Love of language thrives in court

Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Richmond County court reporter Rhea Rangel records everything said in Superior Court Judge Duncan D. Wheale's courtroom, transcribing it later.

Rhea Rangel loves language in all forms.

This 25-year-old Harlem native works as a court reporter for Superior Court Judge Duncan D. Wheale, recording everything that is said in court and transcribing it later for anyone to read.

Mrs. Rangel said she loves to work with words. She even loves punctuation and grammar. She is thrilled when an attorney uses a word she has to look up.

But English is just one language she knows.

Mrs. Rangel learned sign language when she was 14. A deaf man had joined her Jehovah's Witnesses congregation and she and other members of the Kingdom Hall wanted to be able to communicate with him.

And on a trip to Mexico for an assembly of Jehovah's Witnesses, she met Damian Rangel and fell in love. Only one thing stood in their way -- she had to learn Spanish and he had to learn English.

"It's amazing what love will make you learn," Mrs. Rangel said.

It's a matter of practicing constantly, she said. Being open to new things is crucial, too.

Her job is one she hadn't expected. After graduating from Harlem High School, Mrs. Rangel said she wasn't sure what she should do for a living. She was interested in law and considered becoming a paralegal. At the time, however, the only school in Georgia that offered the curriculum was an expensive private college, she said.

A neighbor who was a lawyer suggested court reporting, Mrs. Rangel said. After visiting Midland State in Columbia, she decided to sign up.

The classes run for two years, but students finish when they can type 225 words a minute on the stenograph writer machine, Mrs. Rangel said.

In November 2005 she began working for Judge Wheale full time. It's a great job, she said. She works for herself but she gets to be around people, too.

Occasionally, Mrs. Rangel has been called on to translate Spanish in court. And once she was able to help a deaf woman understand what was going on during a court proceeding.

Mrs. Rangel said she enjoys being able to flow through the English, Spanish and deaf communities.

"Once you get into that world, you know everyone," Mrs. Rangel said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com

RHEA RANGEL

AGE: 25

FAMILY: Married Damian Rangel in November 2004

JOB: Has worked as a court reporter since November 2005

SKILLS: Although she isn't certified, Mrs. Rangel is fluent in Spanish and sign language