Narrator: Hi everyone. Welcome to the subject to interpretation podcast series hosted by Agustin De La Mora. This is our space for professional interpreters to share their stories and advice and discuss current events in the profession and where it’s heading. Today we will be interviewing the program manager of the Administrative Office of the courts in Georgia. John Botero. Before we jump into this interview, we’d like to talk a little bit about some new live online classes that are coming up, including our advanced consecutive and simultaneous course beginning on April 1st. This CEU eligible course is a great way to take your interpreting skills to the next level. Shortly after that intro to community interpreting course will begin on April 2nd this class covers the basics of interpreting and community organizations such as schools, businesses, and recreational institutions. Also beginning on April 2nd will be these two courses, medical workers comp and intro to immigration interpreting. These courses will prepare you to interpret for these specific types of cases and finally we are excited to announce that registration has opened for our accent reduction course and our professional Spanish course. These courses will begin in mid April. To learn more about our upcoming courses, you may visit delamoratraining.com or click the links in the description and sign up for our newsletter for flash promotions and special discounts. We appreciate all of you for listening in. We pride ourselves in being one of the very few podcasts for professional interpreters out there. So please share us with all of your colleagues. We would love to hear your feedback or if you have any questions, feel free to contact our office.
Agustin: All right, so good morning. Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to subject to interpretation and another one of the series of podcasts that we offer to all of our students and friends and coworkers and colleagues regarding this interesting field of interpretation. So today, uh, we have the pleasure and the honor to have John Botero with us. John Botero is an interpreter, but he’s also in charge of the court interpreter program in the state of Georgia. So without any further a do, I’m going to let John Introduce himself and we’ll get right to it as we always do in these sessions. So John, welcome and thank you very much for being with us.
John Botero: Hi. Um, thank you for the invitation. I’m very honored to be here to join you and, and also to be able to speak with, um, with our listeners, uh, you know, for all the people who listen to your podcast. And I hope that the information I have, um, that will be helpful. And as I always tell everybody, if there are any questions, please don’t hesitate. We’re here to help. We’re not here to life difficult. We’re sincerely here to help.
Agustin: Well, thank you John. And how about we start with elevator. You tell us a little bit about your professional journey. How did you get to be John Botero, the guy who, I guess lighter languages to then becoming, I think you were an interpreter first and now, uh, tell us a little bit about the position that you hold right now.
John Botero: Yeah, well it was, it was a bit of a whirlwind. Um, I like many people out there. Um, I’ve never heard of the position of interpreter interpreting. I was one of those few who every time they needed somebody to help, it was the to translate. So I was one of those, I was a business consultant in New York state. I was there for quite some years. And I guess as with everything you, I started feeling really burnt out and just like, I really, really don’t want to do this. I gotta get Outta here. I gotta get Outta here, I gotta get Outta here. So I looked up, um, the webpage of the Connecticut Judicial branch and I noticed that they had a position for interpreting and I’m just like, okay, great. Um, I looked up at the resources that Connecticut had available. I took the written exam, I went through the process and then, um, I was an interpreter for two years.
John Botero: Then I really liked that a lot of stories has to be in according to operating according to operate. That I’m sure a lot of people have. Some, everybody has a story about being in court, um, and all that. So after that I became a clerk in Connecticut and I was a clerk for, Gosh, uh, I think two years, don’t, don’t remember exactly. Um, and all of this was happening at the same time that I was pursuing a master’s in public administration. So when the time came that I graduated and she was like, okay, what am I going to do with this degree? So I started looking around, um, and I am not ashamed to say that I came to Atlanta pretty much by mistake. I wasn’t expecting to come to Atlanta. I really have heard stories of Georgia that, you know, I have, I can nows debunk.
John Botero: Um, so I started, um, I moved to Georgia and then I was working on something called the Georgia judicial exchange, which is a part of child support for the courts. And then the position became available for program for the Office of court professionals, which is, uh, the office of the judicial counsels administrative office. So the courts that deals not only with a pudding interpreters, but also with a process servers and court reporters. So I knew my predecessor, um, and he was like, Hey John, you have the experience as an interpreter. And I think that this would be very helpful to people who, um, you know, in, in the, um, in the policy aspect of it. Having the experience of somebody who’s, who’s done it before might be helpful. Um, I applied and I went through the hurdles and here I am and as a matter of fact, I think I’ve been here 19, 20 months already.
