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Interpreting for justice: English teacher helps people as a court interpreter

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Interpreting for justice: English teacher helps people as a court interpreter

ELA instructor Ricardo Carrillo has a second career as a court interpreter.

ELA instructor Ricardo Carrillo has a second career as a court interpreter.

The Magnet Tribune: Michelle Rodriguez

ELA instructor Ricardo Carrillo has a second career as a court interpreter.

The Magnet Tribune: Michelle Rodriguez

The Magnet Tribune: Michelle Rodriguez

ELA instructor Ricardo Carrillo has a second career as a court interpreter.

Eva Montiel, Staff Writer

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The job of your dreams can come true and help you succeed. This is true in Ricardo Carrillo’s case.

“Some years ago, I was at another campus and we were having morning and after-school tutorials and the teachers, along with me, were all tired. So, one day, we were having a faculty meeting and the teachers started complaining to the principal. They were saying how this was already too much and how they were all staying super late and one of the teachers said that she might start losing people,” Carrillo, an ELA teacher, said.

“The principal replied with, ‘what are you all going to do? Where will you go?’ Like kind of implying that we couldn’t do anything else. That moment I thought to myself and I knew she was right, and I felt very vulnerable. After that, I started looking into other things,” he said.

I told her, instead, ‘tell me what happened, and I will tell your story for you.’ She was squeezing my hard very hard because she was very emotional…”

— Ricardo Carrillo

“At that time, my wife was working for one of our local judges, Oscar Hale, and I was at a Christmas get together for their court. We were talking. He asked me, ‘why you don’t become a Spanish/English interpreter and vice versa,’ and so I did,” he said.

Carrillo’s lucky day finally arrived.

“It was in November of 2011. That’s when I started to investigate it and I was educating myself in the terminology, vocabulary and looking forward into the process to obtain my license.  A license is required for those wanting to work at the court, even though not many of the people working there have it, but it is necessary. At that time, I was seriously considering changing professions,” he stated.

Interpreting has been a part of Carrillo’s daily life, he said.

“This fall, I will complete 7 years with Webb County, he said.

Carrillo added that interpreting has been quite a difficult and challenging job, but he is grateful to have had this experience and outcomes from it.

“An interpreter’s job first and overall is to remain inconspicuous, which means that the attention should not be on you but on the people that are the witnesses.

“There was this time I did clarify a certain meaning related to an accident that had occurred. It was about a tractor/trailer accident, where a man was killed due to the accident and I had to clarify what had happened, according to the testimony. One of the guys that was inside the trailer said that when the trailer hit the truck, he was thrown through the windshield and at the same time the hood of the trailer opened, and he landed on the hood and he went sliding down the hood. The people there thought he had ended up sliding on the road, but it wasn’t that way. So that’s where I had to step up and my interpretation helped to clarify that testimony,” he added.

Being able to translate and interpret the words of both languages makes him proud and to him is an honor to be able to help people in this way, he said.

They said that if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t have understood the message given to them.”

— Ricardo Carrillo

He said he is able to interpret in English and Spanish.

“I do both depending on the situation. There have been situations in which a person is asked a question but that person that doesn’t understand English. I must interpret in Spanish. After they’ve responded I must interpret their phrases in English. Even though most of the people inside the courtroom understand the language being spoken, this is necessary for the court reporters, the person taking down everything; it needs to be done that way,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo doesn’t see this achievement as a job but instead as a career because it is something he is passionate about.

“I consider this as my second career. Why? Because I do this during the summers, and there’s been summers where I’m busier than others, but I do consider this as a second career,” he said.

He feels has really helped him become a better person because of his interpreting skills.

“It all started in my church. Several times a year, we have guest preachers that come and speak only English. A big part of the population of our church, a congregation of about 3,500 people, don’t understand English. The pastor knew I’m an English teacher and one day he came up to me and asked me if I was willing to interpret. I told him I didn’t know anything about it, but I was willing to try it since I’m bilingual. Afterward, at the end of worship, people came up to me and thanked me for interpreting the visiting preacher. They said that if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t have understood the message. Since then, I knew I was doing something good and that helped me a lot when I got to court,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo listed some of the steps required to take this position. He said any person wanting to take this career needs is to have desire, attitude, and courage in order to prosper.

“The person needs to be completely bilingual: being able to speak, read, write, listen, and understand both languages. The person must go through a process to obtain a license. Anybody can obtain a license so doesn’t need a degree. The most that is required is for the person to be a high school graduate. After that’s done, the person is required to take two tests. One is online relating to legal terminology. The other one is the practical exam, where it must be spoken. The court reporters play a CD for you, and that’s where you start interpreting. One little thing I want to clarify is that interpretation is spoken,” he added.

He said he has a passion this career is, and that he would really love to continue developing it.

“Since I work with mostly all courts in Webb County, there’s been people who have told me that they will always have a position available for me whenever I decide to retire (from teaching). Right now, I’m enjoying my time very much here at VMT, but if I one day decide to retire then I would try to get a full-time position doing that,” he said.

This career and just like any other takes many sacrifices. Some of these sacrifices include attending classes in order to become more knowledgeable.

The principal replied with, ‘what are you all going to do? Where will you go?’ Like kind of implying that we couldn’t do anything else. That moment I thought to myself and I knew she was right, and I felt very vulnerable. After that, I started looking into other things.”

— Ricardo Carrillo

“I go to a workshop at San Antonio every June, and these workshops last 2 days which are a Saturday and a Sunday. The people that conduct these workshops are court interpreters with years of experience. What they do is that they train us, they bring us the latest information: laws and how we need to be compliant. We receive training in ethics, being a court interpreter, and in the use of technology. In most cases, the Webb County pays for this training but instead, I pay out of my own pocket. I receive certificates for attending, and I also get continue education hours, which you need to renew your license,” Carrillo said.

Most of the time, many of the people working at the court have experienced a lot of stories that vary in satisfying or sad moments, and so has been in Carrillo’s case.

“They always say your first experience is always the most memorable. It was about an old lady, in her 70s, who was a victim of a crime in Rio Bravo or El Cenizo. I could see she was very emotional while testifying in front of many people what she had gone through.  I remember speaking with her and telling her everything was going to be okay, and for her to calm down. I told her, instead, ‘tell me what happened, and I will tell your story for you.’ She was squeezing my hard very hard because she was very emotional, and that was one of the things that impacted me. That’s when I realized how important it is for a person’s story to be told,” he said.

Throughout the many years of experience Carrillo has had, he sends a message to students and people aspiring to this job.

“I would tell them, depending on the two languages they are planning to work in, to be very knowledgeable in both languages, or them to be able to understand, read, write and speak both languages. I would say to start attending trainings and court hearings, as experience helps you a lot. Anyone can walk into a courtroom. It will be amazing for you to attend these trials so you can see and listen to the interpreters and what they do. Interpreters can help in any place. Like me, in my church, we help interpret the pastor preaching to the non-Spanish speaking audience,” he said. “We provide them with earphones, and we translate to English through them. Interpreters also work at conferences. As a matter of fact, I’ve been asked to help interpret next week.”

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