Book Review: The New Professional Court Interpreter

A few weeks ago, superstar court interpreter and renowned trainer Tony Rosado (state and federally certified, etc.) sent us a courtesy copy of his new publication, titled "The New Professional Court Interpreter." As we have done with many other books before, we'd like to share our opinion of this little book with all of you. As you might know, we don't tend to review books we don't like, so let's take the suspense out of this: we like it, but we have some constructive criticism as well.

It looks good on the bookshelf!
This slim, but useful tome would be best described as a manual rather than as a book, in reality, so we will probably stick to that term here. It is professionally bound and reads well, but at 49 pages, including 10 pages of relevant appendices, it's really more accurate to call it a manual or guide. It's geared toward beginning court interpreters in the United States. 

Tony Rosado is well-known across the country for his formidable insight into the Mexican and American legal systems and his outstanding skills as a court interpreter. He's a sought-after interpreter trainer and has spent a lot of time talking about the professionalization of our profession -- which happens to be something that's very dear to our hearts -- and this booklet is the naturally progression of all his teachings. It's also fantastic to learn from someone who knows the law as well as Tony does -- he is, after all, a Mexican attorney. This is a publication that we will certainly recommend to anyone who considers becoming a court interpreter in the United States, as this guide is ideal for beginners. 

This slim manual isn't meant for experienced court interpreters. Rather, it's geared toward brand-new (and possibly newly certified) court interpreters who are just starting out and need guidance on everything from basic procedural information, to billing, to business etiquette, etc. As a matter of fact, when Judy first became certified as a court interpreter in Nevada, she realized that workshop attendees and court interpreter hopefuls could really benefit from some more information than the 2-day workshop that was organized by the courts. This manual fills some of the void, but we still wish it were four times as long. There's a lot to say about this topic, and Tony is a prolific and insightful writer (visit his blog). Given his fantastic writing track record, we expected a bit more from this guide.

While it features some solid starting-out information, this manual left us wanting for more, and were indeed disappointed that it was so limited. Wanting to read more from Tony is a good thing, as he is, without a doubt, one of the most respected and knowledgeable professionals in the court interpreting industry.

Does this manual do his knowledge justice? Probably not, as it's just a synopsis of what he knows. Some of the additional information we would have liked to see included is: detailed description of the stages of a criminal and civil case (which isn't that easily available in a simple format for non-attorneys), work opportunities in the courts, and a greatly expanded section on ethics, among other topics.

Ethics in the courtroom is a very important area, but it's one that really is rarely covered well beyond simply giving the interpreter the code of ethics, which is quite vague. We had hoped Tony would dedicate, say, 30 pages to analyzing specific situations and giving advice on how to handle them, as he has the insight to do so. It's great that Tony includes the code of ethics, which every certified interpreter has, but the question is: what does the line "interpreters shall protect the confidentiality of all parties" really mean? Does that mean we can never talk about the case even in abstract terms? Can we give the parties pseudonyms and then talk about them? Can we talk about the case 25 years from now, after the parties have passed away? Can we use actual court cases (well disguised) when we teach other court interpreters? These are all good questions with no readily defined answers, as the code of ethics is pretty general. We think insight on this topic would have been fantastic, especially coming from someone who has worked in the courts for 30 years. In addition, Tony writes on his blog quite eloquently about many topics, and we wish he had included some of that information here.

The only other sticking point that's already been mentioned by others is the price -- but it's notoriously difficult to put a price on original work. We've seen this manual sold for $19-$30 (depending on where you purchase it), but would agree that this is a bit high. In comparison, full-length 200-page books, such as Corinne McKay's How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, cost $19.95, which we think is more reasonable. However, this guide deserves a place on the bookshelf of every beginning court interpreter. Now, perhaps we can collectively talk Tony into publishing a full-length book? We'd be the first ones to read it.


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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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