The Alaska Court System will see hundreds of requests for interpreting services this year, and that volume has staff looking to technology to streamline what can become a complex and costly process.
When a qualified interpreter of a language requested isn’t in Alaska, the court system looks Outside, sometimes flying people up for events like trials.
“The reason for that is because many of the courtroom proceedings are really complicated and it takes a really high-level skill to interpret,” said Brenda Aiken, Language Services director for the Alaska Court System.
Yolanda Martinez-Ley, 52, is one of two court-certified interpreters in Alaska — a tier above the roughly 20 registered interpreters available to the court system through the Alaska Institute for Justice’s Language Interpreter Center. Certified interpreters must pass a rigorous exam and are the preferred people to handle major happenings like criminal trials “that are potentially going to take away someone’s liberty,” said Stacey Marz, director of the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Center.
Early on in her life, Martinez-Ley — who interprets for Spanish speakers — realized she had a knack for languages. She picked up Bulgarian before studying in the Balkan country, took French and Italian classes and eventually learned English. Originally from Cuba, she lived in Canada before coming to Alaska in 2008. It was in Anchorage that she began her journey to becoming a professional interpreter with help from the Language Interpreter Center. When the court system isn’t requesting her services, she works as a freelance interpreter and is also a certified medical interpreter.
Some court events are more grisly than others, Martinez-Ley says. An attempted-murder trial where the defendant made threats in the courtroom sticks out in her mind. She thinks court interpreting has made her more perceptive to when people are lying, but her job requires her to stay neutral and simply interpret what people are saying.
For her, court interpreting is a way to level the playing field for the parties involved in a case. Citing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Barb Jacobs — program manager of the Language Interpreter Center — says the community also has a responsibility to provide language services. Aiken says the court system has been responsive to “increasing language diversity needs.”
“We want to ensure that anyone coming into the court understands to the fullest of their ability what’s happening to them, or for them, however you look at that,” Aiken said.
To read more of this article courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News —–> click here