Interpreting Certification Compared (Spoken Language)2018-09-07T17:12:06+00:00

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
Accredited through  1/31/2018 per NCCA website on January 02, 2018
Text on NBCMI site: The CMI-Spanish credential is accredited by the NCCA.
2012 NCCA accreditation obtained
CHI-Spanish accredited through 6/30/2022
Core Certification for Healthcare Interpreters accredited through 6/30/2019
per NCCA website on November 18, 2017
1995 1993
CERTIFIED LANGUAGES
*Spanish
Mandarin
Russian
Cantonese
Korean
Vietnamese*Accredited by NCCA (through 2017)
*Spanish
Mandarin
Modern Standard Arabic source (may interpret English into regional)*Accredited by NCCA
Spanish
Mandarin
Russian
Cantonese
Korean
Vietnamese
Cambodian*
Laotian*
*Discontinued as a certified language on July 1, 2017, due to low demand
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* PASS RATE
Written: 76%
Oral: *Spanish 41%, Mandarin 23%, Vietnamese 3%, Korean 22%, Cantonese 46%, Russian 58%
Data from 2016 Annual Report
*Accredited by NCCA
Written (Core CHI): 83.5%
Oral: *Spanish 75.9%, Arabic 18.6%, Mandarin 24.3%
Data from 2016 Annual Report
*Accredited by NCCA
Overall Certified Languages: 36 – 38%
Overall by certified language:
Cantonese: 58%, Mandarin 56%, Korean 31%,
Russian 51%, Spanish 30%, Vietnamese 32%, Cambodian 30%, Laotian 25%
Average written exam, applicable to all certified languages, in Oregon:
48.54% written
National average for oral:
Spanish 10%
Average for all languages: 12%.
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 IMIA-approved training every 5 years
Not accepted:
court and legal interpreting unless the focus is the skill, not the terminology. Evaluated on a case by case basis.
translating
beginning level courses that would be taken by individuals seeking to become a CMI
Of the 30 hours,
10 should be related to ethics and standards of practice,
10 on interpreting skills (memory, note taking, sight translation, simultaneous, etc).
The other ten could be any topic related to medical interpreting
Renewal criteria:
20 hours of documented work every two years, totaling 40 hours in 4 years
16 hours every 2 years, totaling 32 hours every 4 years, as follows:minimum 2 hours must focus on interpreting skills
The training must be beyond-beginner complexity.
See the list of accepted topics.
Renewal criteria:
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.
Renewal criteria:
Every three years
120 hours of interpreting services in courts of record or where the interpreter is sworn in.
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

Overall pass rates, in percentages

LanguageNBCMICCHIWA DSHSCourt
Modern Standard Arabic source (may interpret English into regional)15.5
All court languages6.0
Cambodian30.0
Cantonese35.058.0
Korean16.731.0
Laotian25.0
Mandarin17.520.356.0
Russian44.151.0
Spanish31.263.430.04.8
Vietnamese2.332.0
Calculation: Since the written exam is a prerequisite for the oral exam, the calculation is as follows: percentage of written times percentage oral equals overall pass rate. The numbers are drawn from the partial numbers given in this table.
For the courts, the data available was the 2018 national oral language pass rates given by the National Center for State Courts and the written oral exam data provided by Oregon Court Language Access Services for 2006 to 2016

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

*Note on different calculations for pass rates: Where overall pass rates (written + oral) were not available, written and oral pass rates are reported separately. Interpreters are required to pass the written exam before they can take the oral exam. Therefore, to calculate the overall pass rates, convert the percentages to decimal numbers, and then multiply the written pass rate by the oral pass rate. This document only reports data available online, and when such data is not available, data reported by government testing bodies.

When evaluating other certifications, the following information, which should be available without having to submit a name and email address, can be useful.

  • Contact information for certified professionals
  • Grading standards
  • Pass rate for each language pair
  • Standards for establishing the difficulty of the exam
  • Sample exam, availability of graded practice test for a price.
  • Who they are accountable to: Professional association, Institute of Credentialing Excellence accreditation process, public records request (for government certifications)
  • Certification renewal requirements: Continuing education, fees
  • Code of ethics, and the consequences for non-compliance
  • Basis for evaluating the credibility of the organization and the exam. Both matter.

Sources:

Study Materials

Sources for overall passing rate:

  • NBCMI 2016 Annual Report, online on October 16, 2017
  • CCHI 2016 Annual Report, online on October 16, 2017
  • Fu, Hungling. State of Washington DSHS Medical Interpreter Certification, presented at UMTIA. June 2007
  • WA DSHS pass rate data by language provided by Dr. Hungling Fu on October 16, 2017.
  • National court exam pass rates: Email discussion on June 22, 2018, with Jacquie Ring, Manager, Language Access Services Section of the National Center for State Courts follows:

The pass rate for all languages (using a cut score of 70% or higher for all parts of the exam) last year was 12%.  The pass rate for Spanish was 10%.  The written exam data is maintained by the individual states and, therefore, we do not report on national data for that exam.
“The average candidate count per year is between 1,100 – 1,800 (approximately).  Candidates in Spanish make up between 70%- 79% of the total population of test takers.  (The numbers vary slightly each year.)

The court interpreter oral exams are developed to determine whether candidates possess the minimum levels of language knowledge and interpreting skills required to perform competently during court proceedings.  The tests are substantially similar in structure and content to tests that have been developed by the federal courts.  The tests are designed and developed by consultants who have extensive knowledge of courts and court proceedings, the job requirements for court interpreters, and/or advanced training or high levels of fluency in English and the non-English language.

Test development teams include a test development manager and at least two subject matter experts, including:

  • One applied linguist, preferably a practicing professional interpreter who possesses the highest credentials available in the field, as confirmed by the Test Development Manager; and
  • One theoretical, scholarly linguist who has the most formal academic training possible in the linguistics of the language.

Additionally, to the extent possible, subject matter experts who develop and/or rate the oral court interpreter exam represent different regional areas where the non-English language being tested is spoken.

Additional information regarding the court interpreter oral exams and their design can be found in the Oral Exam Overview for Candidates and the NCSC Test Construction Manual.

Each exam is rated by at least two approved raters.  Similar to the credentials of test development teams, raters include individuals with the highest level of applied linguistic credentials, including certified court interpreters, and individuals with extensive academic studies in the language.  Additionally, raters are selected to represent different regions of where the non-English language is spoken and, while oral exams are developed to be free of regional varieties of a particular language, raters are trained to be open to geographical and social variations in usage and to accept renditions provided by candidates in accordance with established rater scoring criteria and research processes. For additional information on the rating process for the oral exams, please see the Test Rating Manual.

End quote from NCSC.

  • 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.

Pass rates for NBCMI, CCHI and WA DSHS were updated on October 16, 2017.