Legal Interpreting Program

New: Legal interpreting

Photo:  Anita Tebbe, left, and Christina Wolff de Casquino worked together to create the new legal interpreting program at JCCC.

Imagine facing the immensity of the U.S. courts system and not understanding a word of what’s going on. Issues of money, property and personal freedom are at stake, and you don’t speak the language. 

To address that problem, JCCC has launched a new legal interpreting certificate program. Graduates will be able to work in attorneys’ offices, courtrooms and other legal proceedings to interpret from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English.

Christina Wolff de Casquino, supervisor, legal interpreting, said Judge Karen Arnold-Burger was a catalyst for the program. 

Arnold-Burger contacted Anita Tebbe, professor, legal studies, about the possibility of starting a legal interpreting program at JCCC when the judge noticed the need within her own courtroom. (At the time Arnold-Burger was a judge for the Overland Park Municipal Court and has since become a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals.) 

“Courts all over the state are experiencing an expanding need for interpreting services and have similar issues with locating legally knowledgeable interpreters,” she wrote in a letter of support. “The rights of both the accused and the victim depend on a system that allows for appropriate access to justice through language-appropriate participation." 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also sees a demand for legal interpreters. The Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates a much-higher-than-normal demand for interpreters from 2010 to 2020, with an average salary of $24.33 an hour nationwide and $19.65 in Kansas. 

The legal interpreting certificate program at JCCC will be 20 credits and combine law classes with interpreting instruction. 

The program is structured to be completed in three semesters, but it can be taken at a slower pace as long as prerequisites and co-requisites are met, Wolff de Casquino said. 

Students enrolled in the legal interpreting program will learn three types of interpreting: simultaneous (interpreting verbatim as the person speaks), consecutive (interpreting once the person is done with vocalizing a thought) and sight translation (verbally interpreting the contents of a printed document). 

JCCC has offered a health care interpreting certificate since 2005. Wolff de Casquino said the college will build on the lessons learned in that program to create this new, but unique, program. 

“Legal interpreting requires a different set of skills than health care interpreting,” she said. “Legal interpreting doesn’t allow for as much personal interaction as health interpreting does.” 

Those interested in joining the program should be fluent in both English and Spanish. Students will be required to take reading, writing and speaking tests in the testing center. A final test scored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) also will determine an individual’s preparedness for the program. 

“The most important qualification is the desire to be an interpreter,” Wolff de Casquino said. 

For more information on the program and its enrollment process, email Wolff de Casquino, or call her at 913-469-8500 ext. 3513.