Interpreting is a long-term career opportunity for speakers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages. Certified Interpreters are often employed by professionals in the legal, health, arts and government sectors to communicate effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Across Australia, there is more work than there are interpreters, although this varies depending on location and languages spoken.

NAATI currently offers interpreter certification testing for Indigenous languages at the Certified Provisional Interpreter (CPI) level.

Knowing an interpreter is NAATI certified assures professionals and clients that the interpreting will be to a high standard. Many employers and service providers want to employ interpreters that are certified with NAATI.

The below outlines the steps required and support available to guide potential candidates through the process.

How Can I Become Certified?

There are four steps to becoming a NAATI certified interpreter for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages.

Step 1 – Submit an Expression of Interest to NAATI to find out whether you meet the prerequisites for certification.
Step 2 – Pass both the Ethical & Intercultural Competency Tests.
Step 3 – Complete NAATI CPI test preparation training.
Step 4 – Pass the CPI interpreting test.

Step 1: Submit an Expression of Interest

Interpreters aspiring for NAATI certification should fill out the NAATI CPI Indigenous Language Expression of Interest form. NAATI will then assess whether they have met the prerequisites and have a conversation about next steps.

There are three prerequisites that need to be met before someone can sit NAATI Certified Provisional Interpreter (CPI) test:

Strong English

Interpreters need strong listening and speaking skills in English and Language to interpret accurately and quickly in different settings with different speakers.

NAATI’s minimum level of English for CPI’s is a confident speaker; you can interact easily and fluently with native speakers on a range of topics, including abstract ideas. A native speaker would not slow down or change the way they speak.

NAATI needs to see evidence of English proficiency before candidates sit any test. NAATI accepts evidence such as certificates and transcripts from finishing year 12, university or English proficiency test results equivalent to CEFR B2 or ISLPR level 3.

NAATI can be flexible with evidence requirements for Indigenous languages, but you must have English skills at the same level.

Interpreter Training

NAATI needs to see evidence of a candidate’s interpreter training before they sit any test. This training should have covered the role of the interpreter and Code of Ethics, how to achieve ‘accurate’ meaning-based interpreting, techniques for consecutive interpreting, how to prepare for jobs and handle difficult situations on the job.

As a guide, for spoken and sign languages NAATI requires CPI candidates to have, at a minimum, a preparation course of 40 hours covering 4 AQF interpreting units. This interpreting skillset is likely to become more and more accessible in Indigenous languages. For regions and languages that do not have easy access to the accredited skillset, NAATI can accept evidence of unaccredited interpreter training.

Ethical and Intercultural Competency

Ethical Competency is the knowledge and understanding of the AUSIT Code of Ethics. This is required to be applied to situations in professional practice, client interactions and other professional activities.

Intercultural Competency is the knowledge and skill required to interpret culturally specific information between languages appropriately and accurately, and deal with clients in a culturally appropriate manner.

As part of the course, some accredited training courses assess Ethical and Intercultural Competency. If you haven’t completed an accredited training course NAATI can offer training with the hours counting towards Step 3.

Step 2: Pass Ethical & Intercultural Competency Tests

Before sitting the CPI test, candidates must pass both the Ethical Competency (EC) and Intercultural Competency (IC) tests.  

NAATI can make online testing available to any candidates who haven’t already completed these prerequisites in accredited training such as the NAATI skillset or Diploma at a TAFE or university. 

For the EC test, candidates need to know the AUSIT Code of Ethics and how to apply them on the job.  

For the IC test, candidates must have a good understanding of cultural differences and causes of miscommunication.  

For both tests, candidates need to answer six questions. To prepare for the tests, candidates can do an EC and IC training with NAATI, a supporting agency or another external trainer.  

Check the Indigenous Interpreting Project’s training calendar for upcoming training and professional development opportunities.

Interpreters from the Goldfields in WA successfully complete their EC and IC training. Standing (L-R): Roslyn Sullivan, Edie Ulrich, Miriam Brownley, Lillian Turner, Valeska Frazer and Sue Hanson Sitting (L-R): Kathleen Oien (NAATI trainer), Doreen Harris, Karen Cooke and Angelica McLean 

Step 3: Complete NAATI CPI Test Preparation Training

Candidates that would like to sit the NAATI CPI test must do some preparation training before they come to a testing workshop. This will give candidates the best chance at passing the test.  

Candidates can do some training with NAATI, an external trainer, or work through these online materials, available on YouTube, in a self-paced manner.

Check the Indigenous Interpreting Project’s training calendar for upcoming training and professional development opportunities.

Kriol interpreter Tyron Holmes working with NAATI trainer Lauren Campbell on his way to becoming certified.

Step 4: Pass the CPI Test

When candidates have met the prerequisites and are ready to sit their CPI test, candidates or their supporting agencies can request that NAATI run a face-to-face workshop to deliver the test. The workshop includes final preparation training, a practice test with Role-players and the CPI test which is three live role-plays (two face-to-face and one over the phone).  

Candidates must pass all three role-plays to pass the test. If candidates pass two out of three, candidates can sit one supplementary role-play next time testing is available. More information about the CPI test can be found here.

Every Three Years: Recertification

Recertification is the process by which translators and interpreters with NAATI credentials demonstrate that they remain active and committed to the translation and interpreting industry.  

To maintain NAATI certification, certified interpreters need to provide evidence every three years of on-going work practice, and Professional Development: Skills and Knowledge, Industry Engagement and Language Maintenance.

If you are interested in finding out more about becoming an Indigenous language interpreter, please contact NAATI.