How to Apply to be a Freelance Court Interpreter

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  1. What is a freelance court interpreter?
  2. What do freelance court interpreters do?
  3. Which languages does the ministry interpret?
  4. How can I become a freelance court interpreter?
  5. What languages is the ministry currently accrediting?
  6. What skills do I need to become a freelance court interpreter?
  7. Do I need to belong to a professional interpreter association to become an accredited freelance ministry interpreter?
  8. How can I prepare for the Bilingual or English Court Interpreting Test?
  9. Is there a cost to take the Bilingual or English Court Interpreting Test?
  10. What if I have a criminal record?
  11. What can I expect if I become a freelance court interpreter?
  12. What is the Registry for Accredited Freelance Court Interpreters?
  13. How much are court interpreters paid by the hour or interpretation session
  14. Are freelance court interpreters government employees?
  15. How often do freelance court interpreters provide their services?
  16. Other than the Ministry of the Attorney General, where else can I provide my services as an interpreter?

  1. What is a freelance court interpreter?

    A freelance court interpreter assists people who are unable to speak the language being used in a court proceeding by providing a continuous, precise and impartial interpretation of what is being said.

    An interpreter may be scheduled by the Ministry of the Attorney General or by the persons appearing before the court, depending on the proceeding.

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  2. What do freelance court interpreters do?

    Court interpreters play a fundamental role in providing access to justice and work in approximately 161 court locations, serving 250 communities across Ontario.

    Through the Ministry of the Attorney General's Court Services Division, over 20 staff and approximately 700 accredited freelance court interpreters provide interpretation in over 80 spoken languages, American Sign Language and Langue des signes du Québec.

    Because of Ontario's diverse population, language interpretation services are in high demand. Each year, more than 150,000 courtroom hours of interpretation are provided in:

    • Any language required in criminal and child protection matters
    • Any language in civil, family and small claims court matters, if the litigant qualifies for the Court Services Division fee waiver
    • French in all civil, family and small claims court matters
    • American sign language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoises (LSQ) in all court matters
    • Any language when it is ordered by the court.

    Section 14 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees a person's right to an interpreter if they do not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are being conducted. This right exists regardless of the language involved.

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  3. Which languages does the ministry interpret?

    The ministry's accredited court interpreters provide interpretation in over 80 spoken languages, American Sign Language and Langue des signes du Québec.

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  4. How can I become a freelance court interpreter?

    Interpreters must be accredited by the Ministry of the Attorney General. To become accredited, interpreters must:

    • Attend a test preparation session provided free of charge by the ministry
    • Pass a bilingual or English court interpreting test
    • Attend a training seminar and pass a written test in courtroom procedures and interpreter ethics
    • Successfully complete a background check through the contractor security screening process
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  5. What languages is the ministry currently accrediting for?

    The ministry is currently accrediting new interpreters in both our highest demand and in rare languages, as indicated by courts across the province.

    We encourage interpreters of all languages to submit an application, which will remain on file for 18 months.

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  6. What skills do I need to become a freelance court interpreter?

    The Ministry of the Attorney General is committed to accrediting highly qualified interpreters. The following skills will be considered when reviewing your application:

    • Proficiency in English and at least one other spoken or sign language
    • General understanding of, and experience in, interpreting
    • Previous experience interpreting in the legal and/or court system
    • Knowledge of the legal and/or court system and legal terminology
    • Availability to accept assignments during regular court hours
    • Willingness to travel for assignments
    • Accreditation/certification by a recognized professional interpreter association.

    You also need the following to become an interpreter:

    • Excellent communication skills
    • Strong listening skills
    • Excellent memory skills
    • Strong interpersonal skills
    • Professionalism
    • Discretion.

    If an interpreter meets these criteria, they are required to successfully complete a court interpreting test, attend a training seminar, pass a written test in court procedures and interpreter ethics and successfully complete a background check through the contractor security screening process.

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  7. Do I need to belong to a professional interpreter association to become an accredited freelance ministry court interpreter?

    No, this is not a requirement to become an accredited freelance ministry court interpreter.

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  8. How can I prepare for the bilingual or English court interpreting test?

    The ministry has prepared practice material that is available online at: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/interpreters/english_test/ and https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/interpreters/bilingual_test/.

