Colorado Mountain College training interpreters |

Colorado Mountain College training interpreters

Suzie Romig
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Colorado Mountain College student Samira Tamayo (left), who works for Eagle County Health and Human Services, records her interpretation into a digital voice recorder for James Daugherty, adjunct instructor. Daugherty is teaching expanded courses in court interpretation at the college's campus in Edwards this fall. Photo Denise Abate

EDWARDS, Colorado – During any given week, area residents are involved in legal proceedings in the municipal, county and district court systems, but sometimes those participants may not completely understand what is taking place. With hearings and trials conducted in English, everyone may not have an equal footing in the legal arena.

Certified court interpreters are critical in helping all participants understand legal proceedings and receive a fair trial, yet the court system is experiencing a dire shortage of qualified, state-certified court interpreters who live in the region, James Daugherty said. A certified court interpreter for six years who has also researched translation challenges in Guatemela courtesy of a Fulbright grant, Daugherty is the managing court interpreter for the Fifth Judicial District. The district includes Summit, Eagle, Clear Creek and Lake counties.

Daugherty said certified court interpreters are required in district court and preferred in county court. To meet those needs, interpreters often travel from the Front Range, which adds to the cost of trials.

To help boost the number of certified interpreters in this part of Colorado, Daugherty is teaching classes in beginning and advanced court interpretation at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards. The classes started in fall 2009, and following a healthy enrollment this summer, the program is expanding this fall to include a new advanced-level class in consecutive interpretation.

The college’s challenging courses cover three major aspects of interpretation: consecutive, simultaneous and sight.

“It’s not just a language experience; it’s a brain experience because active interpreting is so cognitively demanding,” said Denise Abate, instructional supervisor at the college’s campus in Edwards. “In class, James has the students doing interpretation and simple addition problems at the same time.”

Emy Lopez, court interpreter program administrator for the state of Colorado, said the program at CMC is “critical.”

“It provides the first training of its sort anywhere in that area of the state,” Lopez said. “There is nothing else that provides the skills necessary for interpreting.”

The state administrator explained that the process of verbatim, simultaneous interpretation, for anything from a child support hearing to a trial in a courtroom, is much more than translation by a bilingual speaker. Interpreters must be bilingual, bicultural and bi-literate.

Training for the state certification exam is important because only 15 to 20 percent of test-takers pass.

“The training that’s absolutely critical is not language training necessarily; it is interpretation skills and legal vocabulary and some understanding of the legal system,” Lopez said. “Our job is to place the limited English-proficient individual on the same level and give them equal footing in the court to native speakers.”

Court interpreters have a strict code of ethics and must stay impartial and not interject advice or added explanations. The work is so taxing that interpreters may rotate after half an hour. State-certified interpreters can make at least $30 an hour with a two-hour minimum plus travel time and mileage, Lopez explained.

The interpretation skills taught at Colorado Mountain College are applicable to other professions such as medical interpreters, Abate said. Students have included school district employees, community liaisons, health and human services workers, victims’ advocate employees, a medical clinic worker and a bank manager.

The new advanced class in Consecutive Interpretation starts the evening of Sept. 2 in Edwards. Introduction to Translation and Interpretation starts Sept. 8. More information is available by calling the campus at 569-2929. General information about opportunities for interpreters in Colorado is available at via the “Careers” tab.

Suzie Romig works for the public information office at Colorado Mountain College.

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