Interpreting Certification Compared (Spoken Language)

By | 2017-10-14T16:06:24+00:00 October 28th, 2016|Certification, Interpreting Standards|

Interpreting Certification Compared (Spoken Language)

Spoken Language Interpreting Certification in the United States: a comparison

Competency-based assessments are the foundation of credentialing in many professions, one of which is interpreting. According to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, an assessment instrument is any one of several standardized methods for determining if candidates possess the necessary knowledge and skills related to the purpose of the certification. Professional certification is therefore a voluntary process and is bestowed by an organization granting recognition to an individual who has met certain eligibility requirements and successfully completed a rigorous assessment based on a job task analysis.

Interpreter certification is akin to licensure in many other professions such as psychology, occupational therapy, social work, professional counseling, architecture, or nursing. In the United States, there are three certifying bodies for medical interpreters: NBCMI, CCHI and DSHS/LTC (see chart attached). In this chart we are also including the Oregon Court Interpreting certification for comparison purposes because interpreters move from one field to another in their scope of work on a regular basis. Interpreters will have to choose which certification to pursue based on their working languages, the availability of testing sites, the delivery modality (on-site v. remote interpreting) and the applicable federal and state laws and regulations. In the State of Oregon, the Oregon Health Authority is the government agency responsible for regulating medical interpreters.

The following table compares the different certifications. These certifications meet the requirements of the Federal government on this page.

Terminology used in chart

LOTE Languages other than English
> into
<
approved Approved activities/training means trainings or activities that meet the requirements of the certification bodies for continuing education purposes. Please refer to the website of each certification body for full details, which are beyond the scope of this document.

Spoken Language Interpreting Certifications

NBCMI
NATIONAL BOARD OF CERTIFICATION FOR MEDICAL INTERPRETERS
CCHI
CERTIFICATION COMMISSION FOR HEALTHCARE INTERPRETERS
DSHS/LTC
DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL & HEALTH SERVICES/LANGUAGE TESTING AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
WASHINGTON STATE
OREGON JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
TYPE OF CERTIFYING BODY
Private: a division of a trade association (International Medical Interpreters Association) Private: a vendor neutral nonprofit corporation Public: a state government agency Public: a state government agency
YEAR CERTIFICATION PROGRAM BEGAN
2012 NCCA accreditation obtained 2012 NCCA accreditation obtained 1995 1993
CERTIFIED LANGUAGES
Spanish
Mandarin
Russian
Cantonese
Korean
Vietnamese
Spanish
Mandarin
Arabic
Spanish
Mandarin
Russian
Cantonese
Korean
Vietnamese
Cambodian (Khmer)
Laotian
Arabic
Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian
Cantonese
French
Haitian Creole
Hmong
Ilocano
Khmer
Korean
Laotian
mandarin
Marshallese
Polish
Portuguese
Russian
Somali
Spanish
Tagalog
Turkish
Vietnamese
PREREQUISITES
18 years of age
High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent not listed
Proof of language proficiency: each certifying body has slightly different requirements. Proof of language proficiency: each certifying body has slightly different requirements. None None
WRITTEN EXAM
• Medical Terminology & Specialties
• Medical Interpreter Ethics, Standards of Practice & Roles
• Cultural Competence
• Legislation and Regulations
• Manage an Interpreting Encounter
• Healthcare Terminology
• Interact with Other Healthcare Professionals and Prepare for an Interpreting Encounter
• Cultural Responsiveness
• Interpreter Ethics
• Language Proficiency in English & LOTE
• Medical Terminology & Procedures in English & LOTE
• Translation (multiple choice format)
• English language
• Court related terms and usage
• Ethics and professional conduct.
ORAL EXAM
Consecutive interpreting
Sight translation English > LOTE
Consecutive interpreting
Simultaneous interpreting
Sight Translation English > LOTE
Translation of healthcare documents (multiple choice format)
Sight translation English <> LOTE (2 passages)
Consecutive interpreting English <> LOTE
Simultaneous English > LOTE
Consecutive interpreting
Sight translation English <> LOTE
OVERALL PASSING RATE
75% 74% 36-38% 48.54% written
18.4% oral
100% ethics
MANDATORY TRAINING FOR ACCREDITATION
40 hours of approved training (pre-requisite) 40 hours of approved training (pre-requisite) 2 hours of ethics
2 hours of new medical interpreter orientation
6 hours of orientation to courts
20 hours of observation
5 hours of ethics orientation
CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS TO MAINTAIN THE CREDENTIAL
30 hours of approved training every 5 years 16 hours every 2 years, totaling 32 hours every 4 years
20 hours of documented work every two years, totaling 40 hours in 4 years
20 hours every 4 years of approved activities of which 1 hour of approved ethics per calendar year, totaling 4 hours of ethics in four years. 25 hours every 3 years of which 5 hours of ethics
10 general
10 language-specific
MANDATORY TRAINING COST
Estimated $320 – $800 Estimated $320 – $800 None Orientation: $100
Ethics orientation (after passing oral exam): $50
APPLICATION FEE
$35 $35 None
WRITTEN EXAM FEE
$175 $175 $30 $65
Ethics Exam (after passing oral): $50
ORAL EXAM FEE
$275 $275 $45 $325
CREDENTIAL RENEWAL FEE
$300 $300 None $150

This information was verified on November 17, 2016 for spoken language interpreting certifications. This information is subject to change by the certification bodies.

 

Sources:

Study Materials

Sources for overall passing rate:

  • National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters Examination Summary Statistics: 2009, 2010, and 2011
  • CCHI 2014 Annual Report: Setting the Standard for Quality in Healthcare Interpreting
  • Fu, Hungling. State of Washington DSHS Medical Interpreter Certification, presented at UMTIA. June 2007
  • Oregon pass rate data provided by Oregon courts on September 29, 2016, by Michaelle Gearheart, Certification and Training Coordinator, Court Language Access Services (CLAS) :
    • Written Exam 2006-2016, Number of Examinees: 67, Pass Rate: 48.5%
    • Oral Exam 2006 – 2016, Number of Examinees:521, Pass Rate: 18.4%
    • Ethics Exam 2006 – 2016, Pass Rate 100%

All links verified on November 17, 2016. Links subject to update by external sites.

A preliminary version of this article was originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of Caduceus and was later republished in the ATA Interpreters Division Blog on October 10, 2016. New information is added in this version.

About the Author:

Helen Eby grew up in Argentina, the land of the gauchos. She is a certified Spanish translator and interpreter. She co-founded The Savvy Newcomer and the Cuatro Mosqueteras blogs, both of which are team efforts to provide resources for other language professionals.