Claim Your Certificate

25 Apr


Want to learn how to work efficiently and pass the Ohio Supreme Court Written Exam? Consider attending a workshop sponsored by Community and Court Interpreters of Ohio “Claim Your Certificate: Strategies to Pass the Written Exam” will be held in Columbus on Saturday, May 11, 2019. The session helps you prepare with practice tests and a study of American idioms. “A penny for your thoughts?” What does that mean anyway?


Learn legal terminology and court procedures through hands-on activities. In addition you’ll receive over twenty links to online resources and assorted apps to help develop an action plan for success. The presenter will spell out the test format so you can tailor studies that meet your needs.


Click on register. See you in Columbus.

Fog lines and my dad

25 Nov



It was the day before Thanksgiving in Ohio and a short day in court awaited. The phone rings and a bailiff, desperate to help a fellow get out of jail, calls. “Can you help with an arraignment? This man’s been in jail since the sixteenth. I know I called you before but we can’t find a certified interpreter.” Luckily I could squeeze in another assignment before the holiday weekend.


There is no easy way to drive from North Canton to East Liverpool, Ohio … not even a four-lane roadway. Plugged in the GPS and ventured down country roads with expansive fields peppered with a cluster of slow-moving cows. My Hyundai tilted deep into a towering tree-strewn valley and emerged in downtown East Liverpool. The joy of this errant interpreter is to meet new folks again and again. I chatted up the court clerk who bemoaned the Ohio winters. She hails from Texas and reported that “you don’t have to shovel sunshine there.” We laughed and complained once again about the cold.


I wandered into the courtroom to find several people in faded jail jumpsuits and spotted the Spanish LEP. Fortunately, a uniformed police officer stood by who listened as I provided the pre-session “Good morning, I am an interpreter and not an attorney blah-blah-blah …” When Lady Judge took the bench, she rattled off charges that included a DUI/Driving Under the Influence and “crossing the fog line*.” What??? Confidence shattered. Brain shut down. My neurons rushed to come up with a sensible rendering. I thought “Ohio? Fog lines? There were no heaths on the trek to town today.” Something luckily rolled off the tongue that made sense in the moment.


During the break, I approached the officer and inquired what “fog line” meant in this part of the state. “Oh, that’s the white fog line on the right and yellow’s on the left.” Seems Mr. Defendant, soaked with God-knows-what brew, veered all over State Route 11 and drifted over the “fog line.” Now that makes sense – he committed a marked lanes violation/no manejar dentro de los carriles marcadas. I thanked Mr. Officer and immediately felt my deceased father’s presence. Dad always said if you couldn’t see on a dark and foggy road, just follow the white lines on the right. Thanks, Dad.


A public defender appeared and negotiated a plea for the fellow. He’d spend Thanksgiving with his family and the court released him later that afternoon. I thanked the nice ladies behind the counter, then climbed back into my Elantra to wend the way down Route 39 to New Philadelphia. More arraignments before Thanksgiving vacation begins. I took note of the “fog lines” on serpentine hills that almost turned back on themselves. In Ohio fog lines means marked lanes.

*Fog lines: (also in Ohio called “marked lanes” where a driver doesn’t keep within the lines.)


ON THE FENCE /permanecer inactivo

22 Oct




Smart phones allow for rapid-fire responses. The other day an assignment kept me occupied when my colleague Kevin’s inquiry appeared. Learned long ago to prioritize requests from fellow interpreters. The text messages follow:

KEVIN: “John, when you have a sec to touch base, gimme a call. In Spanish what do you call that thing that surrounds a house or structure to keep folks out, for privacy or decoration, sometimes 3 feet tall sometimes 6?”

JOHN: (my responses)

KEVIN: “In PR verja, n. MX barda, Spain and Cuba cerca.”

JOHN: “Thanks, Kevin, I heard barda before but didn’t know the country of origin.”

Kevin: And valla as well.


My buddy Kevin finished the process. A shout out to Holly Mikkelson who taught us to use Linguee years ago. She’s another treasured linguist.

Let’s end with a riddle/acertijo:

Entre más cerca más largo y entre más largo más cerca. La cerca. The more “cerca,” the longer it is, and the longer it is, the more “cerca.” (A fence.) *

This is one of the most difficult Spanish riddles to translate literally without giving away the answer. “Cerca” means close, as in measuring distance, but is also the Spanish term for a fence of whatever construction material.

How do you say “fence”? Post your responses, please.

* Falcón, Rafael. 101 Spanish Riddles: Understanding Spanish Language and Culture Through Humor. Illustrated by Luc Nisset-Raidon. Chicago: McGraw-Hill, 2001




22 Jul


How to move from a three word phrase in English to eight in Spanish? Word inflation between the two languages runs from 15%-20% EN>ES.  For years I interpreted at a local Driver Intervention Program/DIP for those driving under the influence. Instead of a three or six day stay in the pokey, folks spend the weekend holed up with other drunk drivers to view films, chat in group activities and undergo evaluations. Once Joe Offender finishes, the Program notifies the court that he successfully finished that portion of his sentence.


How to render DIP into English? Until I spotted programa de orientación para el conductor infractor on a DIP application last week, the straightforward programa de intervención de conductor served well enough. My rendering hardly defines or explains what the Program does. Whomever translated the document understood the driver/transgressor/ offender attends classes and learns to avoid another arrest. I researched for parallel texts and gladly agreed with the author. The term soon surfaced again, rolled off my tongue, Mr. Offender readily understood and the day went along nicely. Just for curiosity’s sake, how to you render DIP in your area? Please comment.



19 Jul


Last weekend my colleague Kevin Mercado and I presented “Legal Process and Terminology” to a captive audience of 40 budding interpreters and translators. We instructed the group on how to first understand the process and then build term lists. Check out the “effects and symptoms”, quiz yourself and add as needed to your arsenal. See you in court.  TERM effects and symptoms


26 Feb


After twenty plus years in the field, all legal terms rest at the tip of my tongue. Not so. I grabbed “Comprehensive Bilingual Dictionary of Spanish False Cognates*” to stumble upon SENTENCE just today. How many times does that word come up in your day?

sentence n.

GRAMMAR. oración, frase – He writes very long SENTENCES. Escribe frases larguísimas.

LAW. to pass SENTENCE on somebody. Imponer una pena a alguien. The judge gave him a six month SENTENCE El juez lo condenó a seis meses de cárcel. To serve one’s SENTENCE. Cumplir su condena.

What did I learn? Dictar una pena wasn’t the sole way to render pass sentence (see above). Where the judge gave a defendant a six month sentence reminds me to remember it’s seis meses DE cárcel instead of the my clumsy seis meses de encarcelamiento.

Five minutes in a book reminded this interpreter to continue to learn and polish his speech. That’s all I got for today.

*cognate: Ling. descended or borrowed from the same earlier form

Hamel, Bernard H. Comprehensive Bilingual Dictionary of Spanish False Cognates. Los Angeles: Bilingual Book Press, 1998.



9 Sep



Hocking College offers a course for students interested in court interpretation with a high level of proficiency in a second language other than English. Coursework includes legal terminology, best practices, ethics and court protocol. Classes will be held at Clark Hall in Gahanna. For more information contact or Click on the link below for the flyer.

Court Interpretation Flyer