Smartphones and a scared kid

24 May


Not everyone understands through words, especially frightened children who associate a visit to the doctor with pain. Imagine a tyke who stumbles through the labyrinth of looming hallways, climbs aboard elevators that whoosh, and strangers appear at every turn. All the while she looks up at the world of towering adults who attempt to comfort. Plop her down in a chair and start with the litany of questions. She wonders, “Who are these people and when will they hurt me?” No child likes needles. The medical interpreter appears to help assuage fears and facilitate communication as a member of the  healthcare team.


Back at Akron University I learned people process and absorb language through four channels: VAKT visual, audio, kinesthetic and tactile. Recently my handy-dandy iPhone 5c and Google images helped Eduardito to visualize “shake your leg like Jello” and then relax to prepare for a regular injection. He politely nodded yes when asked if he knew what Jello was but I detected otherwise and asked the nurse practitioner “May I bring up an image on my phone through Google images?” Result? A meek nod of the head once he saw the picture and the message conveyed nicely. As a practice I request permission from the practitioner before employing this intervention strategy. Have you had experiences where you used your phone to communicate beyond mere words? Let me know.

Learning Styles through VAKT


27 Apr

Three simple words from a straightforward request: “What’s your address?” Ask mine and you’ll hear “611 West Maple Street, North Canton Ohio 44720.” A typical LEP amplifies a simple question into “Oh, I am living with my brothers not too far from here and I get up real early and my shift doesn’t end sometimes till four or five.” Where does this chap live? Next our friend slowly reaches for his wallet, pulls out a tattered scrap of paper with an address written in pencil, hands it to the interpreter and waits. I think to myself “Why doesn’t he know his address?” Where did I develop the notion that EVERYONE knows her address, social security and phone number? I memorized my social back in the 70’s on Miami University’s campus where — — —- was a pre-requisite along with Applied Linguistics 401.

photo address

A kind-hearted magistrate posed the same question after he recorded a not guilty plea for a non-responsive traffic offender. “Mr. Rivera, what is your address?” Mr. Rivera rambles on with “Pues apenas estamos en el departamento con mi esposa con las niñas y pronto llega mi hermano con su mujer y dos niños y …” No address, no zip code and certainly no state. Ethics require court interpreters to render everything in open court. “Well we just got the apartment with my wife and the girls and my brother will arrive soon with his two kids and…” Your Honor peers with suspicion at a long answer to a short question.

photo guatemalabags

Interpreters anticipate in order to facilitate communication, or, at least I do. The first time I expected a quick response from a Spanish speaker and encountered the scrap of paper response was at the women’s clinic registration window. “What’s your address?” inquired the lady behind the counter. A Guatemalan woman, bursting with pregnant child, fumbled through her bag, shifted her bulk in a cramped chair and emerged with an electric bill, unopened envelopes and a tattered scrap of notebook paper. No address yet but a smile for the interpreter. Ms. Receptionist-at-the-window-of-Doctor-forty-plus-patients a day casts me a disapproving look. Am I the only uncomfortable one in the room? Seconds tick by and no address yet.

I find these moments touching. Mrs. Ixcoy knew where her address was and gladly handed the information over. Mr. Rivera probably breathed easy with the notion that he would go free, continue to work and support his family here and abroad once he answered all the judge’s questions. I snap back to reality and remember my role is to interpret. Period. Honestly, though, does anyone out there ever tire of lengthy answers to simple questions? Please let me know.


5 Apr

An Ohio State Certified Court interpreter performs in three modes: simultaneous, consecutive and sight translation. According to Holly Mikkelson, “In fact, sight translation is just as difficult at simultaneous interpretation, and involves some of the same mental processes.”1 Hopefully she (the interpreter) devotes time to read court documents to become familiar with boilerplate language. Sight translation delivery sounds as if the interpreter were reading the text written in the target language. Reading clunky legal documents aloud in the privacy of your home office loosens the tongue.

Testing requirements in Ohio include a passing grade on an oral exam. According to the Rules of Superintendence, Rule 80 states that sight translation “means interpretation in which a foreign language interpreter or sign language interpreter renders in a target language a written document composed in a source language.”2 How to prepare for such a test?

Luckily I purchased Holly’s “The Interpreter’s Edge” back in the 90’s with cassettes. My confidence increased slowly with twenty minutes of practice every other day. Bureaucratic language came to the tongue without delay (Y para que así conste) and I grew calmer and calmer in order to provide a smooth delivery, just shy of stentorian. When the attached document appeared in family court a few weeks ago, I knew to ask for a minute to seek troublesome terms: “Your Honor, in order to provide an accurate sight translation, may the interpreter have a moment to review the document?” I admit that se celebró la vista correspondiente initially gave me pause. I took a deep breath and the terminology hard drive kicked in.

