Interview with Osvaldo Aviles, Interpreter program Administrator at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC).
Links to the summit advertised:
Finding the Parallels Summit
November 9th - Free Welcome Reception
Novemeber 10th-11th- Skill Building Workshop
Interpreters 4 Agreements Webinar
Speaker 1:0:00Hello and thank you for listening to subject to interpretation hosted by Augustine Delamora. My name is Claudia and my name's Kayla, and we are the producers of this program. Before we get into today's interview with special guest as well though at lists who is the administrator of the interpreter program at the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania courts, we wanted to bring you the latest announcements from delamore interpreter training. If you found us on facebook, we like to remind you that you may download to your phone wherever podcasts are available now on to some more exciting news. Join US Friday, November ninth for our finding the parallels. Welcome reception. This is free to the public and open to anyone interested or curious, but becoming an interpreter as well as all certified and registered interpreters are welcome to come beginning at six PM. The reception will feature a panel of federal and medical interpreters followed by a networking event, drinks and free giveaways.
Speaker 1:0:58Don't miss on this rewarding opportunity and do you want to keep up to date with your ceos and Lmr is webinars and podcasts. Join our membership program for legal interpreters where you will find a library of educational resources and courses required for cms also where you can view all past and upcoming webinars. Our next webinar takes place tomorrow, October 27th, presented by our one and only Augustine Dannemora with our student membership. You will have access to all of these for only $19 a month, and as always, all the links will be in the description bar below. Now, stay tuned for next week's podcast featuring Patricia Mickelson, King, federally certified interpreter and Spanish professor who assisted in developing the state test as well as the federal oral and written exams should be interesting. And last week we asked you once again to send in your questions for us to answer on air and here are the top three questions.
Speaker 1:1:58Number one being how many cies will I earned by attending the finding the parallel summit, you'll be able to earn 60 ce credits for the state of Florida as well as 10 point five imi aia credits for all of you medical interpreters. And do you offer FCC exam prep? Yes, we do. In fact, we have the very last one this year, starting on December third, and then we will have a few additional offerings next year, both for the written and oral prep. And do you offer conference interpreting courses? Yes. Uh, if we have in ts, we're happy to announce that we will be offering conference interpreting classes in 2019. So stay tuned. We appreciate you all for listening in. We pride ourselves in being one of the very few podcasts for professional interpreters out there. So please share us with all of your colleagues. We would love to hear more of your feedback and questions. We will continue to answer the frequently asked questions here on the podcast. So please feel free to contact our office and you will most likely hear from one of us until next week. Now enjoy the interview with as well as Villus. Goodbye.
Speaker 2:3:19So hello and welcome to another edition of subject to interpretation. My name is Christine [inaudible] and I'm your host today and I'm very happy today because a good friend of mine that has been working in this field for many, many years. Mr Osvaldo, I is with us today, he has agreed to share with us, he's experienced both as the director or have the access language access program for Pennsylvania. He'll tell us what the exact title is and uh, the first person and that we are doing in this series that is actually involved with the testing and hiring interpreters for the state. So we're very pleased to have him here. And without further ado, welcome as well dot. How you doing?
Speaker 3:4:09Good. How are you having seeing. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 2:4:11Well, thank. Thank you for agreeing. And, and as I was saying, why don't you tell us exactly what your title is and what is it that you do for the state of Pennsylvania?
Speaker 3:4:21Well, my actual title is a interpreter program administrator. Uh, so we do have a second person in, in, on staff that is the actual language access ordinator. So I didn't want to rob any of her, uh, a spot by, um, my, I'm assuming her, her title as well. So I'm, I'm just in charge of managing our, um, interpreter certification process.
Speaker 2:4:51Right. And you say just, but it's a pretty big endeavor, isn't it?
Speaker 3:4:56Oh yeah. It's a pretty big task, especially here in Pennsylvania, you know, we're one of the largest states and uh, we have, uh, quite a number of courts to, um, serve. We have 16 judicial districts.
Speaker 2:5:12Sixty six, zero, six zero. Yes. That's plenty. Yes. And all of them, uh, one way or another are going to have to deal with you or call you when they're needing the services of an interpreter. Is that correct?
