The Interpreting Division of the Office of Language Services maintains an active roster of contract interpreters who work on an occasional, as-needed basis for assignments at various levels of interpreting expertise.
Potential and/or experienced interpreters may apply to work at the following levels:
Conference Interpreters possess the highest degree of interpreting skill. Candidates may be tested in simultaneous and/or consecutive interpretation, from a foreign language into English and from English into a foreign language. Prior experience or academic preparation as a conference interpreter is usually required to qualify to be tested at this level. Candidates who successfully pass the test at this level and become contractors for the Office of Language Services may work on a wide array of assignments at the highest level ranging from the White House and Department of State to the highest levels of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Conference interpreters usually work from an interpreting booth when interpreting in the simultaneous mode.
Please click here for an example of a conference-level speech.
Seminar Interpreters are able to perform simultaneous interpretation at a basic skill level which requires a less formal vocabulary than that of the conference interpreter. Candidates who successfully pass this level will be eligible for assignments with (a) the International Visitor Program of the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, (b) the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program, or (c) the Law Enforcement Training Program administered by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Seminar interpreters will most often provide simultaneous interpreting using mobile equipment.
Please click here for an example of a seminar-level speech.
Liaison Interpreters are able to interpret short passages or phrases at a time in a consecutive sequence. This informal mode of interpretation is used on assignments for the three agencies listed above (see Seminar Interpreters) in which a single interpreter accompanies a visiting group or delegation. Larger delegations may receive the additional support of a team (usually two) of seminar interpreters.
Please click here for an example of a consecutive liaison-level speech.
The Interpreting Aptitude Test
The test administered by the Office of Language Services is given only to those candidates whose applications and telephone screenings indicate that they meet the necessary requirements for successful evaluation.
The Office of Language Services reserves the right to decide whether to invite potential applicants to our office for a test, thus we urge all interested candidates to plan their submissions carefully. The Office of Language Services may also set a limit on the number of times a candidate may apply and/or test to join one of our rosters.
Candidates should note that the Office administers tests in accordance with our current needs, and priority is given to critical-need languages, which may vary over time. We are not currently accepting applications from potential contract interpreters and translators.
The evaluation consists of:
An interview in which the examiners ask the candidate to complete and update information regarding educational and professional experience;
Interpreting Skill Test consisting of one or more passages per level of skill tested. Simultaneous interpretation will be tested from a soundproof booth with sound transmission equipment equivalent to those used in the industry. Dictionaries and glossaries are not allowed during the test.
Seminar and Liaison level candidates will also be asked standardized questions dealing with aspects of US history, society, and culture as well as their ability to handle on-the-job situations when accompanying international visitors.
At which level should I test?
It is in your interest to test at as many levels as possible on a single test date, rather than return later to test at a new level, since you will be traveling to Washington at your own expense. The Office reserves the right to determine your eligibility for testing at various levels. It is possible to fail the test at one level but pass at others. In order to be recruited for assignments at a given level, you must have passed the corresponding test; you may always refuse assignments or decide not to work at a certain level if you wish.