section may be waived for an interpreter of a language of lesser diffusion or if the NCSC Court Interpreter Certification Exam is not available for administration in the interpreter’s language.

      Once the NCSC has developed and made available an Oral Proficiency Examination for Court Certification in the Registered Interpreter’s foreign language, the interpreter will be notified by the AOC that the test is available and the interpreter must sit for the OPECC within two years of the test’s availability.

  11. Code of Professional Responsibility

    Applicants who pass the background check and have achieved AOC court interpreter certification, Candidate for court interpreter certification or registered status must agree in writing to adhere to the Arkansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Foreign Language Interpreters in the Judiciary as established by Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 11.

Sign Language Requirements 

Sign Language interpreters who want to be listed on the Arkansas Registry of Certified Court Interpreters must be able to work and provide interpreting services to Arkansas state courts and are required to complete the following requirements before being eligible to interpret in any Arkansas court proceeding.

An applicant must hold one of the following certifications from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID): SC:L, NIC, NIC-A, NIC-M CI, CT, NAD V, CDI, and/or Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) Court Interpreter Certification and/or Level V Intermediary, and provide documentation of at least 30 hours of formal legal interpreter training.

  1. Application Process

    An applicant must be at least 21 years old and have the legal right to live and work in the United States. Applicant must submit to the AOC a completed Personal Information Form for Arkansas Court Interpreters and must attach:

    • a recent passport-style photo;
    • current Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) membership and/or Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) annual certificate renewal; and,
    • Arkansas license as pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. §20-14-801.
    • Any applicant whose application is denied shall be promptly notified.
  2. Orientation

    Upon completing application process requirements, an applicant must register for the Orientation. Each applicant must successfully complete an orientation training. The Orientation is designed to familiarize the applicant with the Arkansas court system and provide instruction on the role of the interpreter and the skills and ethics required of an interpreter in the courtroom. The Orientation is one of several steps involved in the initial training of a court interpreter.

    Participants will attend the Orientation at their own expense and must pay a non-refundable registration fee of $200.00 to cover materials and the processing costs for the exams. Dates and locations will be announced well in advance.

  3. English Language Assessment Exam

    On the final day of the Orientation, the applicant must take the English Language Assessment Exam, which is an objective, multiple-choice test developed under the auspices of the National Center for State Courts.

    Before coming to the Orientation, each applicant will receive a copy of Administrative Order No. 11, Arkansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Foreign Language Interpreters in the Judiciary and the Overview of the English Language Assessment Exam. These documents should be studied in preparation for taking the English Language Assessment Exam. The Code is an important component of the test.

    English Language Assessment Exam:
    Part I - English Proficiency
    Part II – Court-Related Terms & Usage and Ethics and Professional Responsibility

    A passing score is a combined score of 80% on Parts I through II of the English Language Assessment Exam.

    This exam will be waived for those applicants who possess the following certifications: RID SC:L and/or BEI Court Interpreter Certificate and/or Level V Intermediary.

  4. Background Check Release Form

    Interpreters who achieve a passing score on the English Language Assessment Exam must complete and submit a notarized Background Check Release Form, allowing the AOC to request a background check of the applicant from the Arkansas State Police.

  5. Code of Professional Responsibility

    Applicants who pass the Background Check and have successfully completed Section II, steps 1 through 4 must agree in writing to adhere to the Arkansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Foreign Language Interpreters in the Judiciary as established by Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 11.

  6. Classification of Sign Language Interpreters

    An applicant who has successfully completed Section II, steps 1 through 5 will be considered an Arkansas Court Qualified Sign Language Interpreter and may be added to the Arkansas Registry of Certified Court Interpreters.

  7. Renewal of credentials

    It is the responsibility of an Arkansas Court Qualified Sign Language Interpreter to update the OCIS with his or her annual RID membership and/or BEI annual certificate renewal and annual Arkansas license. Lapse of any of these will result in removal of the interpreter’s name from the Registry of Interpreters.

Reciprocity Requirements

At the discretion of the AOC, reciprocity may be granted to interpreters from other jurisdictions who have been credentialed by the U.S. Courts, a state using an NCSC examination, RID SC:L or BEI provided they meet all Arkansas standards for court interpreters as set forth by the certification requirements of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

All interpreters who seek reciprocity and want to be listed on the Arkansas Registry of Interpreters must be available to work and provide interpreting services to Arkansas state courts and are required to complete the following:

  1. Application Process

    An applicant must be at least 21 years old and have the legal right to live and work in the United States. Applicant must submit to the AOC a completed Reciprocity Form for Arkansas Court Interpreters attaching the following items:

    • Recent passport photo,
    • Copy of Credentials - Submit to the AOC the test version, date administered and test scores provided to the interpreter by the certifying state, U.S. Courts, or sign language interpreter credentialing authority. Sign Language Interpreters will need to comply with Arkansas licensing requirements for Sign Language Interpreters and provide a current copy of their license.
    • Letter of Good Standing - Submit a “good standing” letter from the AOC, or equivalent, in the interpreter’s current jurisdiction. A letter of good standing should state that there have been no complaints of ethical or professional issues that would violate the interpreter’s professional code while the interpreter has been working in that jurisdiction. If he or she has recently moved to a different jurisdiction, a letter from the AOC in the prior jurisdiction shall also be submitted.
  2. Agreements

    Applicants will receive a copy of each of the documents listed below and must agree in writing to adhere to and comply with:

    • Administrative Order No. 11, Arkansas Code of Professional Responsibility for Foreign Language Interpreters in the Judiciary ; and,
    • All Arkansas policies and procedures established by OCIS for interpreters working in Arkansas courts.

    Any applicant whose application is denied shall be promptly notified.

    Each application will be processed by the AOC, and if additional documentation is required, the applicant will be notified promptly as set out herein. At the discretion of the AOC OCIS Director, the individual seeking reciprocity may be required to attend Orientation or complete a court observation assignment with an Arkansas AOC Staff Interpreter.

    Once the AOC OCIS Director has reviewed all documents submitted, the applicant will be advised in writing whether the application has been accepted and reciprocity will be granted. If accepted, the name of the applicant will be added to the Arkansas Registry of Certified Court Interpreters through reciprocity. Any applicant whose application is denied shall be promptly notified.