New standards and certification requirements

As part of the Language Assistance Services Programme a new standards and certification framework for language practitioners working across the public sector, the NAATI framework, will come into effect from 2024.

The support package for this change is outlined on this page.

Purpose

To improve the quality and consistency of the interpreting services provided to people who need to use interpreters so they can interact safely and effectively with New Zealand government agencies as necessary.

A decision to adopt the National Accreditation Authority for Translator and Interpreters (NAATI) system of interpreter standards and associated certification for those doing interpreting work in the New Zealand Public Sector was made in 2018. (Note translation work is not affected by this change). This followed two reports in 2015 and 2016 that highlighted serious concerns about quality and consistency of interpreting services, and proposed development of interpreting standards and associated certification to address this.  As a result, members of the New Zealand interpreter workforce will need to be certified as meeting the appropriate NAATI standards, following a three year transition period, if they wish to continue providing interpreting services to the New Zealand public sector from 1 July 2024.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is the lead agency in partnership with the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) of the All of Government work. It has adopted the NAATI system and manages the three year transition to the new environment where only NAATI-certified interpreters are engaged to provide interpreting services to the New Zealand public sector agencies from 1 July 2024.

MBIE and DIA have worked with interpreters, other government agencies using interpreting services, Universities and Technical Institutes who deliver interpreter training, the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI) and NAATI to develop this package to support New Zealand interpreters to transition to the NAATI certification system.

We strongly recommend that you visit the NAATI website and take some time to explore the comprehensive NAATI Certification System and all it has to offer to those seeking to become certified as professional interpreters.

NAATI website(external link)

Key goals

By 1 July 2024 all interpreters working in the New Zealand public sector will be certified under the NAATI Certification System. This means:

  • those interpreters for languages for which no test is available will be “Recognised Practising Interpreters”
  • all other interpreters will be either “Certified Provisional Interpreters” or “Certified Interpreters”, depending on their level of skill, qualifications and experience and availability of testing. Some Certified Interpreters may also have achieved additional Certified Specialist Legal and/or Specialist Health Interpreter status.

Eligibility

New Zealand citizens or holders of permanent resident visas, living in New Zealand, who are working, returning to work, or intending to work, as interpreters are eligible to register for the transition support package.

Interpreters who hold temporary entry class visas will generally not be eligible to register for the package. However, if they are currently legally entitled to remain and work in New Zealand beyond 1 July 2024, or are in the process of waiting on approval for permanent resident visa status they should contact Alison.McDonald2@mbie.govt.nz  in the first instance to discuss their case.

Please note that NAATI certification is not required for public sector work until 1 July 2024 so this does not impact people who are currently working legally on short-term visas.

Support package

Every eligible interpreter who wishes to become NAATI certified during the next three years will be invited to register.

New Zealand interpreters registration form(external link) — NAATI website.

Registration will enable access to a comprehensive support package for interpreters who wish to transition. This includes:

  • financial support – funding provided directly to NAATI and training course providers for appropriate free or subsidised testing services and training courses for interpreters registered for the package
  • appropriate and sufficient training and development, and preparation for testing available on campus, off-campus or online to suit interpreters no matter where they are located or when they are available
  • financial support - funding provided directly to NZSTI to enhance and increase the opportunities they can provide for professional development and to help interpreters meet the NAATI criteria for maintaining their certification every three years.

Registration

Practicing interpreters currently working in New Zealand have widely varying backgrounds and will need personalised information on what they need to do to achieve NAATI certification at the level they wish to.

Every eligible interpreter who wishes to become NAATI certified during the next three years will be invited to register. The registration page is available by a link on the NAATI website.

The registration process gathers the following information from each interpreter who wishes to apply for NAATI certification:

  • Demographic information including residence status.
  • Languages the interpreter can, or intends to, interpret.
  • Qualifications.
  • Interpreting experience.

This information will be used to assess the appropriate entry point for the registered interpreter to apply for NAATI certification. Following the assessment, registered interpreters will be provided with an entitlement note advising which courses and tests they will be fully or partially funded for, if they decide to apply for NAATI credentials. Your entitlement note will generally be sent to you by email within one month of registration.

