Q. what is the difference between an interpreter and a translator?

A. An interpreter speaks; a translator writes. A patient at a doctor’s office, a visiting diplomat, or a witness in court needs an interpreter. If you want a novel, manual, or document transferred from one language to another, you are looking for a translator.

The distinction is professionally important because interpreters and translators receive separate training and develop significantly different career paths. Think of it as a sprinter versus a marathon runner: some skills overlap, but there is a necessary distinction. It would be disastrous to expect one to do the other’s job well.


Q. i have a bilingual ASSISTANT. Why should I hire a qualified interpreter?

A. Bilingualism is a prerequisite to interpreting, as are hands to playing the piano. Interpreters have received training in terminology, false friends, ethics, and professional practices, such as note-taking and memory. For example, if a patient says estoy intoxicada, it means that she is poisoned, not that she is intoxicated. That's just one example where a mistake could be detrimental. Individuals who grew up speaking Spanish at home, and who have had no professional or academic training in their heritage language, typically have significant linguistic gaps of which they are seldom aware. On the other hand, certified interpreters have passed both written and oral examinations in their languages, been trained in ethics and protocol, and are subject to annual continuing education, like any other profession.


Q. what is the difference between a COURT, MEDICAL, and SOCIAL SERVICE interpreter?

A. Each sector has its own certification process. Continue reading for a detailed description of the skills and elements involved.

The Washington State Courts have its own interpreter certification program for those wishing to interpret in state court facilities. The examination process is highly demanding and wields an annual pass rate of approximately 5% (see last year's report). Those who pass become sworn officers of the court, just like the court reporter or bailiff. If you search the registry, you'll notice that only a handful of court-certified Spanish interpreters are active in the Spokane area. Court interpreters are highly skilled and practiced, able to keep up with rapid-fire attorney statements, complicated terminology from the judge, or the drug slang of a gang member on the witness stand. Additionally, there is a strict code of ethics for sworn interpreters, which requires completeness, accuracy, and impartiality at all times.

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services regulates and administers certification for medical and social service interpreters. These are two different certifications tracks: medical and social services; each requires passing written and oral exams testing bilingual terminology, basic knowledge, grammar, ethics, sight translation, consecutive interpretation, and simultaneous interpretation (social services only). The medical exam tests material such as family medicine, consent forms, or pre-operative instructions. The social services exam covers material relating to custody disputes, housing transitions, substance abuse treatment programs etc. The average pass rate for these exams from DSHS is around 37% (see here). If you view this interpreter registry, you will see that Spokane has approximately 100 Spanish interpreters certified by DSHS (although many are inactive).

With all three certifications, I am qualified to deliver to your office or firm the highest possible quality in Spanish-English language services available in the city. If you are interested in detailed information regarding the certification processes mentioned, please see my blog.


Q. how much do you charge for your services?

A. Hourly fees vary based on appointment type, mileage, required preparation, and after-hour considerations. Please see the Rates page for detailed information on pricing.


Q. how far in advance should I request you as an interpreter?

A. Several weeks' notice is preferable. Last-minute requests are often possible for legal appointments. 

 

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