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Interpretation services in the courts

All court proceedings in Singapore are conducted in English.

The courts provide in-house interpretation services in the following languages and dialects to parties who do not speak or are not comfortable communicating in the English language:

Court

Type of language or dialect

State Courts

  • Chinese (Mandarin), Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese.
  • Malay, Javanese, Boyanese.
  • Tamil, Malayalam, Urdu.

Family Justice Courts (FJC)

  • Chinese (Mandarin), Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka.
  • Malay, Javanese, Boyanese.
  • Tamil.

Supreme Court

  • Chinese (Mandarin), Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese.
  • Malay, Javanese and Boyanese.
  • Tamil and Malayalam.
If you require interpretation in a language or dialect not provided by the respective courts or if no suitable court interpreter is available, you will have to engage a private or freelance interpreter.

Refer to the following to find out the process to follow, depending on which court your case is heard in.

For State Courts

For criminal cases, there is no need to engage a private interpreter as all interpretation services (irrespective of language) are provided by the State Courts and are free of charge. However, you will still need to make the necessary applications for interpretation in your criminal case.

If you wish to engage a private interpreter for a civil case, your private interpreter will have to fill in and submit the Oath Form (PDF, 141 KB) to the court officer where your hearing is scheduled to be heard.

For Family Justice Courts

If you make a request for any of the following languages, the court will put up a request on your behalf to the freelance interpreters’ administration team (FIAT) within the FJC to arrange for a freelance interpreter:

  • Bahasa Indonesia.
  • Hindi.
  • Punjabi.
  • Thai.
  • Myanmar.
  • Tagalog.
  • Vietnamese.
  • Japanese.
  • Korean.
  • Sign language.

FIAT will only arrange for a freelance interpreter if you are filing for the following:

  • Personal protection order (PPO) applications.
  • Maintenance applications.
  • Youth Courts applications.

Freelance interpretation services for these applications are free of charge.

Note
FIAT will not arrange for an interpreter if you require freelance interpreter services for any other cases heard in the FJC.

You will have to engage a private interpreter for these cases.

For Supreme Court

For criminal cases, there is no need to engage a private interpreter as all interpretation services (irrespective of language) are provided by the Supreme Court and are free of charge. However, you will still need to make the necessary requests for interpretation in your criminal case.

If you wish to engage a private interpreter for a civil case, your private interpreter will have to fill in the Oath of Office of an Interpreter Form. You can obtain the form from the Legal Registry (Level 2, Supreme Court) during operating hours.

Alternatively, your private interpreter may fill in the Form of Oath (Form 217, Rules of Court).

Your private interpreter will have to take an oath of office of an interpreter before the duty registrar at least 15 minutes before the hearing starts. You can submit a request to see the duty registrar by obtaining a queue number via the Centralised Display Management System kiosks located on Level 1 and 2 of the Supreme Court.

You will then have to submit the oath form to the court officer where your hearing is scheduled to be heard.

How to arrange for interpretation services

Refer to the following for the fees for court interpretation services and how to arrange for an interpreter in the respective courts.

The procedure and fees for arranging for an interpreter in the State Courts will depend on the case type.

For criminal cases

If you are representing yourself in a criminal case, you should inform the court of the language you are comfortable communicating in when you are first charged in court.

Your language preference will be recorded by the court and an interpreter for the language you have selected will be requested by the court to attend your future court sessions (if any).

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for criminal cases heard in the State Courts are free of charge.

For Magistrate's Complaints

If you are filing a Magistrate's Complaint, you may indicate your preferred language when you submit the Magistrate’s Complaint Form.

Arrangements will be made to assign an interpreter when required.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for Magistrate's Complaints are free of charge.

For civil cases (District Court and Magistrates' Court)

If you are representing yourself in a civil case heard in the District Court and Magistrate's Court, you should file a Request for Hearing Administrative Support via eLitigation at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau for court interpretation services.

Parties who are represented may submit their request through their lawyer.

