:: Wausau Daily Herald | Hmong leaders say interpreter process in need of change ::

Hmong leaders say interpreter process in need of change

By Jeff Starck
Wausau Daily Herald
April 9, 2007

Wisconsin has no certified Hmong interpreters, but officials hope to change that.

Court interpreters are sworn under oath and are required to provide accurate interpretations without omissions or additions, while preserving the meaning, tone and style of the original statement, according to the state’s Web site.

Hmong leaders say a lack of common terminology and a difference in structure between the Hmong and English languages complicates simultaneous interpretation, which the state requires for certification.

“To be simultaneous in Hmong, it is almost impossible, in my experience,” said Thomas Lee, director of minority affairs for Wausau and Marathon County. “You almost have to paraphrase what is being said.”

Lee said changes are needed for more Hmong interpreters to be certified.

He participated in an interpreter training class to better understand how it works. Interpreters who are certified must successfully complete oral and written exams and abide by a code of ethics.

Marathon County in February hired Southern Wisconsin Interpreting and Translation Services of Delavan to provide translation and interpretation for its departments.

The county’s contract with SWITS began April 1.

Saul Arteaga, owner of SWITS, said his Wausau office uses the Hmong Mutual Association to provide some interpreters, and several at the provisional level are near the completion of the oral exam. The Wausau office has three interpreters and will add a fourth. They can translate in Hmong, Spanish, Laotian and American Sign Language.

Marathon County Clerk of Courts Diane Sennholz said the courts had used SWITS before the contract, and SWITS arranges for an interpreter at the county’s request, allowing court officials to focus on other matters.

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