Minimal Pair

Resources for Court Interpreters


Minimal Pair

noun. Ling. A pair of words different in just one phoneme.
alt. usage. Two court interpreting colleagues on the prairie, enjoying life and loving work.


Our Story

Minimal Pair was born of the friendship of Karen Bahr and Kelly Varguez, two Spanish interpreters and language enthusiasts who live and work in the Omaha, NE area.  After trying their hand at other lines of work, Karen and Kelly both became court certified interpreters in 2009.  They've been busy solving linguistic mysteries ever since.

Karen graduated in 2001 from the University of Nebraska - Omaha with a degree in Spanish.  Her first steady interpreting gig was as an on-call medical interpreter for an area healthcare network, where she quickly progressed to a supervisory role.  She earned her certificate as a medical interpreter trainer from Cross Cultural Communications in 2004 and eventually developed and taught an interpreter training curriculum for an area college.  Around that same time, she worked for the Medical Translation and Interpretation Leadership Group in Lincoln, NE and the National Council on Interpreting and Healthcare.  As fate would have it, Karen found her way to the immigration court system where she developed the skills she would need to pass the state court certification exam.  These days, Karen does most of her work in state criminal courts, immigration courts, and other places she can reach by bike.  Known for her big laugh and uncanny memory, Karen is a master of work-life balance.  When she's not on the clock, she can usually be found teaching yoga, exploring nature trails, or creating materials with Kelly in Omaha's Old Market.

Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish and ESL Education from the University of Nebraska - Kearney (2001) and a Master of Education Degree from Doane College (2007).  Like Karen, she began her interpreting career as an on-call medical interpreter and soon found herself teaching interpreters at an area college.  She set the goal to become state certified during one of her summer teaching sessions and accomplished her goal later that year.  Rather exam-happy by that point, Kelly soon began pursuing federal court certification and earned that stripe in 2013.  Currently, Kelly divides her time between teaching the online interpreting classes she designed for a local community college and interpreting in the state and federal courts.  A curious person by nature, Kelly gravitates toward activities that teach her something new. She considers her husband (and webmaster), Ricardo, her secret weapon in the profession and loves filling up her free time with productive endeavors.


View the pair's resources in Spanish here.

View their resources in English here.

Or contact them here.