pages of a book

Lots of Resources for LOTS Interpreters

By Athena Matilsky © 2017

Last year I left my job as a Superior Court staff interpreter, and moved from New Jersey to the beautiful city of Montreal. I’m here temporarily, working on a book and improving my French. The idea is that with increased language proficiency I will be able to apply my skills as a Spanish interpreter and open myself up to new opportunities. My test date has already been set for October, so this summer I rolled up my sleeves, opened up my computer, and got to work.

Except…what in the world is a Spanish interpreter to do when she discovers that not everything is spelled out in her new language? I think you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that actually, my project was harder than it sounded. And that’s because, if you aren’t interpreting Spanish/English, you’ve got to start from scratch. There are no convenient interpreting exercises with glossaries in the back for French-English interpreters. And compared to the dozens of Spanish forums out there (email lists, Facebook groups, etc.), there is barely anything immediately obvious for interpreters of Languages Other Than Spanish (acronym: LOTS).

In an effort not to reinvent the wheel, I’d like to share some tips that I’ve learned, and some resources I’ve collected. And by the way, although this post is geared specifically to LOTS interpreters, Spanish interpreters will find it useful as well. For a comprehensive list of all the resources I’ve found for Spanish, French, and language-neutral materials, CLICK HERE. And now, here’s my bullet pointed instruction manual:

  1. Network: Find interpreters who work in your language. The NAJIT Facebook page is a great place to start. That’s where I advertised the Facebook page that I created when I couldn’t find what I was looking for: French Interpreting Corner. (JOIN NOW!) You can also meet people by attending conferences and by taking classes. If you don’t find a group for your language, make one! Networking will help you to find a study partner, compare problematic terms, and share resources.
  1. Compile dictionaries and glossaries: In order to work as an interpreter, you need to have a good reference guide. Do your research: Talk to those colleagues you’ve just found online, compare notes, and buy yourself a bilingual legal dictionary if at all possible. You’ll also want to find dictionaries and glossaries that define terms in your source and target languages. I’m in the process of compiling a list If you have anything you’d like to share, please do, and I’ll post it! Also, think outside the box. If it’s hard to find a specific legal dictionary, search court websites in the US and your country of origin. Sometimes you’ll find bilingual websites as well. Find your useful terms there, and create your own glossary, always using reputable sources to check yourself. Then share it!

Dictionary page on "collaboration"

  1. Compile study material: Please note that this is not the same as compiling dictionaries and glossaries. Too many people spend hours “studying,” when all they are doing is memorizing vocabulary. Yes, you have to study vocabulary, but you need to perform simulated interpreting exercises as well, to improve your technique (for more on self-study tips, CLICK HERE.) For LOTS interpreters, this will usually mean finding language-neutral (English-only) material. You need to find speeches, dialogues and monologues that exemplify the three different modes of interpreting, with both audio and If they come with example interpretations, even better! I would start with ACEBO Interpreter’s Edge, Generic Edition, THE CONFIDENT INTERPRETER’S All Languages Package (note that this does not contain Consecutive exercises), and/or DE LA MORA INTERPRETER TRAINING’S Virtual Language Lab. ACEBO actually does have materials for Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Russian, Japanese and Portuguese, so those interpreters are in luck!

You can also buy materials and take classes to improve particular skills, such as the online note-taking courses and mode-specific courses offered by INTERPRETRAIN and de la Mora Interpreter Training.

If you are working with language neutral materials, try to find a study partner so you can translate portions for each other and create a more realistic exercise. For example, you can translate the defendant’s answers into your target language ahead of time, and you can translate some of your sight translations into your target language for practice into English. Everything else would be in English anyway, so there is no need to translate Simultaneous exercises at all, or the attorney’s questions in Consecutive.

Note: Please don’t just interpret TV or Youtube; unless you have a script in front of you and a way to analyze your recording, you will never know what kind of mistakes you are making and most likely not improve.

Another note:  A problem some Spanish interpreters have is that they have too many materials. My advice is to sort through what you have, decide what you think most meets your needs, and then stick to that (for me, that was ACEBO Edge 21 and ARIZONA Interpretools when I studied for the Federal. I let everything else slip past.) If you try to study every single exercise or glossary that comes your way, you will end up overwhelmed and frustrated.

  1. Study! (Again, here’s that LINK.)

My hope is that with these tips, you can have a starting point. So many of us study by

ourselves, spending too much time repeating what colleagues have already done before us. I’d love for us to quit reinventing the wheel, share our resources, and learn from each other.

Happy Studying!

Portrait of Athena MatilskyAthena Matilsky fell in love with Spanish the year she turned 16. She chose it as her major at Rutgers University and selected a focus in translation and interpreting. After graduation, she taught elementary school in Honduras and then returned home to begin freelancing as a medical and court interpreter. She has since achieved certifications as a Healthcare Interpreter and a Federal Court Interpreter. She was the recent editor-in-chief of Proteus. Currently, she works as a freelance interpreter/translator and trains candidates privately for the state and federal interpreting exams. When she is not writing or interpreting, you may find her practicing acroyoga or studying French. Website:

  • Vicki Santamaria
    Posted at 19:22h, 01 September Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. A fellow Spanish interpreter and I taught separate continuing education classes for court interpreters earlier this year, and many of the LOTS interpreters present expressed frustration about a lack of materials in their languages. I’m going to share your post with them. Good luck with your French studies!

  • Gio Lester
    Posted at 16:51h, 04 September Reply

    I work with Brazilian Portuguese and it is hard to find ready-made material to help us. I wish more LOTS professionals would contribute more to The NAJIT Observer so we can reduce the existing void. I am hoping this article will do that, Athena, i.e. open the flood gates.

    Thank you.

  • Elena Polonsky
    Posted at 18:56h, 05 September Reply

    Thank you for this useful info. I’d like to add Interpreter Education Online to the list. We offer online training options from webinars to certification prep courses and CEUs, with courses available in Albanian, Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian Creole, Hmong, German, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese:

  • Nina Ivanichvili
    Posted at 05:26h, 07 December Reply

    Thank you for sharing. I find it helpful to read law blogs written by lawyers. Here’s one of my blog posts that lists some of the legal blogs of interest to court interpreters:

    “Top 37 Legal Blogs Every Legal Translator Should Follow” located at:

  • Pingback:Dispelling the Top 3 Myths About Study Buddies - NAJIT
    Posted at 04:05h, 05 October Reply

    […] it can be especially useful to create language-specific materials together (for more on that, see this post). However, if you don’t speak the same language, you can still help each other with all kinds of […]

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