Department Information

Difference Between Interpreters and Translators


Interpreters must transpose a spoken message from the source language to the target language. Thus, they need to deliver their message in the moment, using one of three modes: simultaneous (at the same time as the original speaker; consecutive (immediately after the speaker finishes); or by using sight translation (delivering a written message as they read it out loud).


Translators work with written texts, including, forms, certificates, letters, orders, and contracts. This requires consulting resources on how to best transmit a message. Translators must know the purpose of the translation, as well as the intended audience.


When using an in-person interpreter

You should address the parties as if you were speaking directly to them even though they may not understand you. For example, rather than turning to the interpreter and saying, “Ask the judge when my next court hearing is,” simply look at the judge and ask, “When is my next court hearing?”

The Court Interpreter Will

  • The court interpreter may hand you a set of headphones and a receiver, so you can listen directly to the rendition in a language you can understand. An interpreter may also choose to stand or sit close to you and whisper the rendition for you to hear without using equipment.
  • The court interpreter will help you communicate with your lawyer, court personnel, and the judge during your proceeding.
  • The court interpreter will attempt to communicate exactly what each speaker is saying.
  • The court interpreter will interpret everything that is said, without adding, omitting, or changing anything.

The Court Interpreter Will Not

  • The court interpreter will not give you legal or any other advice.
  • The court interpreter will not answer questions about the law or the legal process.
  • The court interpreter will not explain what words mean or what is happening in court.
  • The court interpreter will not talk to you about your case.
  • The court interpreter will not have private conversations with you or your family.

Please refrain from asking the interpreter for advice about your case. An interpreter must remain a neutral party for ethical reasons.

When using a Telephonic Interpreter

The telephonic interpreter will give a brief introduction at the beginning of the proceeding. If you are having difficulty hearing or understanding the interpreter, please notify the court as soon as possible, even if you must interrupt the hearing. However, do not ask the interpreter to explain what was said.


If you believe you have not been provided effective language assistance for any court or probation proceeding or other service provided by the court, please complete a Language Access to Court Services Complaint Form. English | Spanish
Please return it to:

Department Administrator
Court Interpretation and Translation Services
Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County
175 W. Madison Street, 12th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Christopher Bleuenstein, Ph.D
Court Interpretation and Translation Services (CITS) Administrator
Contact CITS

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