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UPDATED: New Mexico To Train Court, Medical Care Interpreters

By Barry Massey
Associated Press
      SANTA FE — New Mexico hopes to train more interpreters for courts and medical care providers using online language programs that will start this fall.
    The New Mexico Center for Language Access was developed by the state judiciary in collaboration with state colleges and other government agencies. The online courses will be offered through the University of New Mexico's branch in Los Alamos.
    The center will offer translation training in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Navajo and American Sign Language. Prospective students do not need a high school or college degree but must demonstrate bilingual proficiency to enroll. The programs will be open to residents of New Mexico as well as other states.
    "The goal really is to improve access to justice and to health care in the state of New Mexico," Chief Justice Edward Chavez of the state Supreme Court said Tuesday in announcing the language center.
    A three-semester noncredit program will train people for translation in the judicial system and there will be a separate program for medical system interpreters, who do translation for patients and their health care providers. Those who successfully compete the programs will receive certificates attesting to their training.
    However, a person must pass a separate examination to become a certified court interpreter. Only one in 10 New Mexicans currently pass that exam, according to Arthur Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts.
    More people should be able to pass the exam, he said, with the help of the new translation training program that will deal with court terminology, procedures and legal ethics.
    There is a shortage of interpreters, particularly in rural areas of the state, he said. New Mexico has about 40 certified court interpreters for courts statewide. They are paid about $46 an hour.
    The language center also will offer 12-week noncredit certificate programs in "bilingual communication" for judicial and medical system workers. These are not to train formal interpreters but to help bilingual workers — such as those in a court clerk's office, a law enforcement officer or a nurse — improve their language skills so they can answer questions and provide information to people who do not speak English. Pepin said he hoped the court system can give pay increases to employees who complete the bilingual training program.

Copyright ©2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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