The request should contain the following information:

  • The case number.
  • The parties to the suit.
  • The names of witnesses requiring an interpreter (if applicable).
  • The court or chamber number the court proceeding is held.
  • The stage of the proceedings (for example, fresh or adjourned hearing).
  • The date and time of the hearing.
    • In the event the hearing is fixed for more than 1 day, the date and time on which the interpreter’s services are required.
  • The number of days for which the interpretation services are required.
  • The language or dialect spoken by the witnesses requiring the interpretation services.

All requests should be submitted by one of the following time periods, depending on whichever comes earlier.

  • No later than 2 working days from the date of the pre-trial conference (PTC) or other proceedings at which a hearing date has been scheduled.
  • At least 2 weeks before the day on which court interpretation services are required.

If an interpreter is required and the court has not been informed or if the time periods stated have not been observed, any assignment of an interpreter will be subject to availability.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for civil cases heard in the District Court or Magistrate's Court are free of charge.

If a private interpreter is engaged for a language or dialect not provided by the State Courts, you will have to contact the private interpreter directly to find out their fees.

For civil cases (tribunals)

You may indicate your preferred language in the Community Justice and Tribunals System (CJTS) when you file the claim (if you are filing the claim) or when you first access the case online (if you are the party against whom the claim is filed).

Arrangements will be made to assign an interpreter when required.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for tribunal cases are free of charge.

If a private interpreter is engaged for a language or dialect not provided by the State Courts, you will have to contact the private interpreter directly to find out their fees.

The procedure for arranging for an interpreter in the Family Justice Courts (FJC) will depend on the case type.

For personal protection order and maintenance applications

You may inform the counter officer of your preferred language or dialect when completing your application at the Family Protection Centre (FPC) or Family Registry, Level 1 of the FJC. The assignment of an interpreter is subject to availability.

Once assigned, the interpreter will provide interpretation services when you:

  • File your PPO or maintenance-related applications.
  • (For PPO applications) Meet with the court family specialist (CFS) for your safety risk assessment after filing your application at the FPC.
  • Attend court mentions and hearings for your PPO or maintenance-related matters.
  • Attend maintenance-related mediation or PPO-related counselling sessions.

Arrangements will also be made for the parties against whom the application is made (the respondent) and witnesses who may require interpretation services.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services and freelance interpreters arranged by the freelance interpreters’ administration team (FIAT) for PPO and maintenance applications are free of charge.

For Youth Courts applications

You may inform the investigation officers or Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) officers of your preferred language or dialect before attending court.

Alternatively, you may make a request for an interpreter when attending your court session through the court managers or judges presiding in the Youth Courts. The assignment of an interpreter will be subject to availability.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services and freelance interpreters arranged by FIAT for Youth Courts applications are free of charge.

For other general legal proceedings

If you are representing yourself in any other cases heard in the FJC, you should file a Request for Hearing Administrative Support via eLitigation at the LawNet & CrimsonLogic Service Bureau for court interpretation services.

Parties who are represented may submit their request through their lawyer.

The request should contain the following information:

  • The case number.
  • The parties to the suit.
  • The names of witnesses requiring an interpreter (if applicable).
  • The court or chamber number the court proceeding is held.
  • The stage of the proceedings (for example, fresh or adjourned hearing).
  • The date and time of the hearing.
    • In the event the hearing is fixed for more than 1 day, the date and time on which interpretation services are required.
  • The number of days for which interpretation services are required.
  • The language or dialect spoken by the witnesses requiring the interpretation services.

All requests should be submitted by one of the following time periods, depending on whichever comes earlier.

  • Within 7 days from a case conference.
  • At least 2 weeks before a hearing.

If an interpreter is required and the court has not been informed or if the time periods stated have not been observed, any assignment of an interpreter will be subject to availability. Once assigned, the interpreter will provide interpretation services when you:

  • Attend any related court-directed counselling.
  • Attend any judge-led mediation sessions.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for divorce-related matters are free of charge.

If a private interpreter is engaged for a language or dialect not provided by the FJC, you will have to contact the private interpreter directly to find out their fees.

The procedure and fees for arranging for an interpreter in the Supreme Court will depend on the case type.