John Botero: So I’m still, I’m still, when it comes to the experience of other legs, left Apps, language access coordinators, uh, throughout the country, I’m, I’m, I’m still pretty new. Um, but, um, I’m loving it. I mean, it’s, it’s a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to shift and change, uh, not just the, the, the, the profession in the state of Georgia, but also it helps me, um, to educate the different judges, different types of Ford’s Differin, um, court staff about the importance of having a licensed court interpretor in a courtroom. So that’s pretty much a bit of what I’ve done and how I got here.
Agustin: Well, thank you, John. I know that seems to be like the story of many of us. So let me ask you a little bit, Going back a little bit, you said that you worked as an interpreter in Connecticut. Did you have to get certified to do that job in Connecticut?
John Botero: Well, in Connecticut, um, it’s, it’s a bit different. So in Connecticut you, um, you take a written test, if you pass it, you go through a sort of like an informal oral exam and if you pass it then you do, you are assigned to a courthouse. So Connecticut is a centralized court system as a unified, I should say. Um, it’s a unified court system. So they assign you to a courthouse, they assign you to a mentor who will, you will shout, oh, for 90 days out of the shadowing is, um, the mechanic, the learning about the mechanics on how to become according turbine. Then after that you got through an oral exam, not the National Center for state courts. Oral exam, you go through an internal orally oral oral exam, and if you pass, then you become, then you are a temporary recording proprietor. You are allowed to do hearings, you’re allowed to interpret on
John Botero: the record, you are sworn in a one year after that you take the the oral exam and this is the National Center for state courts exam. So Connecticut had been a wonderful job in providing the training for uh, for taking that oral exam. There were classes, there was um, muck Kaz, there were mock tests. So it’s pretty robust and
Agustin: I’m sorry, sorry, I wanted to interrupt you there because I think this is a very important part of what we are trying to do. You recognize and I guess Connecticut recognize and was able to establish something that it is quite important. That is to eliminate the idea that because a person who’s bilingual, you are automatically just shoved them into a court room and now they’re according third press by the fire of the word you are now according to Harper.
John Botero: Oh, absolutely. And I think that that is very, very important. It’s um, as you said was boosting not just because you’re bilingual, you are an interpreter. And, um, and unfortunately there are many people out there think that just because you speak two, three, four languages that you’re able to interpret in any type of setting, which is absolutely not the case. I mean I worked with many wonderful people who, um, despite the fact that they had years of experience, they still have to look words up. They still practice, they still study, they still continuing enhanced their skills as part of their professional development. So just because one is able to speak two or more languages does not make you not only an interpreter but also one who is able to go out into the world and take every assignment they, they think good be at court.
John Botero: He had an identical be it community, whatever it is. Just because you speak two languages or more does not make you an interpreter. And a lot of interpreters of, uh, of professional interpreters have to go through extensive training even after they become certified or they pass the national past or um, I mean, or whatever pot in there, in their professional development, um, federal, whatever it is, they still have to go. It’s a constant thing. It’s not, it’s not something that once you reach a certain, uh, mileposts that you’re done quite the opposite first chapter in, in a very, very long book.
Agustin: Correct? Correct. So then you became, uh, an interpreter in Connecticut and then you moved to, to Georgia.
John Botero: Well, then, um, then I to become a clerk, I was actually a family. Um, I really loved it and I was, um, I’ve always been very intrigued as to the inner workings of the court, if you will, because when, when you’re an interpreter, one of the things that I kind of always lamented was you’re in for a hearing and then you’re out and then you go do another one and then do another one insured. That’s wonderful experience. But at the same time, for example, you cannot sit in a whole trial, um, you cannot, or you’re unable to follow these cases on following the other aspect of what’s going on in the courthouse. So I was a clerk for a while and then when I graduated, uh, from pace university with my master’s in public administration, I said, okay, now I have this nice little piece of cardboard.
