CITI: A New Convert

I first heard about the University of Arizona’s Court Interpreter Training Institute (CITI) program at NAJIT’s 35th Annual Conference in Las Vegas in 2012. Some colleagues were talking about it while we had lunch. They shared information and spoke highly of the program, so I was intrigued and asked many questions and took copious notes to follow up.

One of the comments really caught my attention. Most people who had taken it had eventually passed the Federal exam. As I went over all the names shared, I confirmed they were all indeed federally certified.

Ever since then, I had every intention of registering for the program. I had great experiences taking other one- and two-day workshops, such as the FCICE Oral Exam Prep with Joshua Elliot and a five-day workshop with Yvette Citizen and Joshua titled “The Institutito”  in Frankfort, Kentucky.

I found the five-day program very helpful, if not quite challenging for my skill level at the time. It proved useful not only because it improved my skills, but also because it showed me that I was not yet ready for certain types of cases and certifications. Professionally, I made great networking connections that have helped me to this day. At a personal level, I gained long-lasting friendships.

For years, I told myself that I would try the six-week program, but I just kept pushing it back because of the cost and amount of time required. Then, this , I finally decided to apply, but I almost backed out at the last minute. I felt it was big time commitment. On top of that, I would have to miss at least two weeks of work if I wanted to fully apply myself and get the best possible benefit and results.

The program started at the same time as NAJIT’s 43rd Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale this past June, so I started a bit late. Then, after the conference, I was diagnosed with COVID, and I had more severe symptoms than the first time around. Yet as I struggled to get caught up, I was hooked. From day one!

I sometimes mistakenly assume that I have been in the profession long enough that I will most likely know all the content in every program offered. This time, I was in for a big surprise.

In my view, one of the best presentations was given by Dr. Gloria Rivera. If you are not well versed with medical terminology, she is great for beginners too as she teaches in a way that engages newbies and experienced medical interpreters alike. The two-hour lecture was incredibly easy to follow and went well beyond the basics in content and complexity; it was both complex and accessible to all.

The main program instructors were Carlos Radillo, Kelly Varguez, and Tamber Hilton. I had never met Carlos before, but I immediately identified with him and was mesmerized by his level of bilingualism. I heard him speak Spanish, and that alone transported me to Mexico City and my time there, his skill with the Spanish language as perfect as I am sure it was when he left our common native country.

I had attended some in-person and virtual programs led by Kelly and Tamber before, and I liked them both, but I was further impressed with their complementary teaching styles and personalities. There is nothing more humbling than having open-minded instructors that showcase their superior knowledge with firmness but also simplicity, showing respect for everyone’s talents, knowledge, and skills.

All three instructors managed the flow of participation very well, too. That can be a big factor because depending on your level of self-confidence and experience, attendees tend to participate too much or too little, so it comes down to the instructors to level things out. Our instructors could not have done this better.

We had guest speakers for some of the lectures: Ernest Niño on notetaking, Joshua Elliot on firearms and weaponry, and Carmen Patel on legal procedure. Each of these subjects was fascinating and provided great insight into their various subject matters: different interpreting methods and skills, firearms and weaponry functions, with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm for the law.

The assignments and the way students interact with each other is another feather in CITI’s cap. There were opportunities to learn from each other as we were grouped according to levels. This was very helpful and encouraged us to consult each other and really push for “common” engagement.

CITI has lectures for interpreters of all types as the skills are used by all language interpreters in the same manner, regardless of the setting. A great number of CEUs are accepted for medical interpreters as well by states that require them for certification compliance.

I could say a great deal more about this program. As I shared with Paul Gatto, the program’s Assistant Director, I would attend this program every year if I could. I will certainly try. I have tried for years to practice every day, to be more cognizant of my learning shortcomings and my lack of discipline. I know it is not easy to dedicate the time; I know that the expense is considerable; I also suspect that a very self-disciplined person can probably do at least some of the work on their own. But for someone who has attained a level of financial stability and is looking to further develop his or her skills, I would invite you to take it for the first time or again if you have had the privilege of joining this program. Regardless of your current skill level, you will definitely see improvement. I dare anyone in this field to attend the program and not become a better interpreter.

Hilda Zavala-Shymanik is a state certified/approved Spanish court interpreter and translator with more than fifteen years of experience in legal, medical, corporate, and non-profit settings in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Wisconsin. She is a board member, treasurer, Conference Committee chair, member of the Training and Education Committee and blog team of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators as well as former president of the New York Circle of Translators. She is an active and voting member of NAJIT, ATA, and other professional groups. Hilda has two certificates in Legal Interpreting in Spanish and English, the latest one from NYU. Hilda is a former a Staff Interpreter at Essex County Superior Court in New Jersey, where she worked for six years. She now lives and works as a freelance interpreter in the Chicagoland area. Born in Chicago, Hilda lived for twenty years in Mexico and loves traveling. She continuously looks for opportunities to promote and advance the interpreting profession. Contact:

Main photo (cropped) taken from “Flying High” by Jennifer Ferreira, at the blog OBLIQUE EXPOSURE, under the CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. Body photo “Communication Skills” at OER Commons, under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

11 thoughts on “CITI: A New Convert”

  1. Mary Lee Behar says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    1. My pleasure, Mary Lee! Feel free too email me if you ever want to share a post at


  2. Olga says:

    Thanks! Hilda. Can you share the link and contact information for the NYU’s legal Interpreting certificate that you took and hold certification? Thank you for sharing.


    1. Hello Olga,

      You are very welcome! A certificate and certification are two different things. I am not sure if NYU is still offering that program but I will find out and reach out to you if you email me your email address at

      I can also send you information on certification if you email me and tell me your geographical location.

      Thank you for reading my post!

  3. What a great piece of writing, Hilda! I have been hearing wonderful things about this program too, including the language neutral classes, but, for whatever reason, I keep on postponing looking more closely into it. Your comments have most certainly pushed me towards making that closer look a priority. Thank you for taking the time to write it!

  4. Hi Nattalia,

    I am very glad I finally did it and I am already inquiring for the 2023 program so. Best to you in any goals you have set up for yourself!


  5. Yedda Araújo says:

    Hi Hilda,

    Great piece, and a wonderful surprise to see who wrote it. Not sure if you remember me from the Circle.

    All the best,

  6. Hilda Shymanik says:

    Hello Yedda! Of course I remember you. We sat together during a holiday celebration. It was December 2018, I gather. In Brooklyn. Right? I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Greetings from Illinois, my new home state.

  7. Andrew Campbell says:

    Hilda, I 100% agree that CITI is an excellent program that I will never forget. For those Spanish interpreters out there, the investment has to be twofold: time and $$. Just like you, the available time didn’t line up perfectly but nothing ever really does. The course made it clear to me practice without feedback is not practice.

    1. Absolutely agree. Thanks for your comment Andrew!

  8. Absolutely agree. Thanks for your comment Andrew!

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