Sunday, June 18, 2006

Breaking down language barriers

MASON CITY — Americo Maldonado is a judicial middleman.

He helps non-English speaking Hispanics understand what attorneys, prosecutors and judges are talking about during court proceedings.

Maldonado, 36, of Rockwell, is one of 14 people listed on the Second Judicial District court interpreter roster.

He works at least twice a week in North Iowa courtrooms.

“You’re hearing two people talk,” he said explaining his mission. “They don’t understand each other, so you are the link.”

Maldonado, who is a part-time employee of the Globe Gazette in the production services department, and his wife, Kathryn, also operate Habla Iowa Language Solutions. They are professional translators.

The Maldonados have been translating in the United States for five years and Americo has worked in the court system for the past year.

Kathryn Maldonado is also a Mason City High School Spanish teacher.

Kathryn’s role in the courtroom effort is to help Americo in translating the documents.

“I have enough knowledge to check the English and cross reference it with what Americo is interpreting,” Kathryn said. “We check each other out.”

Americo smiles, saying, “She is my English.”

The Maldonados are filling what is a growing need in the court system.


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