John Botero: What do I do with it? Um, so I started looking everywhere. Um, I started looking in first in two states that I really wanted to, to go into. Unfortunately at that time, Connecticut had nothing, had nothing available. Um, and New York. I don’t remember. I, I did apply to New York and to other places in the northeast. Um, but ultimately, um, as I said, out of sheer luck, I ended in Georgia. I submitted my application without even remembering that I did and when I got a call back, I was, I was very surprised. Then he, I guess what it’s meant to be, you know, and, and, and don’t get me wrong, I love Atlanta. It’s a wonderful city. I was told at one point that all I was going to see, um, we’re just going to be tumbleweeds and like old service stations and just people sitting around. And that actually, yeah, I was just like, oh, the best part of Atlanta is just leaving it. I’m like, okay. Yeah. So I came with, I came with a bit of, um, I can have with, uh, when I came to an interview, I guess I changed too with, with a little bit of concern and then I saw the town and the Sydney and how wonderful it is and everything that, I mean, there’s so many things you can do here. Oh yeah.
Agustin: I’m sorry. I wish you could see some tumbleweeds because what I remember about Atlanta the most is that I love the place, but there’s traffic is
John Botero: yes. Um, I will say this, um, I don’t know what is wrong with the traffic here. It is, it is unbelievable. And um, I guess the driving skills up a lot of its citizens is, um, it’s questionable at best, but regardless, uh, I mean that’s just, I guess that’s the price we have. Okay. But other than that, I absolutely loved the place. Uh, it’s, it’s growing fast and at the same time we’d have, would not, I mean not only the, um, not only the, um, the English speaking population is growing also the LEP population is growing. So, um, so it’s, it’s one of those things where change is here and we have to confront it and we have to do our best. So, so it’s really exciting to be part of this at this particular time and place where things are happening, things are changing and you know, I, I get to contribute even if it’s a little bit, I get to contribute to, to a part of that.
Agustin: Right. And I think that using a term that is in vogue right now, you are definitely an influencer as far as, uh, the direction and the understanding of it because he mentioned also you’re an educator because I think there’s a lot of education to be done, not only off interpreters but the people who use their services. Would you agree?
John Botero: Oh, I absolutely agree. I mean I’m having professional interpreters in a code in a courtroom is, is half the battle. Um, there are also instances where, um, I mean if you, if you have a, I mean not to pick on judges obviously, but how a judge who may not know the difference of a, um, certified interpreter and let’s say an interpreter from an agency or, or
Agustin: not certified, right?
John Botero: How was not certified, most likely, um, then it’s, it’s essential to educate them and tell them the value that yes, you might be paying more for a certified interpreter, but you know what, at the end of the day, it pays back to have a certified interpreter. And in Georgia we have specific rules for that. But, um, a lot of the judges where I’ve gone, I’ve gone to different conferences and spoken to them and, um, and a lot of the judges have approached me and said, you know what, I didn’t know that I get is told that, um, certain cases need certain type of interpreters or that I have assumptions. Um, so it’s wonderful to educate the bench and also to educate court court staff because, um, this might not be something that they have to encounter every day, specific specifically in rural counties where the need might not be as, as consistent as let’s say, um, Metro Atlanta or the suburban counties. So it, it’s, it’s really important to educate everybody on, to let them know also that, um, that we’re here as a resource, that we’re not here just to tell them what they have to do, but also how we can help them.
Agustin: Right. And I think that one of the things that, uh, might be completely misunderstood, even by bilingual people is the theory that because it’s speak the language that’s, that’s that you don’t mean anything else. And I think I’ve had the same experience with other judges who have told me, Oh, I didn’t know that, uh, you require that to become a certified interpreter. I thought everybody was, I even had a judge that, uh, when he was brand new and he was needing interpreters, and I told him, we really don’t have any sort of sides right now. And he told me, well, go out there and certify more people and then after it, it’s not easy. Yeah. Yeah. And then when he attended one of our classes and so the process through which interpreters go through and the education requirements and uh, uh, test requirements, he came to me and said, oh, now I know why you said I can’t do it today or tomorrow. There is a process. So what do you think from the interpreters that do understand that? Uh, and then they do take the time and the effort and frankly spend the money you get trained to become certified in camp is what’s the biggest roadblock for them? What, what are their challenges for this certified interpreters?
