5. Self-assessment of readiness to take the FCICE

5.1  Introduction

In the following section are two sets of questions to help you assess your readiness to take the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination:  Language Proficiency questions and “Can Do” questions. 

Language proficiency
Language proficiency is the first prerequisite to success as an interpreter.  Three subsets of questions relating to speaking, listening, and reading in English and Spanish are provided to help you assess your level of language proficiency. 

“Can Do” Interpreter Self-Assessment
If you are satisfied with the results of the Language Proficiency assessment, or if you simply want to know more about what is required for court interpreting, proceed to Section 5.3 on page 52 for the list of 29 “can do” statements.

5.2 Language proficiency self-rating in English and in Spanish

Following is a three-part self-rating exercise, based on the US Government language proficiency skill level descriptions, for individuals who are considering registration for the Federal Court Interpreter Certification Examination (FCICE).  The three parts are:

  1. speaking proficiency
  2. listening proficiency
  3. reading proficiency

A key to help you apply your self-ratings of language proficiency readiness to take the FCICE is found at the end of the exercises.

A.        Self-rating of speaking proficiency in English and Spanish

Read and consider the following four descriptions of speaking proficiency.  Afterwards, decide which description most accurately represents your overall speaking proficiency in English and Spanish. If your language proficiency is substantially better than one level but not consistently as good as the next higher level, select the appropriate "plus" level. 

Fill in the box below the appropriate number.

1.1 English – Speaking

1.2 Spanish – Speaking

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐

                2+           3+           4+
               ☐             ☐           ☐    

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐
               
               2+           3+           4+
               ☐            ☐            ☐

                                   


2
. Limited working proficiency.  I can handle informal conversations successfully.  I can begin, continue, and bring to completion a variety of communicative tasks.  I can handle most everyday social conversation with some confidence, but not with facility, including casual conversations about current events, work, family, and autobiographical information.  I can narrate and describe events occurring in the past, present, and future.  I have control of everyday vocabulary sufficient to discuss general topics of a concrete nature. 

2+ 

3.  General professional proficiency.  I can participate effectively and with ease in both formal and informal conversations on abstract and professional topics as well as practical and social topics.  I can discuss my particular interests and fields of competence with ease.  In conversation, I can answer objections, clarify points, justify decisions, state and defend policy, or give a briefing.  I show some breadth of vocabulary.  I make occasional errors with low frequency and complex language, but these almost never impede communication. 

3+ 

4.  Advanced professional proficiency.  I can speak the language fluently and accurately and with a high degree of effectiveness, reliability, and precision for all representational purposes within the range of my personal and professional experience and scope of responsibilities, even when communicating in sophisticated and demanding conversations.  I can communicate effectively with varied audiences, purposes, tasks, and settings.  If a nonnative speaker, I may exhibit a slight foreign accent, although this never disturbs the native listener.

4+

5.  Educated native proficiency.  I speak the language as well as a highly articulate, well-educated, native speaker.  I can use the language with complete flexibility and intuition, so that my speech on all levels is fully accepted by, and equivalent to, a well-educated native speaker in all of its features, including breadth of vocabulary, colloquialisms, and pertinent cultural references.  My pronunciation is consistent with that of an educated native speaker of a standard dialect of the language.

B.        Self-rating of listening proficiency in English and Spanish

Read and consider the following four descriptions of listening proficiency.  Afterwards, decide which description most accurately represents your overall listening proficiency in English and Spanish.  If your language proficiency is substantially better than one level but not consistently as good as the next higher level, select the appropriate "plus" level. 

2.1 English – Listening

2.2 Spanish – Listening

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐

                2+           3+           4+
               ☐             ☐           ☐    

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐
               
               2+           3+           4+
               ☐            ☐            ☐

                                   


2. Limited working proficiency
.  I can understand face-to-face speech in standard pronunciation spoken at a normal pace, with some repetition and rewording even when spoken by a native speaker who is not used to speaking to people with limited proficiency in this language.  I can understand speech dealing with everyday topics, common personal and family news, well-known current events, and routine work matters.  I can understand descriptions of different places and narrations about past, current, and future events.  I can follow the essential points of the average discussion on work-related topics in my field.  I can understand the facts, such as reported in news broadcasts, but I do not grasp inferred meanings or implications expressed through more complex language.

