Student Spotlight

Angelica Ortiz-Cichocki

Angelica Ortiz-Cichocki

Angelica Ortiz-Cichocki is a professionally-trained Spanish/English translator who recently completed the Spanish/English Interpretation program. As a translator, she was able to use her language skills to interpret written text but knew a career as an interpreter of verbal language could take her career to new heights and decided to pursue the course.

We recently spoke with Angelica about her time in the program, what made her want to pursue a certificate in interpretation, and some of her favorite moments during her time at the College of Extended Learning. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

What was your career background prior to joining the program?
I have a degree in Spanish Language & Literature at the Universidad de Guadalajara, and I obtained a Certificate in Translation at New York University. I worked as a language teacher for a few years and then decided to start a career in translation. I have worked as a freelance translator in different fields: subtitling, marketing, legal, medical and literary translation.

Why did you decide to take classes at the College of Extended Learning?
I considered a few different institutions in California that offered similar programs, but I decided SF State had the best reputation of them all, and I was thrilled when I found out they offered an online program via the College of Extended Learning. I did some research about the courses and the content and it seemed like a truly complete program.

What were some highlights you gained from the program?
It was impressive to see how effective the program is at conveying topics online. The instructors did an excellent job at creating a positive and constructive atmosphere. All of them were happy to share all their insight and knowledge. They always motivate you and assure you that you will eventually acquire the skills you need to become a certified interpreter. I also established connections with other students in the program that have proven to be invaluable.

What are some of the skills you gained in the program?
I acquired more confidence in my language skills while understanding the areas of improvement; time management, problem solving, persistence, self-assessment, mental agility and professional integrity.

How has the program helped you in your career?
Thanks in part to this program, I have already obtained a position as an interpreter. At this position, albeit temporary, I can see myself utilizing the tools I learned during my courses, and I can see the confidence my employers feel when they encounter a professional interpreter.

Liliana Perdomo

Liliana Perdomo

How did you hear about the College of Extended Learning?
It was through a friend who also went through the Spanish/English Court Interpreting program and is now a certified court interpreter. We were both attorneys in our home countries, so we already had a legal background. She thought I might be interested in the field since I was doing interpreting at the Pleasanton Unified School District.

What courses did you take at the College of Extended Learning? Why?
I will finish the Interpretation Certificate this term (spring 2017). I will have taken all six required classes.

What were some of the highlights of the course or courses?
That I could complete all the courses online. It gives you the flexibility to set your own schedule. So you can work in the morning or at night.

Additionally I liked that you can ask questions during the week and instructors were quick to respond so that you could continue with your homework. You could send an individual email, but it was better to post in the forums so that everyone in the class could benefit. The instructors, Marta Riesen in particular, would respond with plenty of detail. You would ask on Monday and get a thorough answer by Tuesday. They would even answer questions posed on weekends. You often don't see that level of instructor availability in traditional classrooms.

I also enjoyed my classes with Eric Bishop. He is a positive and encouraging teacher. I'm glad I got a chance to meet him in person when I needed to take the final from him. They were all excellent teachers.

What teaching moments in the classroom were especially helpful?
I like how Carol Palacio set up a virtual chat so that we could form study groups. It gave me an opportunity to meet other students in the class and develop some friendships.

The forums were nice. Students can get feedback from each other and help others whose English or Spanish were not as strong. Another was an assignment where we had to go to court to observe a trial. It allowed me to see the attorneys' arguments and get a feeling for how a courtroom is run and what would it be like to work there.

What are your career goals?
I've enjoyed my work with the Pleasanton School District, but would like to move into the legal area. My next goal is to pass the California Court Interpreter Exam in September and hopefully work for the court by next year.

How did the College of Extended Learning help you reach your goals?
I was given the tools to expand my legal vocabulary, especially in English. I was also able to increase my mental agility. Initially it was hard for me to translate complicated material, but now I feel more comfortable and can do so at a faster speed and with more accuracy.  I liked having teachers who work as Court Interpreters. They gave us tips, encouragement, and guidance.

Could you say a few words about your current job?
I enjoy the flexibility interpreting provides. Where I work, I interpret for students with disabilities. I communicate with the teachers and school staff. I also communicate to parents on the progress of their child and information on services we can provide for students. I also communicate to school staff and teachers any concerns parents may be having.

What else can you share about the College of Extended Learning?
I really enjoyed being able to take the classes online, at my pace. It is not an easy program at all. You need a lot of discipline and commitment. But with the guidance of the wonderful teachers and the resources provided, I think I am going into the right path of passing the Court Interpreter State Exam.

Patricia Juárez

Spanish/English Interpretation is a fully online program we offer to students looking to take their language skills and apply it to interpreting. To get a better sense of the program, we recently spoke with a current student, Patricia Juárez. She comes to the program having spent a career as a bilingual teacher in the Sacramento area. We spoke to her about her experience in the program and why she decided to pursue a new career.

Spanish/English Interpretation Student Patricia Juárez

What was your career background prior to joining the program?
My father used to tell me, "Sacramento was just one point on a map," so I always tried to travel. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I traveled to several countries to study language around the world. I studied in Morocco, Egypt, Mexico and Spain, before settling back close to home in Watsonville where I began working as a language teacher. I've been here ever since working as a bilingual teacher for the last 20 years.

What made you want to pursue training in Spanish/English Interpretation?
There's a certain point when you study language, it just gets to be more grammar and more literature, so this program looked interesting to me as something different. Every week there was a different case so it's really been a great way to build vocabulary and fluency.

How is it different teaching language versus interpreting?
It's different in a few ways. One example is in interpreting, you really must pay attention to register. Especially in legal interpretation, you must make sure you're not being too casual. If the attorney is being formal you must be formal too. You can't paraphrase, you have to say exactly what that person is saying in the same tone. So, if they're using slang you must do that as well.

What were some of your favorite moments from the program?
On of my instructors, Eric Bishop, would give us feedback every week. He'd give us written and taped feedback on what we said during an assignment. So, he would listen to our recorded assignments, pause and give us feedback on those segments where we needed help. He had to do that with every student, so it took a lot of dedication.

What are some of the skills you gained in the program?
I've been a Spanish teacher for most of my career but even still this program really taught me how to quickly recite what someone said with accuracy. Speed is very important because you can only be about four or five words behind the person you're interpreting.

How was it taking a fully online course?
It has been an adjustment. I was worried about not being able to get that one-on-one feedback structure, but I really felt like I got great feedback here. The instructors really spend so much time answering questions online and always made themselves available for online video conferences.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I think post-teaching, maybe instead of going into substituting like a lot of retired teachers, I can be a court interpreter. Currently, I belong to the California Association of Bilingual Education and I've had the chance to do interpreting at our conferences. I've been doing keynote interpretation for the Association which has really helped fine tune my speed and fluency. So, I've had a lot of opportunity to interpret before I graduate. I believe the opportunities will go a long way in getting me ready for job opportunities once I complete the program.