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OCCI Frequently Asked Questions

Community Interpreting

What is Community Interpreting?

As defined by the National Standard Guide for Community Interpreting Services:


"Bidirectional interpreting that takes place in the course of communication among speakers of different languages.  The context is the provision of public services such as healthcare or community services and in settings such as government agencies, community centres, legal settings, educational institutions, and social services.  Other terms have been used to describe community interpreting such as “public service interpreting”, “cultural interpreting”, “dialogue interpreting”, “institutional interpreting, “liaison interpreting” and “ad hoc interpreting”.  However, community interpreting remains the most widely accepted term in Canada."

What is the difference among “interpretation”, “translation”, and “sight translation”?

Interpretation is the conversion of a spoken message from one language to another while preserving the message as faithfully as possible.


Translation is the process of transposing the meaning of a written text from one language (source) to the other (target) while retaining the elements of meaning, form and tone.


Sight translation is the conversion from written material in one language to a spoken version in another language. It also occurs when an instant oral version is required of a written text.


Accredited Community Interpreters are qualified to provide interpretation and sight translation.  It is recommended for sight translations that the interpreter be provided with the written material in advance and time to prepare for the sight translation.

Does the OCCI accredit translators?

No.  The OCCI accreditation framework applies to individuals who seek to be accredited as Community Interpreter, that is, to provide language interpretation services in public sector service delivery. 

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Hiring/Working with Professional Community Interpreters

What is a professional interpreter?

As defined by the National Standard Guide for Community Interpreting Services:


"A fluently bilingual individual with appropriate training and experience who is able to interpret with consistency and accuracy and who adheres to the Standards of

Practice and Ethical Principles.

How do I know if the interpreters I work with are qualified?

According to the National Standard Guide for Community Interpreting Services, a community interpreter is required to have succesfully completed an interpreter training by a recognized institution, passed a language proficiency test, have documented experience in the field, and have post-secondary education.  


If the interpreter you are working with was booked through an Interpretation Service Provider (ISP), the ISP has the responsibility to ensure that all interpreters hired or contracted are qualified professionals capable of performing the specified task.  To read more about the responsibilities of ISPs, please refer to the National Standard Guide for Community Interpreting Services.


Familiarize yourself with interpreter credentials.

What should an Interpreting Service Provider do if an accredited interpreter is not available?

In the event that an Accredited Interpreter is not available, the Interpreting Service Provider should:

  • Use professionally skilled, competent interpreters who are otherwise qualified by education, training and experience to carry out the assignment successfully.

  • Use "on dossier" processes to select the most competent interpreters on file.

  • Assign the most qualified interpreter possible based upon the nature of the assignment and the language in question.

  • Properly monitor, assess and modify on an ongoing basis the interpreter’s data status based upon performance.

  • Advise the consumer of qualifications of the interpreter being assigned.

What can I expect the interpreter to do?

The following are the Interpreter Role Boundaries, as defined by the National Standard Guide on Community Interpreting Services:


Maintenance of Role Boundaries


20. The interpreter’s role is to enable communication between parties, who speak on their own behalf and make their own decisions.

21. The interpreter does not advocate on behalf of any party.

22. The interpreter does not enter into the discussion, give advice or express personal opinions about the matter of the encounter, or show reactions to any of the parties.

23. The interpreter does not filter communication, mediate, or speak on behalf of any party.

24. The interpreter avoids unnecessary contact with the parties. Prior to the encounter, the interpreter may initiate contact to ensure understanding of the language, to confirm details of

an appointment, and to convey any information about the encounter needed by the non-English speaker.

25. The interpreter does not perform services other than interpretation services for any party.

26. The interpreter utilizes the least obtrusive mode of interpretation.

27. The interpreter protects her or his own privacy, well-being and safety. Interpreters strive to perform their professional duties within their prescribed role and refrain from personal involvement.

Can I ask the interpreter to complete my patient/client's form?

No.  While our National Standard Guide on Community Interpreting Services does not explicitly state that an interpreter may not render anything in a written form, interpreting is defined as specific to "spoken communication", meaning that the source message may be delivered in the target only in an oral/spoken form.