2+

3.  General professional proficiency.  I can understand the essentials of all speech in standard pronunciation, including discussions within my field of interest or specialization.  I can follow accurately the essentials of conversations between educated native speakers of the language, reasonably clear telephone calls, radio broadcasts, news stories, oral reports, some oral technical reports, and public presentations on non-technical subjects. I can infer meanings that are not directly stated.  I have trouble understanding native speakers if they speak very quickly or use dialect or slang.

3+

4.  Advanced professional proficiency. I can understand all forms and styles of speech pertinent to my social and professional needs.  This includes speech involving extensive and precise vocabulary, subtleties and nuances in standard dialects of the language, and technical discussion on professional topics within the range of my knowledge. I can understand language tailored to different audiences and purposes, including persuasion, representation, counseling, and negotiating.  I can readily infer meanings and implications.  I can easily understand all social conversations, radio broadcasts, and phone calls.  I may experience some difficulty understanding speech heard under unfavorable conditions, such as through a poor quality loudspeaker or radio or in a noisy room. 

4+

5.  Educated native proficiency.  I can fully understand educated and academic speech, abstract and professional discussions, regional dialects, highly colloquial speech, jokes and puns, and speech in noisy places or heard under unfavorable acoustic conditions.   My comprehension of the language is fully equivalent to that of a well-educated native-speaker.

C.        Self-rating of reading proficiency in English and Spanish

Read and consider the following four descriptions of language proficiency.  Afterwards, decide which description most accurately represents your overall reading proficiency in English and Spanish.  If your language proficiency is substantially better than one level but not consistently as good as the next higher level, select the appropriate "plus" level. 

3.1 English – Reading

3.2 Spanish – Reading

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐

                2+           3+           4+
               ☐             ☐           ☐    

               2             3              4             5
              ☐            ☐            ☐            ☐
               
               2+           3+           4+
               ☐            ☐            ☐

                                   


2.  Limited working proficiency
.  I can read simple written material in print on subjects I am familiar with.  I am able to read straightforward, familiar, and factual material with only some misunderstandings.  I can locate the main ideas and details in material written for the general public.  I can read uncomplicated prose on familiar subjects.  I can generally comprehend most news articles involving description or narration of current events, travel, food, and music.  I can also comprehend simple biographies, social notices, personal correspondence, routine business letters, and simple technical material written for the general public.

2+

3.  General professional proficiency.  I can read a variety of materials on unfamiliar subjects with normal speed and almost complete comprehension. I can fully understand news stories or international news items in magazines, routine correspondence, editorials, and general reports.  I can understand technical reports and other materials in my field of specialization even when they include hypothesis, argumentation, and supported opinions.  I can read and comprehend literature, including short stories, novels, and plays.  I can usually read between the lines, if necessary.  I rarely have to reread general vocabulary; however, I may have some difficulty with unusually complex structures or low frequency idioms.

3+

4.  Advanced professional proficiency.  I can read nearly all styles and forms of the language pertinent to academic and professional needs fluently and accurately.  I can readily follow unpredictable turns of thought and author intent in such materials as sophisticated editorials, specialized journal articles, professional documents, and complex literary texts, as well as any subject directed to the nonspecialized reader.  I can also read legal documents and legal texts written for the general reader and documents from earlier periods containing archaic forms of language.

4+

5.  Educated native proficiency.  I can fully understand extremely difficult and abstract prose, including general legal and technical material, as well as contemporary and classical literature.  I can read classical or archaic forms of writing as well as a well-educated native.  I can read a wide variety of handwritten documents.  My speed and comprehension are equal to that of a well-educated native reader.

Interpreting your self-ratings.

Speaking.  Federal court interpreters must have a broad and precise vocabulary, excellent grammar, pronunciation that is always easily intelligible, fluency, and naturalness of expression in both languages.  Language experts generally agree that FCCIs are usually a 4+ in one language and 5 in the other.  Many are a 5 in both.  Some federal court interpreters may be only a 4 in one language if they have excellent interpreting skills and are always intelligible.   If your speaking skills are not at least a 4 in both languages, you may wish to improve your speaking skills before taking the FCICE.

