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Can I get an interpreter?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed June 2020

Do I have the right to an interpreter when I go to court?

Yes. If it is hard for you to understand or speak English, you have the right to an interpreter at court. It does not matter what your native language is. The court is supposed to give you an interpreter.

How do I ask for an interpreter?

Tell the court clerk that you need an interpreter. There should be an “I Speak” chart posted/lying on the court clerk’s desk.

Point to your language on the "I Speak - You have a right to an Interpreter" flyer. Then the clerk will know the language you speak. The clerk will get an interpreter for you who speaks your language.

Also, each court has a special clerk called a "Court Liaison."  The Court Liaison requests interpreters. The court system posts Court Liaison names and contact information on its website. 

How much does an interpreter cost?

A court interpreter is free to you. The court pays the interpreter.

What does a court interpreter do?

It is the court interpreter’s job to help you communicate with the court. Court interpreters are professionals. They speak both your language and English fluently.

A court interpreter’s job is to:

  • tell you what court staff say to you;
  • tell you the questions that court forms ask;
  • tell the court staff what you are saying;
  • translate your words into English on court forms;
  • communicate all the details of what is said to you and what you say. He or she must not add anything, change anything or leave anything out.

A court interpreter cannot:

  • accept any money or gifts from you;
  • have personal conversations with you;
  • share any information about your case with anyone else;
  • take sides or give you his or her opinions about your case.

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