For criminal cases

If you are representing yourself in a criminal case and require an interpreter for the court proceedings, you should submit your request to the Crime Section, Legal Directorate of the Supreme Court.

If you are remanded, you can submit your request through the Singapore Prison Service.

Parties who are represented must submit their request through their lawyer via the Request for Administrative Support document on eLitigation.

All requests should be submitted no less than 7 working days before the day on which the services of an interpreter are required.

Note
You do not need to file a new request if the interpreter is required for any subsequent hearings of the same case.

The interpreter will take note of the next hearing date.

Estimated fees

Court interpretation services for criminal cases heard in the Supreme Court are free of charge.

For civil and Family Division of the High Court cases

If you are representing yourself, you should submit the Request by Unrepresented Party for Interpretation Services Form.

​Parties who are represented must submit their request through their lawyer via eLitigation.

All requests should be submitted no less than 7 working days before the day on which the services of an interpreter are required. Parties will be informed of the outcome of their request within 3 working days upon receipt of the request by the Supreme Court.

Note
You will need to file a new request if the interpreter is required for any subsequent hearings of the same case.

Estimated fees

A fee of $300 per day or part thereof will be charged for open court hearings.

Court interpretation services for hearings in chambers are free of charge.

Any interpretation fees must be paid upon approval of the request. If you fail to pay the fee before the day the interpreter is required, the request will be cancelled and no interpreter will be provided.

If you are not able to pay the interpretation fees

If you are unable to pay the interpretation fee due to financial difficulties, you may file a request to waive or defer the payment of the fee via eLitigation. This request must be filed together with all supporting documents stating the reasons for the waiver or deferment at least 3 working days before the day the interpreter is required.

All requests for waiver or deferment are subject to the court's approval. If your request for waiver or deferment is disallowed by the court and payment has not been made, no interpreter will be provided on the day the interpreter is required.

Resources

Refer to:

Refer to:

Related questions

The interpreter’s job is to ensure accurate and effective communication among lawyers, judges and parties and without bias.

Interpreters may use any of the following 3 modes of interpreting, depending on the requirements of the situation:

Mode of interpretation

What it means

When is it used

Simultaneous interpretation

The interpreter interprets almost at the same time as the speaker is speaking.

When interpreting delivery of judgment or during submissions by lawyers.

Consecutive interpretation

The interpreter may take notes and will interpret only during a pause or when the speaker finishes.

When a witness is testifying from the witness stand.

Sight interpretation

The interpreter reads in one language and interprets on the spot into another language.

When interpreting documents such as affidavits and exhibits.

If you do not require a court interpreter on any of the days you requested their service, you must inform the court of the cancellation in writing:

  • (For State Courts and FJC cases) Immediately.
    • For FJC cases where a freelance interpreter has been engaged by FIAT, cancellation fees are dependent on the time of cancellation communicated to the freelance interpreter with regard to the time of assignments.
  • (For Supreme Court cases) At least 1 working day before the day the interpreter is required.
    • You will need to inform the head interpreter whom you have been in touch with during the application process of the cancellation. Otherwise, any fees paid for the court interpretation services may not be refunded.
Example
If you have previously requested the services of a court interpreter for Wednesday and would like to cancel the request, the cancellation notice must be given in writing by the end of Monday (leaving Tuesday a clear working day).
You must submit a refund request via eLitigation if you are seeking a refund of the fee paid for a court interpreter. This refund request must be made as soon as possible after you have given written notice of the cancellation.

Any refund request made after one month of the date on which the reason for the refund arose will not be entertained.

Refer to the following to find out how to respond to the court interpreter during a court hearing.

You should...

You should not...

  • Speak clearly and in simple sentences.
  • Inform the court if you have trouble speaking to or understanding the interpreter.
  • Keep questions short and simple when asking questions to a witness on the stand.
  • Speak directly to the person on the stand and not to the interpreter.
  • Interrupt the interpreter when they are interpreting.
  • Ask the interpreter for legal advice or personal opinions.
  • Ask the interpreter if you need a question or comment repeated.
    • You should instead ask the judge for permission.

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