THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST WHEN SELECTING AN INTERPRETER
On December 3rd, I read an article about a Sign Language interpreter delivering “gibberish” in Tampa, Florida. I couldn’t help but to think that this sounded very familiar as it reminded me of the incident in 2013 where President Obama was delivering a message in South Africa and the purported Sign Language interpreter was proven to be delivering an incomprehensible interpretation. So, it got me thinking that the only reason these incidents where known to happen is because they were on TV and a lot of people were able to witness and denounce these travesties.
As a Spanish certified interpreter in both the legal and medical fields, I feel compelled to ask you: How many times do you think interpreters of spoken or sign languages are required, not vetted properly and the proceedings not televised?
The sad truth is that I know for a fact this happens quite frequently, often with terrible results like in the case of Willie Ramirez in 1980 or the Juan Ramon Alfonzo case in Volusia County in 2004 just to name two of the most famous cases.
A few years back, I was conducting a seminar for Judges in Ohio and one of the questions from the audience was: “How am I supposed to know if the interpreter is doing a good job or not? I am not bilingual myself.” I had to think for a second before I responded by asking the audience to think: how do we decide if a doctor, a lawyer or a dentist is properly qualified without ourselves being members of the profession? The key is credentials – all of these professions have nationally-recognized standards that give us the confidence we need to trust them as professionals. Therefore, in order to assure proper communication with your patients or clients, make sure to hire a credentialed interpreter. Simple.
Certifying bodies in our country grant credentials to both medical and legal interpreters. Certified interpreters are trained professionals who have proven their skills by passing rigorous examinations and are committed to providing high-quality interpretation with strict adherence to their Codes of Ethics.
Court certification example: Legal interpreters are certified by their respective states. Certification does not reciprocate from one state to the next unless it is a Federal certification.
To learn about Sign Language Certification requirements, visit https://www.rid.org/rid-certification-overview/
I am sure you don’t want to risk not being able to adequately communicate with your patients or clients due to an unqualified interpreter. So next time you need an interpreter, make sure you ask to see their credentials. They should be as readily available as the credentials for any other professional. After all, most of us would not feel comfortable in a doctor’s office, dentistry practice, or law firm if they didn’t prominently display their certifications. It should be the same with interpreters.
Agustin de la Mora is the president of De la Mora Enterprise and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (407) 677 4155.