Speaker 3:5:27Correct. We publish our roster of a certified an otherwise qualified interpreters and it's available on our website and whenever, uh, the, uh, language that a particular a district needs is not listed in our roster, then they contact us and we, uh, make resources available to them that we, uh, gather and collect through means like the national centers that database and National Association of Judiciary Interpreters, a roster and a t a roster.
Speaker 2:6:05Good. Now let me back up a little bit because you have been in this business for awhile ever since you were a teenager. I understand. And, uh, and before becoming the director of the program for ct interpretation, you were an actual interpreter in Pennsylvania, is that true?
Speaker 3:6:24Yes. I, uh, before I assume in my present position, I worked for 14 years, uh, so staffing term further in the common pleas court in Philadelphia, home police pouring is what we call our core, the first instance. And even before that, before I took my job when the port was interpreting already for about five or six years, um, I started doing some teaching with Berlitz and eventually became engaged in interpreting for them. Then after that I went to work for a community legal services, which is an agency that provides services, hearing the Philadelphia area, uh, to low income people that cannot afford to pay their own attorney's. Uh, and there I also was working not only as an interpreter what as a community organizer as well as the representative for the Paralegal, they called it a for a workers comp cases. So I always do any work or a workers' comp cases and, and representing people in those as well. And that was all before coming to the court.
Speaker 2:7:41Right. And when you became an interpreter, like probably many of us, you mentioned that you were a Berlitz teacher, you know, and made me, some people might know that I was a teacher too and I'm starting to find out that batteries have me and king was at Berlitz teacher and writing letters to say, hey, guess what, your alumni is now working in the field of interpretation. So, but you, when you were a kid, did you say, Oh, I'm going to be an interpreter when I grow up. Was that.
Speaker 3:8:10No, I did not. Uh, growing up, uh, my grandmother always had designs that are always going to be a lawyer. And uh, when I actually went to college I decided I didn't like the law and that's a profession. So I turned to the other major professional in the family which was teaching. My mother is a retired college professor and I have several aunts and cousins were also college professors. So I, uh, went on and thinking that I was going to become a college professor or professor in political science. That's what I liked.
Speaker 2:8:49And then how did you kind of fall into interpreter?
Speaker 3:8:54Well, yeah, I went
Speaker 2:8:56to college in Puerto Rico, which is where I'm from. And then, uh, when I finished my ba I decided to come to the states for a master's degree and uh, when I came to the states, uh, while I was working in my master's degree, I started looking for opportunities to, uh, you know, have some additional income, uh, aside from the scholarship that I received to attend. Uh, I was, I was going to Princeton at that time. Um, so, um, I started doing some looking around and I found that Berlitz was looking for teachers, so it seems I presumed that I was bilingual enough. Uh, I, uh, went and applied for a job and they took me in as a teacher, you know, or originally, uh, and then later on, you know, and then interpreting opportunity came off and I said yes. And I launched into that without, like you said, without any training, you know, just walking off, showing up one day and saying, hey, I haven't been on for the rest the to work with you. And surprise, surprise, it wasn't as easy as you thought it was. Gonna be
Speaker 3:10:10price surprise. It wasn't as easy. Yeah.
Speaker 2:10:12Not since you went to Princeton. I have a very important question to ask. Did you go to school with Brooke Shields and did you know her?
Speaker 3:10:20Not at that time and I asked her that when I found out that she had. She's at Princeton that night. I asked her that, but unfortunately I think that the age difference with that I was there way before she did I think.
Speaker 2:10:38Got You. Got You. Well I was hoping that you could tell some stories about Brooke shields, but. Right. So then you become an interpreter with Berlitz and if I remember correctly, have that much training for the interpreters. Right. They would just send you because you were better teacher.
Speaker 3:10:54That's right because I wasn't teacher and because I was bilingual and they have determined that, you know, I was good enough to be a teacher so I should probably know the language well enough. So here you go.
Speaker 2:11:07There you go. And so when you started as an interpreter, what, what did you think? Did you think that you were going to stay with it or was it just, as you said, just kind of together some extra cash?
