How to get certified
Step 3: Oral examination - Oral Proficiency Interview
The Director of State Courts offers OPIs to speakers of languages where no oral certification exists through Language Testing International (LTI).
Language Testing International (LTI) (external link) is the exclusive licensee of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), a leader in the development of language proficiency testing methods. LTI arranges ACTFL language proficiency assessments in over 60 languages for corporations, government agencies, academic institutions and individuals. LTI was founded in 1992 in response to the growing need for standardized, valid language proficiency assessments conducted by certified testers.
ACTFL was founded in 1967 to strengthen and improve the teaching of foreign languages at all educational levels. Its activities and publications focus on pedagogy, research, teacher education, the development of appropriate guidelines for foreign language skills, educational technologies and how they relate to foreign language teaching, learning, legislation and promotion, and other issues of national and international concern in foreign language learning.
OPIs are available in the following languages: Afrikaans, Akan-Twi, Albanian, Algerian, Amharic, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cambodian (Khmer), Cebuano, Chavacano, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Gujarati, Haitian-Creole, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Indonesian, Japanese, Javanese, Kurdish-Kurmanji, Malay, Malayalam, Marshallese, Nepali, Norwegian, Pashto, Persian Farsi, Punjabi, Romanian, Serbian-Croatian, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Slovak, Swahili, Tagalog, Tajik, Tamil, Tausug, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Urdu, Uygher, Uzbek, Wu, and Yoruba.
Frequently asked questions about OPIs
What does an OPI assess?
An OPI assesses a candidate's proficiency in the non-English language by measuring his or her ability to use the language effectively and appropriately in real-life situations. The OPI does NOT test a candidate's interpreting skills.
How is an OPI conducted?
The OPI is administered over a telephone by an ACTFL certified tester and the candidate. Test candidates must come to the Court Interpreter Program office in Madison to take the test in a room with a proctor. The test is digitally recorded by the LTI IVR system and takes approximately 30 minutes.
What is the content of an OPI?
The content of an OPI is designed to be general in nature and is adapted to a candidate's professional and academic experiences, as well as any special skills or interests (following guidelines set forth by the EEOC and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act). It resembles a conversation between two people but follows a strict standardized structure and elicitation protocol. It is interactive and continuously adapts to the experiences, interests and linguistic competence of the candidate.
What are the qualifications of the raters?
ACTFL raters are language experts from leading universities and government language programs who themselves are "Superior level" speakers. The minimum educational requirement is a Masters Degree in the target language for which they test/rate (most ACTFL Certified testers/raters hold a Ph.D). ACTFL trained and certified testers/raters follow a rigorous training and certification process to insure standardized test and rating frame of reference as well as ongoing tester quality assurance by ACTFL, such as annual tester meeting and refresher workshops. They are required to re-certify every four years.
When are the results available?
Generally, within ten business days.
Who is eligible to take the OPI?
Candidates who have completed orientation, passed the multiple choice test at 80% or higher and who speak a language where an oral certification examination is not available are eligible to take an OPI.
What score is needed on the OPI to be listed on the roster of interpreters for Wisconsin?
The Court Interpreter Program requires a rating of Superior level in order for an interpreter candidate to be listed on the roster.
Speakers at the Superior level are able to communicate in the language with accuracy and fluency in order to participate fully and effectively in conversations on a variety of topics in formal and informal settings from both concrete and abstract perspectives. They discuss their interests and special fields of competence, explain complex matters in detail, and provide lengthy and coherent narrations, all with ease, fluency, and accuracy. They explain their opinions on a number of topics of importance to them, such as social and political issues, and provide structured argument to support their opinions. They are able to construct and develop hypotheses to explore alternative possibilities. When appropriate, they use extended discourse without unnaturally lengthy hesitation to make their point, even when engaged in abstract elaborations. Such discourse, while coherent, may still be influenced by the Superior speaker's own language patterns, rather than those of the target language.
Superior speakers command a variety of interactive and discourse strategies, such as turn-taking and separating main ideas from supporting information through the use of syntactic and lexical devices, as well as intonational features such as pitch, stress and tone. They demonstrate virtually no pattern of error in the use of basic structures. However, they may make sporadic errors, particularly in low-frequency structures and in some complex high-frequency structures more common to formal speech and writing. Such errors, if they do occur, do not distract the native interlocutor or interfere with communication.
What category will I be listed on the roster if I achieve a Superior level rating?
You will be listed at a level "Authorized" on the roster.
How much is the OPI and how do I pay for it?
A check or money order for $143 can be made payable to the Wisconsin Supreme Court and sent to the Court Interpreter Program no less than three weeks before the test date and time.
How do I register to take an OPI?
You may sign up for an OPI by contacting the Court Interpreter Program either by phone at (608) 266-8635 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Open testing periods are offered throughout the year depending upon the availability of the program administrator, test proctor and test room.