She’s open to interpretation |

She’s open to interpretation

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
John Gardner/Post IndependentMaria Deleo, a court interpreter in the 9th and 14th judicial districts, and her staff of five cover eight courthouses from Aspen to Rangely to Steamboat.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Misnomer: “A wrong or inaccurate name or designation.”

Misnomer was one of Maria Deleo’s words-of-the-day on Tuesday. She studies the meanings of three words, each day, and how each could be used in different contexts.

“One word can come up four or five different ways depending on the context,” Deleo said.

It’s part of her job as the regional managing court interpreter for Colorado’s 9th and 14th judicial districts. But calling her work a “job” is a misnomer because it’s more than that, it’s a career and a passion.

“I love it,” she said about the work. “Once you get into it, it’s a career that you have to love to learn because that is all you do.”

Learning to interpret one language to another, expanding two languages so she can be more fluent in both is a large part of what she does. But thinking that a court interpreter’s work is all about listening and repeating words, is another misnomer.

An interpreter’s job requires them to be skilled in three distinct aspects of interpretation: simultaneous, consecutive and sight.

“They are very different,” Deleo said.

Simultaneous interpretation requires the interpreter to listen to a person speaking one language and relay the message in another language at the same time. And in the context of people’s freedom, there is no room for error.

Throw in a dictionary of legal jargon that most of her clients don’t understand and the task becomes a lot more difficult than expected.

Deleo said that when interpreting a conversation it’s important for the interpreter to convey the message exactly as it was spoken by the judge, lawyer or client. But she has to also be aware of facial expressions that indicate if a client who speaks Spanish is confused by what was said.

And Deleo and her team of interpreters have done an excellent job.

“My 11 years here, I have never had any complaint from anyone who needed an interpreter,” said James Bradford, clerk of the combined courts for Garfield County . “I’ve never had a complaint that they were treated with anything but respect and professionalism.”

Deleo has worked as a court interpreter in the 9th and 14th judicial districts since 1999. Currently, she covers eight courthouses in the two districts from Aspen and Glenwood Springs, to Rangely and over to Steamboat. And she does it with a total of six interpreters including herself. Deleo is the only full-time state employee. The others are freelancers, some are full time and some are part time, and some even have other jobs.

“Right now, due to budget constraints, I try to cover as much as possible,” Deleo said.

But with five locations the interpreters are spread very thin.

Mondays are the busiest day with four or five courthouses from Aspen to Glenwood to Meeker going at the same time. On Tuesdays there are at least two courthouses in session. On Wednesdays both Rifle and Glenwood municipal courts are in session with “big dockets,” she said, as well as Garfield County Court. Thursdays are at the Garfield County Courthouse but there are several courts going in the 9th Judicial District. Fridays she finds herself in places like Meeker and Steamboat Springs if she’s needed.

Often times she can handle some of the further courts by phone. However, it’s not uncommon for Deleo to start her day in Aspen, travel to Meeker to finish the morning and return to Glenwood for the afternoon. And it’s not unusual for her to interpret between 20 and 25 cases a day.

“We still have our slow days, with one or two cases,” she said. “But usually we are pretty busy.”

With eight courthouses and a large Hispanic population in the two districts, Deleo and her team are in high demand on the Western Slope.

“We do compete with some of the busier district’s numbers on the front range,” she said.

One reason for the low number of freelance interpreters is the very demanding test they must pass in order to become certified. Just to pass the test often proves to be more than most can handle.

“You really have to want to do it to stick with it,” she said.

Even Deleo says that she didn’t get into the profession seeking a career.

“Very few start out choosing this as a career,” Deleo said. “You start out thinking it’s more like a job.”

But her passion soon caught up with her.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

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