The following is a recommended best practice when a form must be completed by/for a client/patient with limited English proficiency with an interpreter present:


  • An agency person (service provider, staff, volunteer, student) must be present along with the client and interpreter.

  • The interpreter provides sight translation and interpreting, the client provides their information, the agency person clarifies any questions or issues related to the form being filled out and captures responses on behalf of the client.

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OCCI Ontario Council on Community Interpreting

Accreditation Tiers

How to apply
Renewal Cycle

Applying to become an OCCI Accredited Community Interpreter

How do I apply to become an OCCI Accredited Community Interpreter?

The core competency training, interpreter skills assessment testing, and proof of English proficiency requirements are outlined on this website.  Click here for details.


You must provide documentation as proof of how you have met each requirement.  All documentation issued in a non-English language must be accompanied by a certified translation.  


Carefully review the qualification criteria before applying.  If you have any questions about the criteria, please send your questions to  Please be as specific as possible. 


There is a $50.00 non-refundable portion of the application fee.  Click here for current application fees.


Once you are ready to apply, click here to complete the online application form.  

What are the fees to apply for and renew my ACI status?

ACI application and first five-year ACI status period:  $125

(n.b. there is a $50 non-refundable application fee)


Initial ACI application plus Specialization (for up to three of:  Medical, Legal, and/or Trainer): $150

(n.b. If you apply for specialization when you apply for ACI status)   


Specialization application (for up to three of:  Medical, Legal, and/or Trainer):  $50

(n.b For applications submitted separately from initial ACI application)


Subsequent five-year renewal: $100

(n.b. conditional upon review proof of PD requirements and remaining in good standing)  Click here to apply for renewal. 


1. Cards are issued for a five-year period
2. An interpreter must submit all documentation at time of application submission
3. Application for specializations will be charged at $50 if requested separately subsequent to initial Accredited Community Interpreter application
4. If the application is not approved, OCCI will retain $50 as an administration fee.


Payments may be made by cheque or email transfer to  By post, please send to:

PO Box 31338, Bayview 16th Ave.
Richmond Hill, Ontario
L4C 0V7

What is the ACI accreditation status/renewal cycle?

Your ACI status must be renewed every five years.  The ACI status cycle runs from the date of accreditation/renewal in Year 1 to December 31 of Year 5.  The following illustrates the ACI status periods for the first four years:


  • ACI awarded between July 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015: expires December 31, 2020

  • ACI awarded between Jan 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016:  expires December 31, 2021

  • ACI awarded between Jan 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017:  expires December 31, 2022

  • ACI awarded between Jan 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018:  expires December 31, 2023

How can I fulfill the PD requirements for renewal?

From the OCCI Accreditation Framework:

3.0 Continuing education

3.1          10 hours of OCCI recognized Professional Development per year

     (proof of attendance required;  PD must be earned during time as an ACI in good standing)


  • ACIs can fulfill their PD requirements by attending events, workshops, and courses focused on maintenance,  improvement, and enhancement of interpreting skills and knowledge.  The recognized workshops and events are listed on the OCCI PD & Events page along with the eligible number of PD hours for the event.

  • In addition, up to 4 hours of the annual PD requirement may be fulfilled through (1) business practice skill development, (2) practice related self-care and personal development, or (3) contributions to advancing professionalization of our industry , such as mentorship of new interpreters, publications – authoring or co-authoring articles relevant to the advancement of community interpreting, presentations/speaking at events about community interpreting, or volunteering on boards/committees related to language access and/or community interpreting .  Requests will be evaluated on an individual basis, and may require additional review time – please allow for extra review time for these renewal applications.


  • OCCI strongly encourages ACIs to commit to fulfilling 10 hours of PD each year.  However, we do recognize that this may not always be possible so we allow for up to five hours to be carried over to a subsequent year.

  • In other words, over the course of the five-year cycle, an ACI must fulfill a total of 50 hours of PD with a minimum of 5 PD hours per calendar year.  The other hours may be spread out as the ACI chooses.

  • A word of caution:  do not let carry-over hours pile up!  You may suddenly find yourself having to complete 25 hours in the last few months before your status expires.

  • Keep us updated on your completed PD.  Click here for the Completed PD Submission form.

