By Ed Brock
In the courtroom, Jartu Gallashaw Toles provides more than just an interpretation of the proceedings from English to Spanish.
"She has a high degree of technical proficiency but she also talks to people in a way that calms them," said attorney Rolf A. Jones who has used Toles on several occasions. "If you're in a criminal situation and you don't speak English you tend to be a little paranoid."
Toles, 28, of Ellenwood, is a Georgia certified interpreter and translator in high demand in the Clayton County court system.
"She's excellent. Everyone wants her in their courtroom," said Linda Stewart, administrative assistant to the county's court administrator.
Born in Fort Valley, Georgia, Toles began her official study of the Spanish language while at Clark Atlanta University.
"After two years of Latin in high school I decided I needed to take something that was useful," Toles said.
She went on to study translation along with her chosen second language at Rutgers University in New Jersey. She lived in the Dominican Republic for three months and in Mexico for a year.
Now she uses her skills in Clayton County and in Gwinnett County, working primarily on legal cases because that's where most of the work is and "it's the most interesting."
As languages go, Spanish is easy or challenging, depending on how much you want to learn.
"I think if you are learning Spanish for the purpose of going for a visit and just to get around it's easy," Toles said. "It makes sense if you follow the rules."
But learning to speak it on a level equal to a native speaker, as Toles must do to do her job, that requires constant practice. It means reading and, even more importantly, watching television ? in Spanish.
"It helps with listening comprehension," Toles said. "The way people normally speak as opposed to what you get in school."
It helps that most often an interpreter (that term applies when she is speaking to her clients while translating refers to her work on documents) is handling routine matters like hearings and pleas that are the same thing over and over.
"When it really gets challenging is when it goes to trial," Toles said. "That's when the language gets colorful."
It can also be emotional. Toles has handled cases such as the murder trial of Karla Anjelica Robles, the Riverdale woman convicted last year of murder in the scalding death of her 2-year-old son Jovanny Fernandez on March 22, 2001.
"That's one of the things that they teach you. Before you accept an assignment try to find out what it's about to make sure you can handle it," Toles said.
Toles is on a list of translators that Stewart calls regularly for Spanish translations, but since Georgia only certifies translators for Spanish she has to use a translation agency for any other language. Those have included German, Cambodian, Vietnamese and French.
"All of those have been just this past month," Stewart said.
Stewart has even had to call in translators for languages like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Yuruba.
"They're mostly people here on vacation," Stewart said.
But among the translators available to Clayton County attorneys like Ricky Morris, Toles is one of the best.
"Jartu ranks in the top three translators I've ever used," said Morris, who also speaks Spanish fluently.