English instructor and interpreter Helia Rethmann: “I have met and continue to meet countless amazing people who do their best to learn English”

Helia Rethmann

Helia Rethmann

My name is Helia, and I work for the Tennessee Foreign Language Instititute (TFLI).  I started teaching languages in 1992 – first teaching my native language German at Berlitz and later teaching as a private tutor, which was more fun and more profitable.

I started working for the TFLI in 1997 and I have taught German (and later ESL) ever since. It was not until I took the TESL course in 2001, however, that I wholeheartedly started to enjoy teaching. The TESL training replaced my ‘pick-and-choose’ approaches with a solid foundation to foster learning success. I have since developed several Professional Development Courses for ESL and foreign language teachers based on the principles of TESL.

As a long time ESL instructor, teacher trainer, and court interpreter, I have met and continue to meet countless amazing people who do their best to learn English while working several low-paying jobs and facing tremendous odds.

In my opinion, even without English Only, the courts do not now afford due process to speakers of other languages. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) only pays for interpreters in indigent criminal cases. Just a few weeks ago, my partner, an attorney, and I met an Iraqi couple (American citizens, at that) who were sued in Circuit Court for $500,000 for a fender-bender. They had already agreed to a lesser judgment against them in a related case, not really understanding what they were signing. They can’t afford an attorney and – to the best of my knowledge – there is currently nothing on a Davidson County subpoena that tells people to bring their own interpreter if they are not proficient in English. To make matters worse, AOC belt-tightening led to the December 2008 layoff of Sheila Morris, the AOC/court interpreter go-between. This can only lead to more confusion and even less information for people needing foreign language help.

I would very much like to help with the creation of a voluntary interpreter base to help people in non-criminal cases and will do anything I can in my limited power to keep Nashville from ratifying English Only.

Helia Rethmann


1 Comment

Filed under Stewardship, Testimonials, The importance of learning English

One response to “English instructor and interpreter Helia Rethmann: “I have met and continue to meet countless amazing people who do their best to learn English”

  1. Sean Bryan

    That’s the spirit, Helia. I am willing to help. I have experience as a volunteer interpreter and advocate in Memphis, and am reachable at seanmemphis@yahoo.com or 6157537403. I now live in Nashville (recent arrival). I have never met a Spanish-speaker for whom I couldn’t interpret, but I HAVE met quite a few who gave up on pursuing justice before I had met them. The system is flawed, and civic-minded citizens who CAN help really ought to step up. I’m willing to do just that… pro bono. I have the free time, as a recent arrival who doesn’t have many clients here, yet. So if you could pass my info on to anyone who could use it, I’d love to get involved here in the capitol with advocacy and volunteerism for the worthy cause of immigrants rights.

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