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Program Would Certify Court Interpreters

Published On: Aug 24 2011 01:37:53 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 18 2010 11:50:02 AM EDT

If you're looking for a new career and you're bilingual you might want to consider a career in the court system.

Berks County Courts say they need help in tearing down the language barrier.

Court officials say they have a shortage of interpreters but it appears the state certification examination is a major obstacle for many.


Officials say the fail rate is at about 40%. Now, the Pace Institute is ready to help.

Court officials say there were 7,000 hearings last year that required the presence of a court interpreter.

Due to major shortages, judges had to reach out to other counties.

Sometimes we're pulling interpreters from as far away as York County, Lancaster County, said Berks County President Judge Jeffrey Schmehl.

Currently there are only a handful of certified interpreters in Berks County.

Officials say the problem is that too many people are failing the state examination. To remedy this, Pace Institute is planning to offer courses to prepare language interpreters to pass the State examination.

We think it's necessary because so far the written exam has produced less than 60% pass rate, said Pace Institute President Rhoda Dersh.

This is not just something that a person walking down the street that can say I speak Spanish and English can do, said Rachel Yiengst, the President of Reading's Hispanic Center Board. This is going to take a certain amount of sophistication in both languages.

Sonia Rivera has been an interpreter for more than 12 years.

You have two, three seconds to translate and interpret and not just that, the vocabulary, it's not an everyday vocabulary, said Rivera.

The county Bar Association, along with the Berks County Community Fund, is planning to sponsor a fund to assist applicants in paying for the certification application.

They say more interpreters will make the court proceedings more efficient.

To give anybody a fair trial or a fair hearing, if they don't speak the English language properly, you need an interpreter to ensure fairness, said Schmehl.

Currently, the greatest need is for Spanish-English interpreters.

The first orientation seminar is scheduled for November 8th at Pace Institute from 5:30pm-6:30. There is another orientation seminar scheduled for November 24th from 12noon-1pm.