I'm a MAG accredited interpreter. Which OCCI ACI requirements does that satisfy?

OCCI ACI applicants who provide proof of MAG (Ministry of the Attorney General) interpreter accreditation will not be required to provide additional proof of English proficiency, i.e. satisfying requirement 1.1.


In addition, if you would like to apply for ACI Legal Specialization, MAG accreditation would satisfy requirement of 2.2.2 (Terminology ).  You would still be required to satisfy 2.2.3:  250 hours of documented legal interpreting experience.  If you are able to show proof of 250 interpreting hours paid by MAG, this will satisfy the requirement of interpreting experience in a legal setting for OCCI ACI Legal Specialization.

How long will it take for my application to be reviewed?

Applicants will receive notice of the result of their application within four to six weeks of their application being received by OCCI


Review results are:  Application Approved, Application Requires Additional Review, and Application Incomplete.


“Application Approved”

You have met the requirements to be accredited by OCCI.  You will be notified of the level of accreditation achieved, when to expect to receive your ACI card, and the procedure for keeping the OCCI advised of your professional development hours.


“Application Requires Additional Review”

You will be advised of the aspects of your applications that require additional supporting documentation and the deadline for submitting the required documentation.  Applications that require such review will be reviewed at the next scheduled meeting of the OCCI Accreditation Policies/Procedures/Standards Subcommittee which meets every three (3) months.

At the end of the additional review process, results will be either “Application Approved” or “Application Incomplete”.



“Application incomplete”

One or more accreditation requirements have not been met.  You will be advised of the requirements that are not met and we will provide you with information on how to meet those requirements.  You will be offered the option to have your application placed on hold for up to six months or to reapply at a later date.  If you choose to reapply at a later date, the refundable portion of the fees paid will be returned to you.

Which core competency training is required to become accredited?

In order to become accredited, interpreters must have completed core competency training through the Language Interpreter Training Programs (LITP) delivered by community colleges and universities.


Experienced and previously trained interpreters can apply to be recognized through the PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment Recognition) program by colleges offering the LITP.

Can I be accredited if I did not complete the LITP training?

The OCCI has included a grandfathering protocol through which interpreters trained prior to January 1, 2015 will be evaluated according to established OCCI accreditation requirements for recognition.


In order to be eligible for grandfathering, interpreters must have completed a recognized community-based interpreter core competency training prior to Jan 1, 2015.


If you completed a community-based interpreter training after Jan. 1, 2015, we encourage you to explore the PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment Recognition) program offered by colleges delivering the LITP.

Which requirements fall under the 'grandfathering' protocol?

The grandfathering protocol applies only to the core competency training requirement which requires interpreters to have completed core competency training through the Language Interpreter Training Programs (LITP) delivered by community colleges and universities.


In order to be eligible for grandfathering of core competency training, interpreters must have completed a recognized community-based interpreter core competency training prior to Jan 1, 2015. 


How can I satisfy the English proficiency requirement?

Requirement 1.1 can be satisfied by the following:
IELTS Academic Test or iBT TOEFL, Ontario college language assessment, two years of formal post-secondary education where the language of instruction was English, or a minimum two-year post-secondary program of English interpretation or translation program.


Minimum required scores:  

IELTS Academic Test:  Speaking:7; Reading: 7; Listening: 7; Writing: 6.5

iBT TOEFL:  Reading: 24, Listening: 23; Speaking: 27; Writing: 27

ELL 100:  EAC 150


Ontario College Language Assessments Options:


Humber College is an IELTS Information/Testing Centre


Seneca College offers ELL100 English whose language assessment has both oral and written components. It costs $35 and the results are available within 24-48 hours.  

Applicants who live 100 km or more away from Toronto have the option of registering for a remote assessment. Follow this link to select "ELL100E1P" and contact campusstaff:

Where can I go to prepare for and take the ILSAT or CILISAT?

Please follow the links below to find out more about some of the options available to you to prepare for, and take, the ILSAT and CILISAT exams.  This list is not comprehensive and it is intended as information only.


Course options to prepare:


Seneca College:




Interpreter testing programs and skills development workshops



Testing Centres:


Click here for a list of ILSAT test centres



Language Tests



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