John Botero: Um, I think that in my experience and what I’ve been able to see is that, um, a lot of people get discouraged by the process, specifically the oral exam. Um, that’s issued by the, uh, the National Center for state courts. And I’m not, I’m definitely not criticizing the test. I, I think it’s a wonderful tool. Um, the problem is that a lot of people, um, do not prepare enough. Um, they just think that it’s an oral test and it’s not. Um, and I mean what and when he comes, for example, for attorney thinking of the bar, um, they have been studied hundreds of hours. They have to prepare. Um, or when somebody is speaking the board, it’s the border mission or to become doctors. They have to book through extensive, uh, preparation. Um, what Ma, I mean obviously I know that those are very different fields, the field of interpreting, but this is also the same thing where we’ll have to go through extensive preparation and um, and not understanding that this is not a trade or this is something you do on the side.
John Botero: You can, this is a profession and this requires the same attention and the same, um, I guess respect that I’m certain that other professions have that force that yeah. That you want to become an improper, that’s great. That’s awesome. We’re cheering for you. However, you have to do a lot of work. You have to prepare for the written exam first and then the oral and, and it’s not just about how well you know the words, but also the mechanics of it. And, um, I’m being patient that with, with yourself, unfortunately, as we know, the national trend is that, um, the passage rate is somewhat low and it’s, um, and where do we amount of, I mean, what can we blame? We blame. Well the test is too difficult. The test is unrealistic or is, are you just not preparing? Yeah,
Agustin: well it did. And I think that that’s a good analogy because I tell the journey’s not only, they said why I took the bar exam and I passed that said yes. And you have to study a lot. I mean, they have even specific classes for the bar exam and people think, but they also went to college after Kevin had a bachelor’s degree. I have an education and then they expect somebody with none of those things to come and, and be successful. So I agree. Um, so you think that that’s one of the, uh, obstacles that they are facing. What do you think about the competition many certified interpreters are facing from, uh, other organizations, as you said, agencies and whatever that are not really paying attention to training, but just to offer the money. I’m going to offer this service and then therefore can offer it for less. Because you said something about they don’t want to pay or some of the end users of money to pay. You think that’s a problem?
John Botero: I do. And I think that um, impart, um, that’s something that we as the regulating bodies for the profession have to recognize and we have to address. Um, we understand that we’ve got every interpreter who might go into a court room might not be certified because they are from an agency. I’m not trying to pick on agencies, just using them as an example that they are not certified or, or they’re not that they’re just bilingual. Um, and that’s really challenging because obviously they’re going to be charging a lot less then a certified interpreter. And that’s something that the states, um, individually you have to sit down and have to, they have to recognize that that is a problem, that this is something that needs to be fixed. Um, I, for example, have been part of, I have brought this item up to the commission on interpreters, so the Supreme Court of the state of Georgia.
John Botero: And I told them, you know, a lot of these people who go and, um, go into a courtroom, the already started vacation, that they quote unquote certification. If I may. Um, part of the whole thing that they go through an agency or through a provider is just, you know, that they asked three questions are, and I’m exaggerating, but do you have a pulse? Yes, yes. And you speak, yes. Welcome. You are now an interpreter. That’s not it. That’s not how it works. And at the end of the day, sure. Um, the, the court’s benefit because they’re painless, um, the firm or the provider benefits because they’re doing in business, but who’s affected the Lep? They are the ones who are affected, who might not be receiving a proper, um, who might not be receiving proper interpretation and who might be, um, just simply getting a summary of, of what’s being said in court and are not able to participate in their own defense. That’s not equal access to justice.
Agustin: Right. Right. And I think that that is the main idea of having interpreters. Right. I, I have a friend, her name is Patricia Mikkelsen King, and I think that one of the things she says, uh, Bryce here because he says hiring an interpreter is not in language. Right. It’s an access. Right. And I think that’s where people get confused.
John Botero: I absolutely agree with that statement. Uh, if, if somebody from the English speaker both into a courtroom, they’re able to understand every single word that it’s, well, even if they don’t understand the legal ease, um, they’re able to at least know what’s going on. They’re able to take the cues from the participants or in the courtroom. Um, they’re able to understand all of that, even if they don’t understand the essence it or the legalese of it. They’re able to oppose something that’s said or at least bring up an issue or try to correct something if they can.
