By Tzatzil LeMair
Meet Lorena Devlyn.
“What I love most about my job is being the voice of LEPs (Limited English Proficient) individuals in the justice system.”
Lorena Devlyn, Court Interpreter Since 2012
Thousands of court proceedings take place in the United States every day. Some of those court proceedings, from routine immigration and asylum hearings to family and civil law cases, involve individuals who have limited English proficiency. In these cases, the court appoints a legal interpreter to be the voice and ears for these individuals who are likely undergoing difficult circumstances. The role of the legal interpreter is a vital one as their interpretations can have consequential legal ramifications.
We recently sat down with Lorena Devlyn (LD) to learn about her day-to-day life and to gain insight into the profession.
What is a typical day at work for you?
LD: I work as staff interpreter in the U.S. District Courts for the District of New Mexico in Las Cruces. Because of its proximity to the border, it’s one of the busiest federal courts in the country. Most cases we handle are immigration, human trafficking and drug related. In a typical day I do initial appearances in the morning for up 100 defendants at a time. In the afternoons, I usually do detention, change of plea or sentencing hearings. I also do telephonic interpreting in Spanish and French for other federal courts across the nation.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
LD: What I love most about my job is being the voice of LEPs (Limited English Proficient) individuals in the justice system. I am passionate about fair language access in the courts. I also love being exposed to many languages on a daily basis. Some days I get to interpret from Spanish into English at one hearing, then French into English at another hearing. In some instances, I do relay interpreting from less common indigenous languages like Quiche, Tzotzil, Kekchi, Mam, Kanjobal and Mixteco into Spanish and then into English and vice versa.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
LD: The mental fatigue. Whether I am interpreting in simultaneous or consecutive mode, my brain is working in more than one modality—perception and production—and must jump through multiple mental hoops in order to accurately and completely interpret the message from the source language to the target language, to the best of my ability. The task of conveying meaning in two different languages at the same time is a demanding one. Interpreter error must be avoided at all cost. The stakes are very high in the criminal justice system because I am the voice and ears of the defendant or the witness.
What is the future outlook for professionals in the field?
LD: There are more than 6 million LEPs in Texas alone, so there is a huge need for qualified, professional legal interpreters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of interpreters is projected to grow 18% between 2016 and 2026, much faster than the average rate of other occupations. Whether your goal is to become a freelance or a staff interpreter, it’s a great career, in high demand with great job opportunities.
If you are bilingual, compassionate and interested in the legal interpreter field, perhaps you should consider pursuing a legal interpreter certificate to advance your career while making a difference in peoples’ lives.
Tzatzil LeMair s currently the Senior Director of Social Media at Real Chemistry and is a former account director of Sensis TX. A graduate of the Boston University Questrom School of Business, she is an experienced advertising executive and leader in cross-cultural, multi-channel marketing.
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