Missouri has only 22 people trained as court interpreters in Spanish at a time when the state’s Hispanic populaton is growing. Twenty of the interpreters live in the state. The other two are just across the line in neighboring states and are sometimes called in. The coordinator of the interpreter program for the state courts administrator’s office, Phyllis Launius (lonnis) says sometimes there is a shortage of interpreters, a job that requires intense concentration, outstanding memory or note-taking abilities and the ability most of the time to do simultaneous translation. When someone is on the witness stand, however, everything is done consecutively. For example, an attorney asks a question which the interpreter must translate exactly for the witness. The translator then has to translate the answer, exactly, back into English. Launius says some of the questions and some of the answers can be long and detailed, a challenge to an interpreter. She says there has never been a court ruling in Missouri overturned because of the work of an interpreter. She says most of the interpreters are from the Kansas City area. Launius says 94 people started going through the testing program last year. But because the program is so rigorous, less than 20 percent will become court interpreters. Launius says the program is broadening. She says 11 languages are available for testing that she can offer anyone completing the program. She says one person has passed two of the three parts of the oral examination in Arabic. And the office is waiting for test results to come back on some people who want to translate Mandarin Chinese.
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