Speaker 3:11:19Well, when I first started, I, my idea was, you know, this is an extra money. I wasn't taking it very seriously. Uh, but then eventually I started liking it. And, uh, when I finished my, my, uh, my masters at Princeton, I went back to Puerto Rico for a year and then I came back to the states. I actually went and did some teaching at the university, uh, in Puerto Rico and uh, decided to come back to work on my phd. And then when I came back I really hope up with, uh, with Berlitz and um, that's when they started sending me through some interpretation assignments, uh, and I started liking it and I want more importantly, I found that I had some facility for it. Um, so, um, I had a most of the vocabulary, uh, and I had the facility to speak and listen at the same time, uh, and the retention, uh, uh, skills and memory skills. So I said, hey, maybe this can lead to something. And at the same time when, when I was here, I was studying in the states, I wasn't teaching, so I was still needed that extra income.
Speaker 2:12:41So fast forward a few years and you're still liking it and now you, how did you get it? How do you make the leap to go to start going to the courts? Was it that Berlitz sent you to?
Speaker 3:12:51No, I and that time I was already working for community legal services that other agency I mentioned to you earlier and the wildlife community legal services. I was doing court stuff. Obviously I was, I said I was working as a paralegal and going to work or workers comp hearing and, and unemployment compensation hearings. So I started to familiarize myself a little bit with the legal process. And then remember my, my grandmother always wanted to meet me to be an attorney. So I started reconnecting with the legal aspect and I always enjoying it. You know, I, I was winning, you know, my fair number of, uh, of cases at the workers' comp and unemployment compensation hearings. Uh, but while working at community legal services with a bunch of weather attorneys or attorneys, I'm not an attorney with a bunch of attorneys, one of them, one, they said, you know, um, the, uh, court of common pleas, he's looking for a staff interpreter.
Speaker 3:13:56They already had staff interpreters, but they were looking for an additional interpreter. They have a position open. So I went and applied and I got the job again. So Lo and behold, I left community legal services and I went to work for the courts right now without having had any kind of certification or anything like that. Um, and then later after I had been working for the courts for awhile, there was a change of leadership in the courts and someone from the National Center for State Court team in a to help re, uh, or redesign the, uh, um, the court, uh, employment and, and, and, uh, uh, system. Uh, and then he decided that because there were staffing therapy, there's, uh, that they needed to be tested because at that time that the national center has started the consortium with a New Jersey. Uh, I mean it's, so the Washington and Oregon and uh, they already had develops on testing so they knew about testing, so they brought that idea and then they told us that we had to test a, uh, for, you know, if we wanted to continue to be employed at staff interpreters.
Speaker 2:15:22Do you remember who was that person from national center?
Speaker 3:15:25Uh, the, the national, the person from national center that came in as a consultant, so to was Bill Hewitt. Oh, I see. Yep. And, and, uh, he fondly. Yeah. And then he brought in Robert. Joe Lee was involved in the beginning of the consortium and was nearby in New Jersey. Um, so, so it was Robert Joe that organize the testing.
Speaker 2:15:51That's cool. We actually had that Robert Jaws, one of our guests for this podcast. Uh, so he told us because I knew that he kind of owned the history of, of, of the consortium and the testing in the United States, you know, unfortunately by bill had had passed and we didn't have the opportunity to talk to him. So. But Robert, Joe certainly gave us a very good history lesson on how this develops, but did you have to test with the New Jersey exam then? Was that your first?
Speaker 3:16:22Yes, they use New Jersey exam and it was live. The raiders were sitting there across from you and the table. They had three reyers. Um, two of them were reading the script and the other one was taking notes of and the test was recorded it and it was the test was given to us and here in city hall in Philadelphia,
Speaker 2:16:48nerve nervewracking. I remember those days when I took. And actually the state exam was modeled so much after the federal exam that it had the same structure because when I took the federal exam, that was exactly the structure. Three very serious looking people, one of them holly makers that made me even more nervous and then, and then they would read to you and they would take notes and supposedly every time they wrote down something it was not bad. But I am sure all of us thought that every time they put pen to paper we had made a mistake.
Speaker 3:17:23That's right, there you go. One of his scoring units wrong.