The information will be collected only for the purposes of supporting the award of NAATI credentials. It will be shared between NAATI and MBIE for these purposes only and will not be shared for any other purpose with any other party.

Your private information will be protected in accordance with Privacy Law both in New Zealand and Australia.

Induction

We need to ensure that the New Zealand environment is appropriately reflected in the training and development of interpreters working here. A purpose designed compulsory induction course is in the process of being developed. This course will:

  • set the context for work in the New Zealand Public Sector
  • be compulsory for interpreters working in the NZ Public Sector
  • be self-paced and available online, and
  • incorporate self-testing to ensure all the concepts have been understood.

This induction course is an introduction to interpreting in the public sector and the knowledge required. It is not interpreter training but provides context that all interpreters will need.  It does not replace formal training in interpreting or teach interpreting skills.

The induction course will be available from 1 September 2021 and can be taken anytime between then and 30 June 2024. The induction course will be online and self-paced. It is being developed in New Zealand by MBIE and a New Zealand team of subject matter experts. The compulsory induction course will be accessed via the NAATI website.

MBIE will also work with NZSTI to make available professional development opportunities that build on the induction course that can be done face to face by people who have completed the induction course but would be interested in participating in group discussions and further exploring some of the concepts. Fees for attending these sessions will be met through the support package until 1 July 2024 and therefore free to people who are registered.

Training courses

The greatest portion of the budget for the transition support package is being applied to meeting course fees for individual interpreters. This reflects the importance placed on equipping those interpreters who wish to apply for NAATI certification with the knowledge, skills and competencies they need to consistently deliver services at the required standard. Every person wishing to gain a NAATI certification will need to have completed prerequisite training or a qualification in accordance with the NAATI Certification System.

A group of academics have provided strong support for this transition package and all have courses available now (AUT and UNITEC) or will be ready in semester three ( Victoria University) or are in development (The University of Canterbury and Auckland University) that can help interpreters to fill any gaps or get started with a good introductory course.

These courses will be available online or at various different times. They are at different levels and some are generic, while others are language based. There are choices available and you are encouraged to discuss your needs with the course providers who can assist you. Remember that you have three years to transition and you do not need to sign up for a course immediately. It is important to register as soon as you can though.

There are, of course, many highly skilled interpreters working currently. For those people who have already completed interpreter training, you will still be required to register and complete the mandatory induction course before you can apply for NAATI certification. If you meet the prerequisite requirements, you should be eligible to sit a NAATI certification test without completing further training.

The time to discuss courses will be when you have received your personalised entitlement note after registration telling you what level of course you can do without having to pay a fee.

Pre-requisite courses that are endorsed by NAATI as teaching and assessing the skills and knowledge required by the translating and interpreting profession are available on the NAATI website. The website is updated regularly to include new courses that have been endorsed.

Current endorsed qualifications(external link) — NAATI website

Assessment and testing

Professions generally require additional learning and testing to be completed after achieving academic qualifications. This is to ensure consistent standards are being met across the profession. Transitioning the New Zealand interpreter workforce into the NAATI Certification System will support a fully-fledged interpreting profession in New Zealand.

There are a number of pathways into the NAATI Certification System. These are described below and in detail on the NAATI website.

  • There is no test to achieve “Recognised Practising Interpreter” status. To achieve this you need only to have an appropriate level of English, complete formal training in interpreting, which includes ethics of the profession, and meet the required number of hours of interpreting, some of which can be simulated. NAATI will assess the documents you submit as part of your application, and will grant you a Recognised Practising Interpreter credential if you meet the requirements.
  • You will need to pass a NAATI test to achieve “Certified Provisional Interpreter” status or “Certified Interpreter” status regardless of your academic qualifications or experience.
  • You will also need to undertake ongoing professional development, including attending conferences, webinars, additional training etc. so that your certification can be maintained every three years.

Pathway to certification

Recognised Practising

A Recognised Practising credential is granted in languages of emerging or low-demand communities where NAATI does not offer certification testing. A practitioner who holds a Recognised Practising credential has recent and regular experience as an interpreter but does not define a level of transfer competency.

Preferred pathway

  • Diploma of Interpreting or higher (AQF Level 5 or comparable overseas qualification).

Alternative pathway

  • Minimum 40 hours AQF units in interpreting theory and/or practice assessed by NAATI as meeting prerequisite.

