CFCC’s Community Spanish Interpreter program offers cultural immersion
CFCC’s Community Spanish Interpreter program is more than learning to translate Spanish to English and vice versa. The program affords its students an immersive experience of the various Spanish-speaking cultures as well.
Bilingualism is not a requirement to enter the program.
“There are students with a low level of Spanish or a low level of English,“ commented Maria Rodriguez, CFCC Community Spanish Interpreter Program Director. “In the program, we work to get our students to the same level with both languages. That’s how they’re going to be successful at interpreting.”
Heritage and native speakers are also welcome into the program. Heritage speakers learn the Spanish language from family members, while native speakers learn Spanish in their home country. These students may be able to advance quicker through the program by taking the CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) exam to test out of some of the Spanish classes. To help students in the program learn Spanish and English languages, Rodriguez encourages students to read.
“I have a loan library for students because reading is one of the best ways to increase your language skills. Students are being exposed to sentence structure without even realizing it. I tell them to read for context. They can look up unfamiliar words later.”
Like Spanish classes for a general education degree, interpreter Spanish classes teach grammar and sentence structure. But the interpreter Spanish classes also delve into culture.
According to Rodriguez, interpreters must understand the lingo and slang of various cultures. It is no different than the dialects and cultures within the United States. What a word means in the south may hold a different meaning in the midwest.
“Idioms and expressions do not always translate,” Rodriguez said. “For instance, if you say it’s raining cats and dogs, you will be laughed at. So, interpreters need to know other cultures’ idioms.”
In addition to curriculum work, Rodriguez also sets up fun, extra-curricular activities. She has organized a Spanish movie night and a culture night, events that help students develop their Spanish and regional language skills.
Translating vs. Interpreting
Rodriguez says that it’s common for people to think that translating is the same as interpreting. The translation is the written part. Interpreting is the oral part.
That’s why Rodriguez teaches Spanish classes designed specifically for the interpreter program. As an interpreter for 20 years, Rodgriguez has customized her teaching to include the additional terminology that an interpreter will likely run into, depending on their chosen path.
There are two paths within the program: medical and legal. Career opportunities for the medical focus include doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, emergency services, crisis centers, or schools. Courthouses and law firms are among employers which hire interpreters with their legal certification.
Once students select their focus, they begin specialized classes to prepare for the certification exam. Rodriguez also prepares students for the cost of the certification exam. The cost of the two medical exams (one part written, one part oral) is $485.00.
When she saw that some of her students were struggling with the costs, Rodriguez established a scholarship to help them pay their exam fees. The Community Spanish Interpreter scholarship is based on financial need. Donations to the scholarship fund are gladly accepted and can be made through the CFCC Foundation.
“I love teaching. I love interpreting. I love sharing,” Rodriguez said. “My goal is to train the most productive interpreters out in the field because we need good interpreters.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , the job outlook for interpreters is very favorable. Between 2021 and 2031, the job growth for interpreters is projected to grow faster-than-average at a rate of 20%, and the national median pay is $49,110.00 per year. In North Carolina , the annual wage averages $60,050.00