Agustin: Right. Or even as for, for clarification, because I think culturally our people that are born and raised in this country understand the legal system because I always tell my students, uh, in this country it’s impossible to escape the law in the things that they talk about. Attorneys, you watch a movie, there are a lot of them are about attorneys. Eh, you’d read the newspaper, they talk about lawsuits and cases all the time. I mean, yesterday we had a big case of a gentleman testified so, and everybody knew about it. So yeah, and people here a lot more use to it. When you come from other countries, a you might not understand if you don’t understand, you don’t even know that you have the opportunity to ask for that question. But I wanted to go back a little bit of what you’re saying about preparation. So why would you recommend to, people will say, well, I heard that the exam is hard. How do they get prepared?
John Botero: Um, I mean the, the, the, I would say the reality is if somebody asks me is the pest heart,
John Botero: I will not shop down this hard. And that’s what a reason. It’s, it’s hard because it’s meant to be encouraged. People not be part of people but encouraged people to prepare. How do you prepare it? Aye. Aye. When we have the orientation sessions here in Georgia, um, I give them the cliched look to your right, look to your left. These are people you might want to study with pairing up with somebody. You have a body pre, um, you know, just go through the exam. Um, I know there’s a, there are a ton of resources out there. Um, for self study, uh, the National Center for one, they have wonderful resources. Um, also take classes, um, join groups on for example. Um, I mean you have come to to Atlanta and, and, and done trainings which, which are essential, um, do all these different things just because, um, I mean just because you have a test, then you print it or downloaded the test prep doesn’t mean that you’re going to pass.
John Botero: You have to be continuously studying, uh, prepping up with somebody. Um, join, like I said, joining online classes or live in set in live sessions and, and try to make it a state of mind that you are preparing for a marathon. I mean, it’s like if you’re preparing for a marathon, you just don’t buy the sneakers and leave them in the box and expect to run the marathon and be able to win. Just, no, that’s not the way it works. Same goes for this. This is a marathon and you have to prepare continuously and religiously. Um, but unfortunately sometimes a lot of people might not feel encouraged by that. And, and I understand it, like upset. It’s not an easy task, but it’s not undoable. I mean, obviously a lot of people have had it, um, the dreaded federal pests. So, um, so it’s not undoable.
Agustin: Right. And I think that also part of preparation I want to do ask you if I live in the state of Georgia, those year outfit, encourage people to come and watch other interpreters work or follow them or go to court to see what’s going on.
John Botero: Correct. So part of the requirements to become licensed in Georgia. And actually one of the requirements prior to take them the oral exam is that the candidate, um, does what’s known as cold observation. So, um, the way the court observation works is that they go to a courthouse and if they, they see in certified interpreter, they can, they need to do three hours of code observation with a certified interpreter or six hours if there’s no interpreter, um, in the courtroom. And, and we’ve had instances where actually a lot of people have gone to their quota conservation and we have wonderful resources and in different counties where they actually do sort of like a shadow program where the person would come and just shadow it, certified interpreter, ask all the questions they want and be able to understand more of the profession and be able to understand, um, what’s it all about, what are your expectations, what do you need to do, um, how to do certain things. Um, so I think that going due diligence, if you will, is, is essential prior to to becoming a certified interpreter beat, whatever it might be. Not just the Georgia, but yes, we do have that, that program here.
Agustin: Yeah. And I think that’s important. And again, you know, it’s funny.
Speaker 2: I’m sorry. Well you should, you should go to court, right? I tell him, can you hear me okay? Um, you’ve caught on a quarter of a few seconds. Yeah. Okay. So no, what I was saying is when I’m teaching a class, I often tell people where you should go to court and many of them are, oh, can I go to court? And I said like, it seems that there is not even enough information out there for people to understand that courts are public places that people can visit at any time.
John Botero: Perfect. Then, um, and I think it’s essential not just because they are public forums. You can go in there. Obviously there are instances in which you are not allowed to, to Upserve. Let’s say it’s a juvenile case or certain cases of domestic violence or if the courtroom is seal and that’s fine. But there are several instances where, um, you are allowed to sit even if you don’t have a case and be able to understand. And it’s, it’s, at least in my view, it’s not just to see what an interpreter is doing or the way the process works, but it’s also to catch those words that you might not here every day. For example, the urines, you know, things, things like that, that, um, Nolan, whatever it is, whatever legal terminology it is that is not used on a daily basis. Um, I mean if you’re taking a test to become a certified interpreter, um, you might want to acquaint yourself with certain legalese terminology simply because that’s what you’re going to be doing every day. So, um, know what’s going on in a courtroom before you go there for the first time.
