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Manual for Beginning Interpreters
Manual for Beginning Interpreters answers the question: “How can I become a successful interpreter in U.S. immigration courts?” Using vignettes and an asylum hearing, this manual will teach you how to embark on this career. This book is an easy-to-read guide, a hands-on manual with practice material to improve interpretation skills. It provides concepts, definitions and vocabulary, tips from experienced interpreters and attorneys to help beginners avoid rookie mistakes, and supplies reference materials for further study through its bibliography and notes. This manual shows how the main actors think, plan, strategize, prepare for their cases, and how they operate in courts so that you can hone your interpreting skills. A mock hearing containing direct and cross examinations by attorneys gives you a taste of real-world cases. This unique book on the subject covers Spanish/English and other languages used in Latin America and coaches you on how to be successful from the start.
Reviews
Strömmuse’s approachable and direct manual assists new interpreters in preparing for real hearings in U.S. immigration courts. He makes clear that he wrote this manual—which offers realistic but fictional bilingual transcripts presenting defendants from Sonora, Mexico—because help is urgently needed: “The beginning interpreter lacks training and study materials to start doing the complex job of interpreting in immigration courts,” he notes. Opening with the story of a Spanish teacher whose friend invited her to interpret in immigration court, the manual both invites and forewarns readers into the reality of this high-demand but stressful job. Later sections demystify court proceedings, explaining “master calendar hearings,” a common, varied, and challenging situation which might sometimes involve interpreting for up to fifty people, or illuminating the processes of individual hearings.

Strömmuse makes a persuasive case for the urgency of this role, noting that in most U.S. immigration courts, “Without the presence of a bilingual lawyer or family member, no one else can correct a mistake.” He supplements clear-eyed accounts of an interpreter’s role with practical tips (“Always interpret in the first person. For example: ‘I am Margarita’ or ‘I am Ángel.’) plus sample vignettes that offer opportunities to practice interpreting and demonstrate “the rigor, seriousness and high standard” expected of court interpreters. Abbreviated but not brief, one sample script covering direct and cross examinations comprises over half the manual’s pages. As in a real proceeding, questions are posed in English, while the answers come in Spanish.

An accurate representation of how attorneys organize their examinations, that hearing is organized into “blocks.” In other ways, too, the manual simulates actual court practice, demanding that readers practice simultaneous, consecutive and sight interpreting of legal terminology. The committed bilingual reader will follow along, aided by a glossary of terms and links to court documents for study. This manual will serve the beginning interpreter almost as well as real experience.

Takeaway: An inviting and practical introduction to the vital role of interpreter in immigration court.

Great for fans of: José Luis Leyva’s Companion Book for Translators and Interpreters, Susan Berk-Seligson’s The Bilingual Courtroom.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

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