New credential for interpreting in schools

A new credential is now available from the University of Arkansas (U of A) for educational interpreters. The first of its kind in the United States, the Arkansas Bilingual Interpreter Credential in Education (ABICE) addresses needs specific to interpretation for settings pre-K through 12th grade, such as parent-teacher conferences. Interpreters must work with world languages as opposed to American Sign Language (ASL).

The 40 hour course takes roughly two weeks to complete and is taught over Google Classroom and Zoom. Interpreters must also demonstrate bilingual oral language proficiency through a fluency assessment in both English and their chosen target language. Enrollment is $325. Interpreters who’d like to take the course are requested to express interest through this SurveyMonkey poll.


In the United States, there is no single certification or credential required to interpret. Instead, credentialing is split by subject, language pair, and geography.

Legal interpreters, for example, pursue separate certifications for federal versus state courts. Just as attorneys must pass a different bar exam for each state, interpreters also undergo different processes for each state’s credentials. Working through the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification, interpreters may be able to transfer certification from one place to another or they may not. In some jurisdictions, certification is only available for certain languages. Federal court certification, for example, is only offered in Spanish, Navajo, and Haitian Creole. Interpreters of other languages are deemed as either “qualified” or “skilled.”

Medical interpreting is similarly confusing, with national certifications available from both the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (National Board).

Then there are all the other settings that require interpretation. In 2011, MultiLingual Magazine reported on the efforts of Kentucky’s Immigrant and Refugee Women Project, which laid the groundwork for what would have been the nation’s first domestic violence and rape crisis interpreter certification.

“Qualified interpreters are important to effectively support and engage families,” said Brenda Reynolds, director of Partners for Inclusive Communities’ Welcome the Children project, the division of U of A that developed the education credential. “Just because someone is bilingual doesn’t mean they are qualified to conduct interpreted meetings. It’s a skill, with a code of ethics and standards of practice.”

MultiLingualStaff
MultiLingual creates go-to news and resources for language industry professionals.

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