Speaker 2:17:26That's right. Exactly. So yeah. So you've got this test and then how, how has it changed from that time to now as far as uh, a Pennsylvania? How are things going over there? Are you still testing now? What is, what is the story now? No,
Speaker 3:17:45well, yes. I mean, um, when, when we took that test, there was no state wide program for certification of interpreters in the, uh, the uh, Philadelphia courts were at the vanguard vanguard of the, uh, of the testing process. Uh, but so we became certified and my certification was officially like a certificate from New Jersey, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. So I, the letter I got said, you know, you're being certified in the state of New Jersey, but that was good enough or, or Philadelphia. So at that time there was no formal testing. It wasn't until much later in 2001 this, we took the test in 19 the seven. Um, and it wasn't until 2001 that, uh, because of a commission that was put together by the offense of Supreme Court to look at issues of racial and gender bias in the court system than the issue of qualification of interpreters came up.
Speaker 3:18:57The, uh, issue of qualification of interpreters was originally in the mandate of that commission, but as they went around the state holding public hearings and interviewing people, uh, the issue of the quality and availability of interpreters came up. So I'm in a, took up such a big role in the commission's work that ended up being the very first chapter in the commission's report to the court. And there was a recommendation to create a program to, uh, qualify interpreters for the court system statewide. Um, and, uh, they commissioned me to recommendations one that they looked towards the national center than already established consortium for language access in the courts, um, which had started in 1995. Um, and then the second was to, um, create a, a program within the office of the Pennsylvania ports to manage that process of certification and qualification. And the court reacted very positive in a very positive way to that recommendation and immediately went to work and in 2000 and a 2003, um, started a program, uh, putting together a program and then I was hired in 2004 to be the, I'm the administrator of the program and that's when we really started.
Speaker 3:20:40And, um, the, you asked me how has it changed when, um, the, uh, the way that, uh, the, uh, exams are administered. It has definitely changed, you know, we no longer have that model where, you know, you sit in front of a hearing, people that three characters, uh, to, uh, have, uh, the test deliver to you a live, um, you know, the, uh, the National Center, uh, has gone through a process of streamlining the delivery of the, uh, of the testing instruments and now. So the tests are recorded and you can deliver the test either via CB or via on your recording directly from a laptop or any other electronic device. Um, so, um, and the international center has also a continued to develop a test in additional languages. When we first started the test were only for Spanish, and now we have a thanks to, um, the National Center's program. I'm 22 languages that we can test in a.
Speaker 2:21:57have you had people test on all 22 of those languages?
Speaker 3:22:00No, we haven't. Uh, we have about 10, 12 languages that we test most of the time. Uh, we have had a, for example, we never, we never had a Somali test and we've never had a. The other language is Turkish with never had a test in interchange. How about March release? Because I, I know that Shelley's, no, no, Marsha least. Well, we do have plenty of candidates that take tests in Korean and Vietnamese and Arabic and Chinese and Portuguese, which are languages that are in high demand, uh, for, for our court system.
Speaker 2:22:46So now those changes have been evolving. While you have been the director of the program as the director of the program, how do you see the candidates? First of all, if I wanted to be an interpreter, what would you tell me? What is it that I need to do? Because Hey, I'm bilingual. Started with no training, can I do the same,
Speaker 3:23:06right? Um, well, whenever we have people that show interest in, in the program and becoming, I'm certainly fine with us. Um, we start there and we tell them, you know, you have to be bilingual and being bilingual means that not only can you speak the language, but you also have to be able to read and write the language and the level of a native speaker. Uh, a lot of the problems that we have with candidates these days, um, result from the fact that many of the, uh, of the candidates that want to become certified, our second and third generation speakers over their foreign. So English is their first language so they are not as fully bilingual. So I think you have to have a solid background in, in both languages. That's number one. And number two, we tried to make clear to them that you need certain interpreting skills, like being able to have a good memory, be able to take notes effectively, um, be able to follow a conversation and speak simultaneously as the other person is speaking.
