Those pesky CEUs: Are they really necessary?

By Agustín de la Mora

Many states have a process for interpreters to renew their certification once it is received, usually once every two years. Each state has its own process, some more involved than others, but it always revolves around providing documentation of continuing education activities, often in the form of CEUs (continuing education units). Often, this is perceived as an annoyance, complying with bureaucracy in way that doesn’t benefit interpreters at all and just making them jump through hoops.

Personally, I feel nothing could be further from the truth. I strongly believe continuing education is the key to a long, successful career in interpreting. Imagine this scenario: you visit the doctor’s office, and the doctor proudly tells you that in the 25 years since they received their medical license, they have not attended a single AMA conference! They go on to affirm they have not studied any new procedures that have been developed in the last quarter-century. They haven’t learned about new pharmaceuticals or new treatments, new guidelines or potentially dangerous reactions to medications that have been discovered. Obviously this an extreme and hypothetical example, but it serves to illustrate the point clearly. A successful interpreter is mindful of the fact that state certification indicates that they have achieved the minimum requirements to interpret accurately in court, not that they have nothing left to learn.

Just like the doctor who is just leaving medical school still has a lot to learn before being considered an expert in their field, so do interpreters have a long journey after becoming certified in order to be the best they can be.

Instead of being perceived as a chore or an inconvenience, the process of getting CEUs should be treated as an opportunity to unlock one’s passions and explore new aspects of one’s career.

Instead of being perceived as a chore or an inconvenience, the process of getting CEUs should be treated as an opportunity to unlock one’s passions and explore new aspects of one’s career. While requirements vary from state to state, most states allow interpreters to earn CEUs on a wide variety of topics, not just the mechanics of interpreting itself. Courtroom protocol, specific types of legal proceedings, ethics, and interpreting for expert witnesses are just some examples of continuing education activities that fulfill CEU requirements while allowing interpreters to go deeper and expand their knowledge of their chose profession. Find continuing education topics that address your weaknesses, solidify your strengths, and satisfy your curiosity. Instead of asking: “Do I really have to?”, maybe we can ask: “Where will continuing education take me this time?”

[Agustín Servín de la Mora is the President of the Florida Institute of Interpretation and Translation. He has been a professional interpreter for the last 22 years, both as a freelance and staff interpreter. Mr. de la Mora is a Supervisor Rater for the National Center for State Courts and has been a Lead Rater for the federal and consortium oral exams for court interpreters. He was the Lead Interpreter for the Ninth Judicial Circuit for over a decade, is a member of the Florida Court Interpreter Certification Board and a voting member of the Technical Committee of the National Consortium for Interpreter Certification. Mr. de la Mora is certified by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts as a Federally Certified Court Interpreter. He is also a Certified Court interpreter by the Florida Court Interpreter Certification Board and a Certified Medical Interpreter by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. He has been a consultant for the Administrative Offices of the State Courts, conducting orientation seminars and advanced skills workshops for interpreters in many states. As a recognized professional in his field, he has been featured as a speaker and presenter in several national conventions, including the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators, the American Translators Association and the National Association of State Court Administrators.]

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of NAJIT.

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