For interpreters

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 (external link) is the exclusive licensee of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). ACTFL is a leader in the development of proficiency testing instruments and the training of language professionals in proficiency-based teaching and testing. ACTFL licensed LTI to act as the official ACTFL Testing Office in 1992. Since then, LTI has organized and administered proficiency assessments for hundreds of companies, universities, State Boards of Education and other state and federal government agencies. Clients have included the Defense Language Institute and the Department of Homeland Security. LTI conducts hundreds of thousands of language proficiency assessments every year and delivers testing in over 40 countries.

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 to Wisconsin interpreter candidates in the following languages: Afrikaans, Akan-Twi, Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cebuano, Chavacano, Czech, Dari, Dutch, Ga, Georgian, German, Greek (Modern), Gujarati, Hausa, Hebrew, Hiligaynon, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Ilocano, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kashmiri, Kazakh, Kikongo-Kongo, Krio, Kurdish, Malay, Malayalam, Mandingo-Bambara, Nepali, Pashto, Persian Farsi, Punjabi, Romanian, Serbian/Croatian, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Slovak, Swahili, Swedish, Tajik, Tamil, Tausug, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Turkmen, Uighur, Urdu, Uzbek, Wolof and Yoruba.

Frequently asked questions about OPIs

What is the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview?
The ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview, or OPI, is a live 20-30 minute conversation, taking place over the phone, between a trained, certified ACTFL tester and the candidate. It is a valid and reliable test that measures how well a person speaks a language. The procedure is standardized in order to assess global speaking ability, measuring language production holistically by determining patterns of strengths and weaknesses. Through a series of personalized questions a sample of speech is elicited and rated against the proficiency levels described in ACTFLProficiencyGuidelines 2012 – Speaking or the Inter-Agency Language Roundtable Language Skill Level Descriptors – Speaking (external links).

The primary goal of the OPI is the efficient elicitation of a ratable sample. To be ratable, a speech sample must clearly demonstrate the highest sustained level of performance of the speaker (known as the "floor") and the level at which the speaker can no longer sustain the performance (known as the "ceiling"), over a variety of topics. The OPI resembles a conversation, but in fact, the tester respects a strict elicitation protocol and structures the interview in a specific way.

OPI Familiarization Manual

What is the format of the OPI?
The four mandatory phases of the OPI are the:

How is the OPI rated?
An OPI can be requested on the ACTFL scale or the Inter-Agency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale (external links). An ACTFL OPI will rate between Novice and Superior on the ACTFL scale. An ILR OPI will rate between ILR 0 (No Proficiency) and ILR 5 (Functionally Native). 

The OPI assesses language proficiency in terms of the ability to use the language effectively and appropriately in real-life situations. It does not address when, where, why, or the way in which a speaker has acquired his/her language. The OPI is not an achievement test assessing a speaker's acquisition of specific aspects of course and curriculum content, nor is it tied to any specific method of instruction. The OPI does not compare one individual's performance to others, but each individual performance to the assessment criteria.

Commercial OPIs are single rated;  an ACTFL Certified OPI Tester rates the sample by identifying the ACTFL speaking proficiency level criteria met by the candidate's performance. LTI quality assurance procedures require that over 50% of all commercial OPIs are double rated.

In an Official/Certified OPI, the recorded interview is blindly rated by two ACTFL Certified OPI Testers, whose independent ratings must agree before an official rating is released.

Who conducts and rates the OPI?
ACTFL Certified OPI Testers are highly specialized language professionals who have completed a rigorous training process that concludes with a tester's demonstrated ability to consistently elicit ratable speech samples and consistently rate samples with a high degree of reliability.

ACTFL Certified OPI Testers, through LTI, uphold the highest professional and ethical standards in test administration and rating.

How reliable is the OPI?
The reliability of ACTFL assessments is well documented by 3rd-party studies – the rigor of ACTFL's selection, training and certification process for testers and raters, along with ongoing monitoring, norming and re-certification, are second to none.

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 $139 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 Open testing periods are offered throughout the year depending upon availability of the program manager, test proctor and test room. Be prepared to provide your first and second choice for a preferred test date and three-hour block of time. You should contact our office at least four weeks before the date you wish to be tested to schedule your OPI.

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