Official or co-official languages

English, Welsh

Brief description of linguistic diversity

A wide range of languages is spoken in most metropolitan areas and increasingly in rural areas as well, with the influx of migrant labour. The 2011 National Census indicated that over 100 languages were used on a daily basis in the boroughs of Greater London, with 22% (1.7 million) stating that English was not their first language.  320,000 indicated that they could not speak English at all. The ‘Multilingual Manchester’ project (University of Manchester) reported 153 languages spoken in  Greater Manchester, while the Birmingham City Council website lists 31 language organizations registered with the Council.



Current legislative mandates for LIT and certification

Certification does exist, in the sense that there is a recognized LIT qualification and holders of that qualification can apply to join a central register of qualified interpreters. There is, however, no statutory protection of title for interpreters, i.e. there is no legal impediment to any person trading as an interpreter (or translator), irrespective of whether they are qualified or registered.

Judges do not require only qualified LITs to be used, although they might express a preference for a qualified LIT. In practice, it is usually only after the failure of a trial due to faulty interpreting that the matter of the qualification and/or fitness to practice of the interpreter supplied comes to light.

Until late 2011, a National Agreement on the Use of Interpreters in the Criminal Justice System did exist in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This recommended the use of only qualified LITs in police and court proceedings. These LITs were to be sourced from a central register of qualified public service interpreters (the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) wherever possible, or from secondary lists noted in the agreement, where the NRPSI could not supply. The Ministry of Justice rescinded this agreement in late 2011. It replaced it with a ‘Framework Contract’ for the supply of LITs for all criminal justice proceedings from a single commercial supplier. This supplier is required to maintain their own register of LITs, and to deal with all matters qualification, suitability to practice, procurement, placement and remuneration. The supplier is also required to manage complaints against interpreters on the list.

The implementation of the new Framework Contract led in practice to a ‘nose-dive’ in the quality of language interpreting supplied to courts and police services around the country. A significant number of qualified LITs refused to supply their services to the Criminal Justice System under the new agreement and the supplier quickly resorted to replacing them with under or non-qualified replacements, in an attempt to meet the requirements of their contract with the Ministry.

The NRPSI continues to exist, however, and anecdotal evidence indicates that numerous courts and police stations continue to access interpreters from the NRPSI rather than, or in addition to, using the new Framework Contract and the nominated commercial supplier.

Responsible parties:


Current accrediting bodies

Accreditation for LITs is via the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) exam, set by the (Chartered) Institute of Linguists Educational Trust (IoLET). This is widely recognized throughout the UK as the benchmark professional qualification for Public Service Interpreters in general and for LITs in particular. MA programmes in interpreting and translation with an LIT element are also available at a number of institutions. In practice, however, as a pass in the DPSI is a pre-requisite for registration on the NRPSI , and is therefore a de facto passport to work as an LIT (at least until early 2012),  MA interpreting students often also take the DPSI examination as a vocational adjunct to their academic MA qualification

Does register exist?

Yes, the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI). It was established in 1994.  A not for profit, non-statutory regulator, it maintains a central register of suitably qualified and security-cleared interpreters, including LIT specialists. Accessible online to the public and public services, it includes a search function for the location of a suitably qualified language interpreter.

Full registration on the NRPSI is via a DPSI qualification or equivalent and 400 hours of accredited PSI experience. Annual re-registration is required, for which an annual fee of £198 is payable. Evidence of a minimum of 10 hours of accredited interpreting activity for the previous year must be produced for re-registration.

Who develops certification exams?

(Chartered) Institute of Linguists Educational Trust (IoLET)

Who/How many rate performances?

Examiners appointed by the IoLET


Limited, informal. 


Test Format:


T & I in one exam?


Screening exam? Describe.


Test type/format

Simulated interpreting role plays, oral sight translations, written translation tests. All performed under timed conditions, examiner on-site for oral performances


Domains tested

Criminal and Civil Law



Band descriptors



Website? Dissemination of info about certification


Detailed and extensive information on all aspects of the examination procedure, band scores, marking procedures and examination format are available on the CIOL website, including access to past papers.

Requirements to sit exam

None. Open to any applicant.

Sample questions or practice exam available?



Additional qualifications for certification (experience, training, educational level, nationality)


Cost to candidate/#of locations/ frequency

£625 all 5 units, once annually

Feedback on exam performance


Score grievance procedure available


Maximum nº of sittings


Permanent or renewable certification Permanent





Revocation of certification possible?


If so, for what reasons?


Performance monitored? If so, how?