Major: Paralegal Studies
While working as a professional health care interpreter, Olga Bronovytska was also required to address a few legal assignments.
“I realized I was not so well-versed in legal terms,” she said. “In order to provide quality interpretation service, I needed to improve my knowledge of legal vocabulary and understanding of the legal proceedings.”
She found the Paralegal Studies program at College of DuPage and decided to take a few classes in order to familiarize herself with the U.S. legal system. However, her plan changed after completing the Introduction to Paralegal Studies class.
“I learned how vast the legal field is and why only about 20 percent of all candidates successfully pass the court interpreter examination,” she said. “Without specific education in the legal field, it is just impossible to embrace and be fluent in legal proceedings. I decided I needed to go through the entire program to obtain a solid foundation.”
Because she was working and raising two young children, Bronovytska took only one or two classes per semester. She was thrilled with the encouragement she received from both faculty and peers.
“Professor Sally Fairbank made me realize how many more professional opportunities would open up if I completed the program,” she said. “I was also amazed with the support that faculty provided. It was literally immediate. Regardless of the time I would send an email, I got a response within minutes. Paralegal Club was also amazing! It was like a window into a new and fascinating world. I was very happy with every class I took and the knowledge I received.”
Bronovytska was inducted into LEX, the paralegal honor society, and graduated with the Paralegal Studies certificate. Having gained a solid understanding of legal proceedings, client-attorney interactions, the judicial system and terminology, she took three months to intensively prepare for the Court Interpreter Certification Exam.
“The field of court interpreting requires a superior command of two languages and fluency sufficient to handle the widest range of legal terms that may be presented in the courts, from specialized legal jargon and technical terminology to street slang,” she said. “The exam consists of three parts: sight translation, consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. For sight translation, a candidate is reading a legal text from one language into another. In consecutive mode, an interpreter interprets part after part after the speaker. This mode is usually used for situations such as expert witness testimony and a defendant's guilty plea.
“Simultaneous mode is the most challenging one, where an interpreter speaks at the same time as the speaker does. Sometimes this mode requires special audio equipment, and sometimes an interpreter is whispering next to the client. This mode is used to interpret the judge’s instructions, an attorney’s opening/closing statement, and all the verbal proceedings heard in the courtroom.”
Bronovytska successfully passed the exam and is now a Certified Court Interpreter for the Russian language. She also interprets Ukrainian (no certification exam for Ukrainian in Illinois), is advanced in French and is conversational in Mandarin Chinese. In addition, she works for SOSI, a company that provides interpretation services directly to the Department of Justice, and interprets mainly immigration hearings.
“Without completing the Paralegal Studies program at COD, I would not have been comfortable interpreting hearings, depositions, arbitrations and other legal proceedings,” she said. “A status of a State Certified Court Interpreter is the highest professional recognition I could achieve with my language pair in the state of Illinois. I am very happy I completed the program and received all the knowledge needed to call myself a professional legal interpreter. My name is now listed in the state registry, and there are currently only seven fully certified court interpreters for my language. It allows the courts to reach out to me directly, without going through an agency.
“Regardless of the legal outcome of a case, the bottom line is that meaningful access to the process is provided to the defendant.”
Paralegal Studies Success Stories
During the next few years, Bronovytska plans to continue working as a court interpreter while looking for additional courses to take at COD, including corporate law. She then would like to find employment with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, where she can use her multilingual skills, or with corporations where she could use both linguistic skills and knowledge obtained during her time in the Paralegal Studies program.
Her advice to prospective students is to be determined and remain focused.
Learn more about the Paralegal Studies program at College of DuPage