Speaker 3:24:26I'm an element. All of those skills with some basic cognitive skills and that you can develop your practice hard enough. So, um, and when, when candidates do and half, you know, the necessary language skills, we recommend that they take some courses, uh, at the community college level or some other college or university to augment those, uh, language skills. Uh, and uh, when we, we, we think that most candidates, uh, as long as they have the cognitive ability can learn the, uh, interpreting skills. Um, you can improve your note taking. You can improve your memory, retention, you know, we can give them exercises to learn to do that. Uh, one of the language skills are something that if they don't come with that something that we're not prepared to give to them, uh, we can, uh, run, you know, a coursing in learning Farsi or learning a cadillac or something like that.
Speaker 2:25:43And, and I understand since you brought up, and we've talked about this exam many times, we know it's, a lot of people talk about this in the field of interpretation. That is how difficult it is to pass this test. How, how tough it is, how low the percentages. I wanted to ask you a couple of things from different points of view. So first of all, what is a, the average, uh, uh, the of people that pass the oral examination nationwide, do you happen to know or in your state?
Speaker 3:26:14Nationwide is between eight and 10 percent. Uh, that's what we hear from the National Center and from my conversations with other program managers throughout the country, that's the average. Our passing rate is slightly higher than the national average. We have about 12 percent passing rate.
Speaker 2:26:35Okay. And why do you think that is?
Speaker 3:26:38I'm okay
Speaker 2:26:39and Sylvania or smarter?
Speaker 3:26:42Actually, I, uh, it has to do with two things. First of all, we really emphasized the training, uh, and the practice before you step off to take the test for the first time. And also maybe because we bifurcate and test, uh, we uh, administer in the oral exam in two phases. We used the simultaneous first in phase one and we do that because I'm 90 percent of the time interpreting the simultaneous moment. What interpreters are going to do a in court. And in court proceedings, and so, uh, and then phase two, we administering the site and make consecutive test. Uh, so we allow the candidate to concentrate on trying to pass a simultaneous tests first. And I'm developing their skills on that and practicing for that. Uh, and then once they are over that hurdle and they can come in and take the site and make consecutive in our experience, candidates that are able to do well in the simultaneous, have a better chance of passing the site and they consecutive on their first dry. It doesn't happen always like that. But, um, but that's, that's been our experience. So I think that's, you know, those are two things, why I think our passing rates slightly higher. Uh, and it also helps that at some point you have to say that in your pool of candidates, um, you're selecting from a pool of candidate that has, um, the, the, the, the most important qualification, which is, you know, they have a solid background in languages,
Speaker 2:28:38languages. Yeah. I think that we, as I traveled through the country teaching, uh, interpreters, I have noticed that some people do not understand that that important difference between being bilingual enough to go order a cup of coffee or travel and, and communicate with somebody with a lot of grammatical mistakes that people will forgive in, in normal conversation and assume that that level of sophistication in their language is gonna function or work the same in a court environment that obviously doesn't. So I have seen that. So there's two, there's the end users from the point of view of attorneys, judges, uh, etc. And then they interpret it. So from the point of view of the Attorneys and the judges, what do you hear about this low passing rate?
Speaker 3:29:33Well, the probably most common complaint that we have from the, uh, legal field as well as from our judges and court administrators. And why is it so hard to pass a test? Uh, it must be something wrong with the test because, you know, uh, people refer a friends and acquaintances that they know, that are bilingual to our program all the time. And we've had people that are attorneyS, you know, people that have advanced degrees in various fields coming and taking the test as well as people that just have a ged or did not finish high school at all. But, uh, some of them, you know, are, have the necessary, um, make off and they pass the test even if they haven't gone through high school. And then you have a attorneys and other professionals that take the test and can pass it. So the issue is, you know, why, you know, what's wrong with the test that all these, you know, intelligent, bright people that we're referring to the program campath, there must be something wrong with the test.
Speaker 3:30:47So we're constantly trying to explain to them that it's not the test. I know I'm saying that the candidate is bringing to the testing process that's lacking. Um, and you know, we emphasize the point that these candidates, we don't, we don't ask them to get every single scoring uni right. You know, they only have to get 70 percent. So we're letting them onto the roster. So certified interpreter waiting when they can still get 30 percent of their interpretation on wrong and still be called a certainly finding therapists. Um, so the other thing is people don't realize they don't have an idea of what interpreting is all about. They understand the role of the interpreter. Uh, they, they say, well, you know, you're just repeating what the other person said. How hard can that be? So a lot of, a lot of our work here, uh, since the program began, has bone into the area over by the patient if a patient not only have interpreters for training them to, uh, to try and pass the test, but also an indication of the legal community, a judges, attorneys, uh, administrators within the court system, uh, and others that, that using interpreters on the regular basis to help them understand what the role and qualifications are a and why is it that people pass and note pass the test.
