The Problem and Potential of Legal Interpreting

As a business owner, one thing I have noticed over many years is that Hispanics relocating to the U.S. will move wherever there is work. Back in the 1980s, central Florida was growing exponentially. I observed a massive influx of Hispanic workers. Over time, many set roots in the area. In time, many of the immigrant children I grew up with pursued higher education and took on professional jobs. As these young Hispanics acquired professional employment, the need for interpreters lessened. 

During the 2000s, I noticed the massive growth occurring in North and South Carolina. I easily predicted that a great influx of Latinos would populate the area. This is our reality right now and has been for a while. The next step is for the immigrant/first-generation youth to grow up, pursue higher education, and obtain professional jobs. That is also the current reality.

In the past ten years, I realized that to stay in business, I either must grow bigger or specialize further in a high-demand niche. For this reason, Emily pursued legal interpreting and became a South Carolina certified court interpreter. She continues to hone her craft and passed the written exam for federal court certification. Currently, she has been waiting for many months, almost a year, for the results of her practical oral examination.

We have observed that while medical interpreting has been gradually shrinking due to an exodus of the undocumented Hispanic population, an increase of video and telephonic services along with an increase of bilingual professionals entering the workforce. Also, I have seen more and more bilingual youths taking medical interpreting courses at Greenville Tech.  From a business standpoint, this isn’t good for business. It means that there is more competition on an ever-shrinking pie!

As of this moment, I have observed another interesting trend. In the past, Greenville Tech offered a course to prepare legal interpreters for certification. More often than not, the class is canceled because not enough people have signed up.  Legal terminology is much harder to learn because many of us are more familiar with the medical system than the legal one.  For this reason, many interpreters shy away from pursuing legal interpreting.

There is a definite shortage in certified court interpreters in South Carolina; that is why we have a ton of legal work. Because there is a shortage, those who dare should pursue it while the iron is still hot. The effort you put into learning the terminology will pay off! At least for now.

Medical interpreting is a precursor to what will eventually happen in the legal field. Although there will always be a need for interpreters, only highly professional interpreters specializing in their niche will continue to flourish.

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