Certified Provisional Interpreter

Certified Provisional Interpreters transfer non-complex, non-specialised messages from one language into another, accurately reflecting the meaning.

Preferred pathway:

  • Diploma of Interpreting or higher (AQF Level 5 or comparable overseas qualification).

Alternative pathway:

  • Minimum 40 hours AQF units in interpreting theory and/or practice assessed by NAATI as meeting prerequisite.

Certified Interpreter

Certified Interpreters have more experience than Certified Provisional Interpreters. They transfer complex, non-specialised messages from one language into another.

Pathway

  • Advanced Diploma of Interpreting or higher (AQF Level 6 or comparable overseas qualification).

Certified Specialist Health Interpreter

Certified Specialist Health Interpreters are experienced and accomplished interpreters who are experts in interpreting in the health domain. They have completed training and undertake continuous professional development in specialist health interpreting.

Pathway

Certified Specialist Legal Interpreter

Certified Specialist Legal Interpreters are experienced and accomplished interpreters who are experts in interpreting in the legal domain. They have completed training and undertake continuous professional development in specialist legal interpreting.

Pathway

The New Zealand Certification pathway diagram outlining steps to becoming certified
The New Zealand Certification pathway diagram outlining steps to becoming certified.

NAATI and recertification

Recertification is the process by which translators and interpreters with NAATI certification demonstrate that they remain active and committed to the interpreting industry at regular intervals.

Before the expiry date, practitioners are required to apply for recertification and provide evidence of continuing work practice and professional development to maintain the certification for a further three years.

Full details of NAATI recertification criteria can be found on the NAATI website.

Recertification(external link) – NAATI website

In summary this involves:

Work practice

  • An average of 40 work practice assignments or hours per year (120 assignments over three years).
  • If you hold more than one NAATI certification you are expected to provide evidence of work practice for each certification separately.

Professional development

  • Achieve a minimum of 120 points over 3 years.
  • Achieve the minimum points requirement in the compulsory categories of Skills Development and Knowledge, Industry Engagement and Maintenance of Language.
  • In Category 2 (Industry Engagement), one activity must come under the Ethics sub-category.

To assist practitioners, MBIE will be working closely with NZSTI and providing financial support to cover free professional development opportunities for eligible practitioners.

NAATI maintains a Professional Development Catalogue which covers the types of activities you can claim to meet the requirements. NAATI understands that this catalogue may not list every possible activity which could be accepted. If you have queries about whether a professional development activity would be accepted and it is not clear from reading the catalogue, please contact NAATI directly for advice by email to info@naati.com.au.

Funding and support package summary

Following registration each eligible participant will receive a personalised entitlement note detailing the courses and tests available to them at no charge or attracting a subsidy. Your entitlement note will generally be sent to you by email within one month of registration.

Training courses are being developed by the tertiary sector to support those who do not already have the necessary prerequisites to gain a credential under the NAATI Certification System. Some of these will be ready to run during the second semester 2021 and will become available progressively throughout the transition period to ensure that demand can be met.

Courses required as pre-requisites to gain credentials under NAATI’s Certification system will be free of charge to eligible people for at least one attempt. Further attempts may also be provided free of charge or at a subsidised rate. This will depend on market need for specific languages.

All NAATI testing will be free of charge to eligible people for at least one attempt. Further attempts may also be provided free of charge or at a subsidised rate. This will depend on market demand for specific languages.

The compulsory New Zealand Induction Course will be available from 1 September 2021 and available via the NAATI website Learning Management System. This course can be taken at any time prior to 1 July 2024 and is done online, self-paced and self-testing

After 1 July 2024

We hope, by providing the Transition Support Package, that current interpreters and those who join the profession and wish to work in the New Zealand Public Sector from 1 July 2024 will be certified under the NAATI Certification System.

We will review the Transition Support Package by 31 December 2023 and, at that time will be well placed to consider the nature and extent of any further support that may be required beyond 1 July 2024.

In this section

Feedback report: proposed interpreter transition support package

Interpreters were invited to consider and provide feedback for a proposal for a support package for New Zealand interpreters to transition to the NAATI certification system. This report summarises the feedback received and what has been done with it.

Last updated: 08 July 2021