    There are also other ways to prepare for the test, including:

    • Daily use and practice of your language
    • Reading in your language
    • Listening to radio and television broadcasts in your language
    • Short-term memory development and training exercises
    • Shadowing (listening to a passage and repeating it simultaneously).

    Qualified applicants who are invited to take the test will be invited to a test preparation session.

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  9. Is there a cost to take the bilingual or English court interpreting test?

    No, applicants do not have to pay to take the test.

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  10. What if I have a criminal record?

    All court interpreters must undergo a criminal record check as a condition of accreditation or accreditation renewal. Background checks are done through the contractor security screening process.

    If you have a criminal record, you may wish to apply for a pardon from the National Parole Board.

    Having a criminal record does not automatically mean you will be ineligible to be a freelance court interpreter. The screening check results will be reviewed and evaluated by Contractor Security Screening, Supply Chain Ontario in order to make a clearance decision. The details of an individual's screening check will be considered in relation to the duties and responsibilities of a court interpreter. Screening check records will be maintained by the Contractor Security Screening Unit and kept strictly confidential.

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  11. What can I expect if I become a freelance court interpreter?

    Most interpretation assignments will be for criminal proceedings, however you may also be asked to interpret in family, civil and small claims court matters, and in Provincial Offences Act proceedings.

    Interpretation assignment requests can range from relatively quick matters, such as bail hearings and plea courts, to lengthier ones such as trials.

    Once you are on the Registry of Accredited Freelance Court Interpreters, the majority of your assignments should be at a court location that is close to your residence. However, any courthouse in Ontario may request your services.

    During an assignment, you may be required to perform consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation or sight translation. Those requiring your services may include an accused, witness or surety.

    Consecutive interpretation provides an interpretation of a witness’s testimony and the questions the lawyers or presiding judicial official are asking the witness.

    Simultaneous interpreting provides an interpretation of the entire proceeding to a party who is not fluent in English.

    Sight translation transforms a written message into a spoken message. It involves reading a text silently in the source language, and then speaking it in the target language.

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  12. What is the Registry of Accredited Freelance Court Interpreters?

    Once you receive full or conditional accreditation, you will be listed on the ministry's confidential Registry of Accredited Freelance Court Interpreters, which is available only to court staff.

    Your name will appear alongside your accredited or conditionally accredited language(s), your home address, your contact phone numbers, email address and your availability. When an interpretation assignment is required, courthouse staff will contact you by phone or email to determine your availability.

    Note that as an accredited or conditionally accredited interpreter, it will be your responsibility to advise the ministry of any changes to your contact information, availability and/or ability to travel.

    When you are put on the registry you will be sent an identification card that identifies you as a freelance court interpreter. You must carry this identification card whenever you go to an assignment.

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  13. How much are court interpreters paid by the hour or interpretation session?

    Freelance court interpreters are paid $30 per hour, or part thereof. For each booking, freelance interpreters are guaranteed a three-hour minimum regardless of the length of the interpretation assignment. For one-day matters that are 3.5 hours or more in length, a 6-hour minimum is paid.

    Additionally, there are travel policies in place that set out mileage, meal and accommodation rates depending on the distance freelance interpreters are required to travel for an assignment. The travel policies mirror those in place for the Ontario Public Service.

    Because court interpreters are fee for service contractors, they do not qualify for government benefits such as health and dental coverage, insurance or pensions.

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  14. Are freelance court interpreters government employees?

    No. Accredited ministry court interpreters are contractors who are paid on a fee-for-service basis. They do not qualify for government benefits such as health and dental coverage, insurace or pensions.

    Payment for all court interpreting assignments is processed at the court location of the assignment. For income tax purposes, T4A slips will be issued to interpreters who have made more than $500 in the previous fiscal year. It is the freelance interpreter's responsibility to track related expenses.

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  15. How often do court interpreters provide their services?

    Freelance court interpreters provide interpretation services on an as-needed basis. Frequency of interpretation is determined by the court's need for each language and the number of accredited freelance interpreters in that language and region.

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  16. Other than the Ministry of the Attorney General, where else can I provide my services as an interpreter?

    There are many opportunities available for interpreters in Ontario, including:

    Many private companies also use interpreters. Some are in the language industry, while others may need interpreters to work with international clients.

    You may also wish to consider becoming a member of one of the professional associations that exist across the country.

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