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Language Access

Fast Facts:

  • Languages and dialects spoken in California—more than 250
  • Percentage of Californians that speak a non-English language at home: 44%
  • Percentage of Californians with English-language limitations: approximately 19% (more than 7 million)
  • Languages certified for court interpreters: 16 - Arabic, Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, Cantonese, Farsi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language
  • Percent of interpreter services provided in Spanish: 72

What is Language Access?

Language access allows limited-English-proficient (LEP) individuals access to a wide range of services. As defined by the U.S. Department of Justice, LEP individuals are persons who do not speak English as their primary language and have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.

How Language Access Impacts Court Users

Without proper language assistance, LEP court users may be excluded from meaningful participation in the judicial process. Many LEP litigants appear without an attorney, and have had to rely on friends and family members (who may not understand legal terminology or court procedures) to act as interpreters. Further, LEP court users’ language needs are not limited to the courtroom; the need for language assistance extends to all points of contact with the public, including selfhelp centers, filing windows, court-connected clinics, telephone assistance, and beyond.

On January 22, 2015, the Judicial Council adopted the Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts, which provides a consistent statewide approach to ensure language access for all LEP court users in California in all 58 superior courts. The plan sets the goal that beginning immediately where resources permit, and by 2017, qualified interpreters will be provided in the California courts to LEP court users, at no cost to the LEP court user, in all courtroom proceedings. By 2020, the goal is to provide court interpreters in all court-ordered, court-operated events.