Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A New Cohort of Court Interpreters Sworn in Last November in Indiana

The Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Commission on Race and Gender Fairness held a swearing-in ceremony last November as a way to honor sixteen individuals who had recently gained certification as court interpreters.

During the ceremony, Camille Wiggins, Program Manager, commended the newly certified interpreters for their efforts and commitment to develop the required skills to provide professional-level interpretation services. Certification is a five-step process that begins with orientation. This two-day activity provides aspiring interpreters with the opportunity to realize that interpreting is detailed; and that it involves knowing the structure of the court system, rules and regulations, ethics, and specialized terminology that needs to be interpreted accurately, said Wiggins. If a person decides to pursue this route and seek certification, then a written examination made up of 135 questions and translation of 10 passages comes next. Those who meet the mark, move on to skill-building training to prepare for the oral portion of the certification process. This portion of the certification process requires performing sight translation and consecutive and simultaneous interpreting; not an easy task, highlighted Wiggins, who went on to express her gratitude and admiration for those sixteen interpreters who were successful in all five steps. She also acknowledged the presence of several “old school” interpreters, including yours truly, who attended the ceremony in support of the Indiana certification process and the newest certified interpreters.

The swearing in ceremony included remarks by the Honorable Robert D. Rucker, Justice at the Indiana Supreme Court, and Liaison to the Indiana Commission on Race and Gender Fairness; the Honorable José D. Salinas, Chair of the Latino Affairs Committee of the Indiana State Bar Association and the Honorable Myra C. Selby, Chair of the Indiana Commission on Race and Gender Fairness. 

Justice Rucker emphasised that the ceremony was as much a celebration for the Indiana Supreme Court as it was for the newest certified interpreters. In his highly complementary remarks, Justice Rucker stressed how gaining certification is both a personal and professional accomplishment and how court interpreters are partners with the Indiana Supreme Court in its effort to provide access to justice to limited English proficient individuals throughout Indiana.  The Honorable José Salinas, for his part, highlighted the important and role interpreters play in the process that takes place in the courtroom. “In one sense”, he said, “you are being asked not to be heard, because all you do is interpret what one person says into another language. But in another sense, your words are the most important ones, because if the defendant does not understand those words; if participants do not understand what that person saying in response; then the process breaks down.”

The Court Interpreter Certification Program is the flagship program of the Indiana Supreme Court’s   Commission on Race and Gender. In a ten-year period, the program has certified over ninety interpreters; mostly in Spanish, but also one in French, one in Arabic and in this new cohort, two in Mandarin and one in Polish.

I was part of the first cohorts of interpreters; the “old school” interpreters as, Camille Wiggins affectionately put it. Indiana is ahead of most other states in terms of how it prepares candidates for certification. The Indiana Supreme Court Commission on Race and Gender Fairness has invested not only in resources to administer the certification examination but also to help aspiring interpreters prepare for the examination.  The Commission lends candidates materials to study for the test and provides them with skill-building sessions. This is something that not many states do.  The Indiana Supreme Court Division of Court Administration keeps a registry of certified interpreters that the courts, legal professionals and the general public can use.  This registry alone represent a great encouragement for Indiana certified interpreters to remain in the field, as it provides us with great exposure and increases our chances to provide our interpreting services outside the courtroom.

The swearing-in ceremony reminded me of a college commencement. It had the same sense of celebration, but was also very meaningful in terms of the future accomplishments expected of this class of interpreters. I felt very privileged to be a part of it.   


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