Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Court Interpreters Bridge Language Gap

Navigating the legal system can be difficult for someone whose native language is not English. That’s where court interpreters like Svetlana Ball come in.

“My goal is to produce linguistically correct and legally appropriate equivalent of what’s being said between the parties,” Ball said.

Originally from Ukraine, Ball is a Supreme Court of Ohio certified interpreter and travels the state to assist in court cases where Russian translation is needed.

“It’s something that I really like and it makes me feel that I’m doing something for the country that welcomed me – you know I’m not a native English speaker, I came from another country – and I feel that by doing this I’m paying back,” she added.

Hundreds of cases a day are heard at the Franklin County Municipal Court, and the need for language translation is always present.

“We have six to seven interpreters in other languages that come into the courthouse,” according to Adriana Fonseca, the court’s interpreter coordinator. “Interpreters are practically invisible. We allow the judge, the defense attorney, the prosecutor to communicate with that LEP (Limited English Proficient) party and allow that the communication flows seamlessly – just like they would be communicating in English.”

Rafael Montanez changed careers a little more than a year ago to become a Spanish interpreter and he finds the work rewarding.

“Even though you’re translating sometimes what can be repetitive, to us becomes repetitive, but to the client that’s the bridge between understanding what’s going on and being able to stand on their own –so to speak – and being totally helpless,” Montanez said.

Ohio courts accommodate approximately 80 languages and handle more than 25,000 cases per year that require an interpreter.

The Supreme Court of Ohio Language Services Program includes a rigorous testing process that certifies interpreters like Ball, Fonseca, and Montanez, and bench cards to help guide judges when it comes to working with interpreters.