Speaker 3:32:26So I would say, you know, when I, when we do an orientation program and the way I have to describe the program, our program has three main goals. One number one is to create the roster of interpreters, so that means we're testing and qualifying interpreters. Number two is to assist the judicial districts in obtaining interpreter services. And, you know, I'm constantly answering questions from judicial districts about how, how do I manage this and that, how do I pay for their complaints about invoicing, stuff like that. And then I'm number three. I'm probably, I would say the second most important aspect of our program is the education. The last night, uh, I want to say that when I started in this program or when the court started this program in 2004, actually when we started testing, there was actually no, um, services or training interpreters in the state of Pennsylvania since our program started. We haven't been able to develop a number of relationships with community colleges and universities and professional organizations to start offering training opportunities, uh, to the point where we now have on the regular basis different types of trainings going on throughout mistake. Not only put together, you know, a, or percent then by aos as a program, but also by a professional organizations in this state. And a couple of colleges and universities that have developed a training programs for interpreters
Speaker 2:34:06and that probably also is contributing to the higher a passing rate of the year candidates possibly. And I wanted to get to that point because I think obviously we have to all understand and the people who are listening to us, I want to become interpreters is that definitely being bilingual and having the correct level is important. But training, educating yourself and knowing it's really the key to success and that just jumping in with two feet and, and passing even if you were able to do it, that's not something that happens very often, that that's why most interpreters are not successful when they take the test because they assume, hey, I'm bilingual. And I as you know, I like to say, well I have, you know, a driver's license, but that doesn't make me dale earnhardt jr. That even though I know how to drive and I've been driving for 30 years, I don't know how to drive a race car. So what else? So the advice that you Would give to anybody who started in this business is good business to be in bad, bad business to be in. You like it. Why do you like it?
Speaker 3:35:23I think it's an excellent field to be in a ever since I started in this field myself, the, uh, over infinities for interpreting not only as legal interpreter, but in many other fields of interpreting, medical interpreting, community interpreting, even conference interpreting a fire skyrocket. It skyrocketed. I think you probably know that the interpreting profession, he is among the top 10 professionals, uh, events in five by the department of labor in the United States, uh, with, you know, as having one of the best growing potentials. So it's definitely a good field to be in. Um, it's growing because the diversity in the country continues to grow and gradually we're making inroads into all the, uh, uh, different areas were interpreting is being used and, and, and, and making people understand that, you know, people have to be prepared. Then this is like any other professional, um, and um, so that in that sense, you know, I think the field is wide open for advancement and anyone that has the necessary qualifications and is willing to put the time to do the proper training. Uh, um, um, um, the, I'm qualified in, in one of the areas of interpreting a is where they have a good career path ahead of them.
Speaker 2:37:04Yeah. And look at you, you're now in your 15th year as a director of the program.
Speaker 3:37:11Well, actually a 14, 14. I'm now at a point where I'm, you know, I wasn't interpreting for 14 years and now I've been an administrator for 14 years, so I'm not exactly 50 slash 50.
Speaker 2:37:24So you're a teenager and the field as well as well though, it's been a little over a half an hour and I didn't know we had committed half an hour. So I really wanted to thank you for your generosity with your time and, and, uh, you've given us a little bit of an insight to Pennsylvania and I know that if people have more questions they can go to your website and uh, where did they go? Pennsylvania courts are,
Speaker 3:37:49they go into a pa.us and then look for in a certification in the, uh, um, in the bar, right on there and the header.
Speaker 2:38:00Okay. Well thank you very much again for your time. We hope to see you soon and the future and maybe we'll have another conversation with you and you will continue to share with us, but for now, thanks again. Sure, no problem. I've seen. Thank you for having me. Okay, bye. Bye.