Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Home page

Frequently Asked Questions

What kinds of DSHS certification and qualification testing are available?
DSHS currently certifies social service interpreters, medical interpreters, translators, and DSHS active/potential bilingual employees, mental health licensed agency personnel in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Korean, Cambodian, and Laotian. The Department also qualifies social service interpreters and medical interpreters in all other languages (screening test).

Will I get a certificate when I pass the screening test?
Instead of a certificate, interpreters who pass the screening test will be issued an authorization letter. The authorization letter qualifies an interpreter to serve DSHS clients.

Where do I get detailed information about DSHS language certification and testing?
The Examination Manual (in Word format) provides detailed information on certification and testing.

What is the difference between an interpreter and a translator?
An interpreter is a person who orally transfers a message from one spoken language to another. A translator is a person who transfers a message in writing from one language to another.  

What is the difference between certified languages and screened languages?

Certified languages are those in which interpreters go through conventional modalities of testing. The written and oral test instruments cover both English and a second language (target language). Those who meet the minimum proficiency requirements are issued a certificate.

Due to resource restrictions, it is not feasible to develop language-specific test instruments for each and every language in such a linguistically diverse state as Washington. Therefore, a screening test was developed for all non-certified or screened languages. Interpreters in screened languages go through a totally different modality of testing. Unlike the certified languages, the written screening test is not language specific. The oral screening test utilizes the target language spoken by the interpreter to test his or her linguistic and interpreting skills. This includes any language, even any dialects within a language. Since the scope of the screening test is not as comprehensive as a conventional certified test, those who meet the minimum proficiency requirements are issued an authorization letter in lieu of a certificate.

Currently, no translator test is available for screened languages.

How do you define a certified/authorized interpreter?
A certified/authorized interpreter is a person who has passed the required DSHS interpreter examination, or has passed the interpreter examination offered by the Washington State Office of the Administrator for the Courts or the Federal Courts.

How do you define a certified translator?
A certified translator is a person who has passed the required DSHS written translation examination, or has passed the American Translators Association written translation examination.

How do I register for a test?
To register for a test, please follow the steps in the how to schedule a test online. For DSHS bilingual staff, please call 360-664-6038 to schedule your test. You should learn more about what kind of tests are available, what kind of questions are in the test, and other test-related information before you register for a test. Detailed test-related information are included in the Examination Manual.

Can I submit my test application online?
Yes. Please see the question and answer above.

Can I register for a test over the telephone?
No. Scheduling a test over the telephone is only for DSHS bilingual employees.

How do I get pretest materials to prepare for the test?
Pretest materials, including study guides, are available at the LTC website. You can access the pretest booklets and oral practice recordings by following the appropriate links on the right hand side of the LTC homepage.

Will the pretest package give me what is needed to pass the test?
The pretest materials, both written and oral, are intended to familiarize you with the formats of the test and how test items are constructed. The study guides will help you know what to expect on the test, but will not be enough to help you improve your language ability, your interpreting skills, or your knowledge base in any particular field.

Where do I get a testing schedule so that I can pick my test date and time?
When you follow the steps in how to schedule a test online, you will see open test dates and time slots. Then you can pick your test date and time.

Can I re-schedule my test if something unexpected comes up?
Since test dates and time slots are extremely limited, you would want to keep your test appointment if at all possible. If not possible, you need to call our office at 360-664-6111 within ten (10) calendar days from the date your confirmation letter is sent to reschedule your test. Otherwise, you will have to pay another test fee to re-schedule your test. It is crucial to talk to the scheduler at this phone number. If you leave a message on the voice mail, it is your responsibility to follow through with your request within the ten-day (10) time frame. Any oral or written request after the 10-day time frame will not be honored.

How long does it take to confirm my appointment date and time?
When you schedule your own test online, confirmation is instantaneous. An appointment confirmation letter and appointment reminder letter will be sent to your email address.

Can I call your office to check on my test schedule status?
We are extremely short-staffed with very high volume of work. Please, do not call our office for your schedule status. Instead, please save or print the email confirmation letter for your reference.

How long does it take to get my test scores?
It takes approximately four (4) weeks to grade the written test, and approximately six (6) weeks to grade the oral test.