Listening.  The listening skills of a typical FCCI are at the same high level as the speaking skills.  That is, one must be at least a 4 in both languages, and preferably higher.  In addition, one must have the ability to retain what one hears, decode it, and then encode it rapidly in the other language.

Reading.  FCCIs are highly literate in both languages although they may be somewhat more literate in one than the other.  Language experts generally agree that the typical profile is probably a 4 in one language and a 5 in the other.  One needs to be at least a 3+ in both languages in order to comprehend the kinds of documents that the court interpreter may have to translate orally to a defendant or to the court. 

5.3 Can Do” Interpreter Self-Assessment

An extensive list of “Can Do” statements follows.  Read each statement and circle the answer that most accurately describes your current ability or skill.  Although the FCICE examination is specific to court interpreting, the questions related to interpreting skills are intended to be general in nature.  You should answer those questions about interpreting skill based on your own interpreting experience.  If you have no experience or other basis on which to make a self-assessment of the activity or skill described in the question, do not circle any answer and go on to the next question. 

A key to help you apply your self-ratings of the Can Do assessment of readiness to take the FCICE is found at the end of the exercises.

  1. When speaking a standard variety of Spanish, I can use correct pronunciation and intonation without any significant effort.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to understand standard varieties of Spanish usage from any country in the Spanish-speaking world.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When listening to nonstandard varieties of Spanish, I can comprehend speakers without any significant extra effort.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When engaged in conversations with native speakers, I am able to speak Spanish fluently and can incorporate regional colloquialisms and slang expressions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to render precise, accurate interpretations from Spanish into English without omissions or additions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When interpreting from Spanish into English, I am able to maintain the speaker's register (formal versus informal language) in terms of level and complexity of vocabulary and sentence construction.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I can render interpretations from Spanish into English promptly without hesitation.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to read and understand articles of general interest written in standard Spanish.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to read and understand technical material written in Spanish such as legal documents, probation or social services reports, medical reports, etc.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I can read and understand correspondence in Spanish that may be written in an archaic or semi-literate manner.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I can read any Spanish document out loud in English promptly, precisely, and accurately without hesitation, omissions or additions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When listening to varieties of spoken English other than standard American English, I can comprehend speakers without any significant extra effort.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When watching the nightly news on English language television, I can simultaneously render the newscaster’s speech into Spanish without falling behind.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to render precise, accurate interpretations from English into Spanish without omissions or additions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When interpreting from English into Spanish, I am able to maintain the speaker's register (formal vs. informal language) in terms of level and complexity of vocabulary and sentence construction.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I can render interpretations from English into Spanish promptly without hesitation.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When engaged in conversation, I can speak standard American English with correct pronunciation and intonation.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When engaged in conversation, I am able to speak English fluently and can incorporate regional colloquialisms, slang terms, and slang expressions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to read and understand technical material written in English such as legal documents, probation or social services reports, medical reports, etc.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I can read any English document out loud in Spanish promptly, precisely, and accurately without hesitations, omissions, or additions.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to interpret consecutively in both directions what the speaker is saying.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never
  1. I am able to interpret every oral utterance, even those embarrassing to me or other court participants, in either direction.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When going in either direction and when interpreting consecutively or simultaneously, I am able to monitor my own interpretations and correct my own mistakes.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to research the meaning of specific words and terms efficiently and effectively.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When going in either direction and when interpreting consecutively or simultaneously, I am able to interpret effectively under pressure of time constraints, adversarial settings, and in emotionally charged circumstances.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. When interpreting consecutively in either direction, I am able to comprehend and retain conversation or testimony as long as necessary in order to render an accurate interpretation.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. If someone reads a passage to me that is descriptive (what something looks like or something that happened), I can remember and repeat back what I heard word-for-word even if the passage is as many as 30-40 words long.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I speak clearly and can adjust the loudness of my speech so that I am audible to the intended audience in both intimate and public interpreting settings.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

  1. I am able to efficiently take notes when interpreting consecutively while preserving the natural flow of question and answer.
  1. always
  2. most of the time
  3. frequently
  4. rarely or never

 

KEY
If you can answer “A” or “B” to questions 1 to 29, you may be ready to take the FCICE Examination.  If you skipped or answered “C” or “D” on more than a few questions, then you may want to gain additional experience as a court interpreter before taking the examination, or you may want to pursue additional formal study or immersion training in English or Spanish.