In response to Sunday's article on the new interpreter service, Central Kentucky Interpreter Referral, I spoke with Jennifer Paycheck, the interpreter coordinator, and she clarified that while all of the American Sign Language interpreters are in fact certified and licensed, the Spanish interpreters are not. Unfortunately, Kentucky does not currently have a certification process for Spanish interpreters other than those working in the courts.
A service offering unlicensed or untrained interpreters may seem, at first, to be better than having no interpreter service at all, but, in fact, it may prove to be harmful to both to the individual requesting interpretation and the company supplying it.
The ability to interpret requires tremendous skill and sensitivity in both languages and should only be undertaken by trained, licensed individuals. It is not enough to speak a second language; competency in both languages and background in the field (medical or legal, etc.) is vital. Untrained interpreters can do more harm than good. Proficiency and training are necessary in life and death situations at the hospital, legality matters in the courtroom and in countless other waiting rooms around town. Decisions made on incomplete or inaccurate translations can have devastating consequences.