Can I call your office to find out my test scores?
Test scores will not be released over the telephone. A score report letter will be sent to you once your scores are available. However, if you have not received your test score two (2) months after your test date, you should call our office to check your score status.

How long does it take to get the certificate/authorization letter after I pass all test requirements?
If your score report letter states that you have met all test requirements and are now considered certified or authorized as an interpreter, a certificate/authorization letter will be mailed to you the following month from the month of your score report letter. For example, if your score report letter is dated 7/1/2002, your certificate/authorization letter will be mailed to you at the beginning of August, 2002.

I am certified as a social service interpreter with a passing score on simultaneous interpreting. Do I get a Level 2 certificate?

No, you get the same certificate as those who have passed sight translation and consecutive interpreting (Level 1) but not simultaneous interpreting. However, your simultaneous test score will remain in our database. When simultaneous interpreting is needed for social service settings, users of simultaneous interpreting will contact LTC to obtain information on who is qualified for such assignment.

Can I request a list of certified or authorized interpreters/translators?
Information about certified/authorized interpreters and translators can be found at our internet homepage by clicking on the Find Interpreter or Translator link.

How do I let you know about an address, phone number, or name change?
You should inform us in writing. For a name change request, a court document (photo copy) such as a marriage or divorce certificate should be attached to your written request. Your current mailing address and phone numbers are also necessary.

I misplaced my certificate. Can I request a replacement?
You may send your request to us in writing or via e-mail (dshsct@dshs.wa.gov) with the following information: your full name, social security number, language, and certificate type (medical, social service, or translator). Your current mailing address and phone numbers are also necessary.

What policies apply to the DSHS language testing and certification process?
All policies applying to testing and certification are included in the Examination Manual. The same policies can also be found in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC388-03) (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=388-03). You can find the answer to your specific question in either document.

How do I get interpreting and translation work once I am certified or authorized?
Once you are assigned a certificate number or authorization number in your score report letter, you are considered a certified or authorized interpreter or translator. DSHS does not employ interpreters and translators directly. Instead, we contract with external agencies to provide language services to our clients. If you are looking for work as an interpreter or translator, you need to contact the DSHS contracted agencies to start the process. Find a spoken language service provider.

I have a contract with a language agency to serve DSHS. What should I do if I rarely or never get any interpreting assignment?
You should contact the agency you contract with.

I am a certified/authorized interpreter/translator. How do I set up my own interpreter/translation agency?
If you plan to set up your own language agency, please contact Business Licensing at the Department of Licensing . Contact information for Business License Information can also be found in the Government Pages in your phone book.

I do not live in Washington State. Can I take your test to become a certified/authorized interpreter/translator?
We only test people who are available to serve DSHS clients in Washington State.

I am certified as an interpreter/translator by an entity other than your agency. Do I still need to be certified by your agency to serve your clients?
Certificates issued by entities other than Washington State DSHS will be considered on a case by case basis. Please contact dshsct@dshs.wa.gov with your inquiry.

How do I get certified as an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter?
Please contact the Office for the Deaf and Hard Hearing in the Department of Social and Health Services for information about becoming an ASL interpreter. Their contact information can also be found in the Government Pages in your phone book.

How do I get certified as a court/legal interpreter?
Please contact the Office of the Administrator for the Courts for information about becoming a court certified interpreter. Their contact information can also be found in the Government Pages in your phone book.

How do I qualify for the Interpreter & Translation services?
As a DSHS applicant or client, you qualify based simply on your need to communicate effectively regarding DSHS services.Learn about DSHS Services.

How do I request Interpreter & Translation services?
Just let a local DSHS office worker or health care provider know. Often a poster with examples of many languages is provided at the local DSHS office to help in identifying the language you speak -- simply point at the sentence written in your language. Learn about DSHS Services.

How long after I make my request can I get Interpreter or Translation services?
Usually, services will be provided to help you without any significant delay in service delivery. Please ask your local DSHS office or your medical provider for more information.

What if I have a complaint or problem with interpretation or translation provided by DSHS?
You may talk directly with the local office worker or supervisor. Alternately, you may submit your problem or complaint in writing to that office. Other options include contacting Interpreter Services and Customer Service at 1-800-562-3022. For issues regarding translated documents, contact the office/program/administration as indicated on the document.