Agustin: Yeah, that’s right. So John, I know that we asked you for, for some time of your time, I’m, we’re getting close to the end, but I do want to ask you, where do you see the future of this career, this profession, do you think is going to grow or not? Cause I have to tell you that some years ago a guy that I’d met, uh, let’s say about 20 years ago. Told me, get ready. Agustin because within a five year period machines will be doing your job. So are we going to be replaced by robots you think?
John Botero: well, um, I would say no. I’m the, I’m the reason, I know there’s a bit of hesitation, um, when I answered because, um, it’s, it’s weird. I’m thinking of two different scenarios. The one scenario where you’re in a courtroom and you need the quick width, you need the understanding of a real person. Um, you need to understand the little intricacies of the language in order to be able to interpret accurately. Would Google translate be able to do that? Perhaps not. I don’t think you wouldn’t be able to do that. Even with the most advanced system. Um, the, the, the technology will at least for now will not be able to pick up those little cues that are given sometimes in a courtroom or the use of a certain word or, or something like that. Um, all right. So I don’t think that in court they will be, um, I don’t think that interpreters will be, um, replaced by AI.
John Botero: Now when he comes to a shorter matters, um, coming to the, um, the clerk’s office and ask him for a document for limb strength, the smaller transactions, um, like that I think that there is a use for AI specialty because it, if you are a court of limited resources and somebody comes and says they want to file for a marriage license instead of having to pay somebody to travel to interpret for that, AI would be great. It helps. But, um, I don’t think the profession is going, it’s going away any time soon. Um, I think that having a warm blooded interpreter in the courtroom is, is essential. Um, instead of leaving that to, to some robot or AI or, you know, Google translate, whatever it is, um, though be it though it is a great tool. I, I honestly, in my own very humble opinion, I don’t think that they can replace or we’ll replay replays, um, in court, um, in person interpreters.
John Botero: And, um, I guess that would probably be part of what, um, a lot of the language access coordinators will have to speak with their judges. Just telling them like, hey, Google translate is great and everything. If you want to order a pizza in a foreign country or if you want to know where the nearest restaurant is, right? But when you have to talk about, um, things as serious as perhaps sexual abuse or domestic violence inside a house, there’s absolutely no way that you would want to have, um, Google translate, do all the work. It, it’s no good. And that will be, I guess that’s the next task or for us to teach everybody about that and just know how important it is to have somebody in the court room be able and be able to interpret not only accurately, but also effectively. Right.
Agustin: Well, uh, I think that, uh, John, we could go about this forever, but we did promise, um, and end time to this get together. So I really appreciate your time. And, uh, you said that people, especially if they live in Georgia, can contact you. What would be the best way to contact you? Which is, what’s your website? Where should they go?
John Botero: Yes. So, um, the commissioner on interpreters website is c. Oh, I uh, that’s Charlie, Oscar, Ivan at, I’m sorry, c. Dot. Georgia courts and it’s Georgia old spelled out chords. Um, c o u r t s. Dot. Gov and when you go to the page or have access not only to resources as to how to study for the test, how to become certified interpreter in Georgia, what steps we have, but also you can sign up and um, if you want to take the next story in patient or know exactly what the process is in Georgia, um, all that information is there on also, um, my email and that of um, our project coordinator, Bianca Bennet, who is essential to what we do here. Um, her information is there also and we are always willing, ready and able to help as much as we can. Alright,
Agustin: well thank you very much John and I will see you around. I don’t know if you’re going to, uh, NAJIT this coming May…
John Botero: Oh absolutely I will see you in NAJIT.
Agustin: then we’ll see you NAJIT I’m taking very much again for agreeing to talk to us. Uh, and thank you, all of you for listening and we’ll see you on the next edition of a subject to interpretation. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks again for joining us today. Next week we will be shining a spotlight on one of our federally certified instructors, so we look forward to seeing you then.