Review the attached document, research unfamiliar terms and begin the discipline to assure the court that you are the language professional. Can you Spanish speakers locate the spelling error? Good luck to all.

1. Mikkelson, Holly. The Interpreter’s Edge: Practical Exercises in Court Interpreting. 3rd ed. Spreckels, CA: ACEBO, 1995.
2. The Supreme Court of Ohio Interpreter Certification Program
sight translation


29 Mar

Just last week a colleague clued me in on an in-house interpreter offer. Who turns down paid vacation days, health insurance and a set schedule Monday through Friday? At first blush the offer appealed, but after careful consideration (and an honest chat with my husband) I decided to drop the pursuit. My trusty Ford Focus gallivants from the NICU and concerned parents to pre-trial hearings for traffic offenses in Youngstown All in the same day. That totals over one hundred and fifty miles. The perk? Candy and apples.

Touch the Moon Candy Saloon on South Phelps in downtown Youngstown stacks treats floor to ceiling. All proceeds benefit disabled adults 100%. Want to savor Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer Barrels or Black Cow Delicious Chocolate Caramels? I’m talking true penny candy here. Touch the Moon offers Slo Poke Delicious Caramel, Black Taffy and Brach’s Milk Maid Royals. Back in the 60’s Dick and Liz (our parents) dropped us off at the Deuber Theatre with $.25 apiece: $.10 for the entrance fee and the rest for treats. John downed many a Chuckles Original and Tootsie Roll as the film rolled. Now the goodies resurface in 2015. Check out me and Stephen’s selfie.touch

Reason number two to work freelance: Ohio home grown fruits. White House Fruit Farm in Canfield, Ohio, sells fifteen kinds of apples from Honey Crisp to Jonagold. Care to indulge in a less healthy fare? Chomp down on a blueberry doughnut or let butter crème fudge melt in your mouth. Join the White House Fall Celebration this September and October. I learned to can sweet apple cider butter last year and regularly stop by after an appearance before Hizzoner in Mahoning County.

Of course I factored other pros and cons before the decision to continue freelance work. A regular paycheck, fewer miles on the road and one W-9 come tax time. Treats and goodies won out at the final tally. Can you freelancers out there share where travels took you? Thanks.

Mark Your Calendars: 2015 Spring Coffee Hour on 04/11

15 Mar


NOTA would like to cordially invite you all for a 2015 Spring Coffee Hour, which will be held on Saturday, April 11th from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Public Library Fleet Branch located at 7224 Broadway Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44105. Please see the link to the map of the location: Also, please see the event flier attached for reference.

This event will provide you with a unique opportunity to ask questions and share ideas on how we can help NOTA to better serve us and what types of programs and events you would like to see in the near future. Your feedback is essentially important, so please mark your calendars for this date.

Thank you in advance for your interest and we look forward to seeing you on April 11th for the Spring Coffee Hour!

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31 Aug



The CCHI newsletter recently featured my friend and colleague Damber Subba who serves as a CoreCHI Nepali interpreter at Akron Children’s Hospital Damber’s journey began from the far reaches of Bhutan and continued after an extended stay at the Beldangi II refugee camp in Nepal. Through study and determination he settled in Akron, Ohio with a career in medical interpreting. According to Damber “it’s impossible to go far in the interpreting profession without certification.”  Read Damber’s story and learn more about the Core Healthcare Interpreter examination for interpreters of all languages at the link below.


21 Aug


The other day in juvenile court I stumbled into a hornet’s nest. Emotions simmered between a determined grandmother, defense lawyer and an absent family member in a custody battle. One party filed an injunction/interdicto to halt the proceedings. The aforementioned said mi hermano me dijo que sacaba las garras. What? At first I misunderstood and heard sacando la cara and wondered who is taking whose face off  whom and why? Luckily a fellow interpreter there clarified with sacando las garras. OK, I almost understand but what  does pulling the claws out have to do with one’s behavior?


When I asked abuela what the term meant, she referred to a person who attends church but turns into a wolf once outside the holy walls. Aha! She is two-faced. Later research  suggested “reveal your true intention” and “show what you’re made of.” Perhaps “my brother told me that I was showing my true colors” rang closer to the intent. 


Luckily “sacando las garras” did not come up later. I want to know how you  interpret such a colorful string because she will surface again. Thanks for the help.