Cañada College to start bilingual interpretation program

Eric Bishop, director of the Spanish-English branch of San Francisco State University’s interpretation program, vividly recounts his first day as a court interpreter after receiving his certification 16 years ago.

“I recall it was really nerve-racking appearing before a judge and having someone’s liberty depend on my interpreting,” said Bishop, who now works at the criminal courthouse on Bryant Street in San Francisco.

Bishop, who failed the certification test on his first try, says it takes considerable training and experience to become an effective interpreter. “One of the misconceptions is that just being bilingual is enough to be an interpreter,” he said.

The rigorous standards of interpreting is one reason Cañada College in Redwood City is establishing its own program in the fall — a campus with a student body that is 40 percent Latino. School and state court officials also say there is an “urgent” need for interpreters in hospitals, courts and the worker’s compensation system. With rising immigration, Bishop said, there is a rising demand for Spanish speakers in the Peninsula and South Bay courts.

Jeanne Gross, dean of Cañada’s University Center, felt that exact dire need for an interpreter when she was in an emergency room with her son.

“There was no one that night in the hospital able to speak Spanish,” Gross said. “So I’ve witnessed that there are not always translators when people need them.”

Cañada officials hope to recruit about 22 students for the program. The college will hold an open house at 6 p.m. today at the University Center for interested bilingual students. Students must be fluent in Spanish and four of the six classes will be transferable toward a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at San Francisco State University.

Bishop described the job as an honorable duty that appealed to him because of the bridging of cultures. However, interpreting is more than just translating. A code of ethics guides interpreters who must also convey the tone, expression and demeanor of whomever is talking.

In California, there are 12 officially registered languages certified by the state, with Spanish, Punjabi, Russian and Mandarin among the most popular. Certification exams come in two parts: written and oral. About a third of the students pass, said Lucy Smallsreed, supervisor of the state Court Interpreters’ program.

“We have needs in the courts every day,” she said. “It’s not uncommon that proceedings are delayed because they can’t locate an interpreter.”

bfoley@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

An instructor at Sava Pool teaches children drowning prevention techniques. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Indoor city pools reopen for lap swimming and safety classes

Two of San Francisco’s indoor city pools reopened Tuesday, marking another step… Continue reading

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Most Read