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Rare language causes problems for court interpreters, defendant
Marcos Jose-Jose.jpg
Marcos Jose -Jose

An unusual language barrier caused problems this week during a court hearing.

Marcos Jose-Jose, 53, is charged with child molestation and trafficking a person for sexual servitude. On Tuesday, the court attempted to facilitate translator services for Jose. But Jose speaks the Mayan language of Q’anjob’al. The language is spoken primarily in Guatemala and is one of more than 20 languages in that country.

English-Spanish interpreter Guillermo Arenas spoke in Spanish to a Q’anjob’al interpreter on the phone, who would in turn translate for Jose before Superior Court Judge Jason Deal.

Because of some translation issues, the hearing was cut short.

“We are trying (to) set up some type of video and/or better audio set up,” Jose’s attorney Andy Maddox wrote in an email, adding it might mean using the detention center courtroom.

Maddox said if Jose had accepted a plea, it would have likely been to much reduced charges.

Arenas said it is often difficult to find interpreters, particularly in a language such as Q’anjob’al, with experience or training in the legal environment that would prepare them to work in a courtroom.

Certified interpreters through the Georgia Commission on Interpreters first have an orientation workshop, an English written exam, an oral certification exam, court observation hours and a successful criminal history background check.

Though he didn’t want to give an estimate on Q’anjob’al speakers in the area, Arenas said he has encountered a handful of cases in the past two years.

“What I notice when I speak to these people or through an interpreter that speaks that particular language is that there is some Spanish mixed in there,” Arenas said.

Jose's co-defendant, Miriam Francisco-Jimenez, 43, was transported from Texas to Hall County and booked July 30 in to the Hall County Jail. She was indicted In June 2016 on charges of child molestation and trafficking of a person.

An immigration hold has been placed on Jose and Francisco-Jimenez.

A third co-defendant, Miguel Pascual-Francisco, took a plea on amended charges of felony sexual battery and was sentenced in November 2016 to five years on probation.