Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why I’m an Interpreter

Over the years, many have asked me if the reason I became an interpreter was because I had deaf family members. My grandmother was deaf in one ear, but I just had to make sure I talked into her hearing ear. So the answer is no, deafness in my family isn’t the reason.

In high school, I was in my own little world most of the time. I didn’t belong to any groups. I would sit in my calligraphy class and listen to the popular girls discuss their lives. I didn’t yearn for popularity. I thought, if that is how one must be to be popular, I’ll pass.

I needed one more class, an elective, to graduate. I had to quickly decide as registration was ending. I saw a class that said, “Sign Language.” Having no frame of reference for American Sign Language, I did, however, have a frame of reference for billboards. I thought it was a class on the special language of gigantic freeway signs, and we would be doing a lot of letter design and painting, an easy A.

When I walked into the classroom, deaf students were talking to each other with their hands, and checking out the new hearing class members. Oh. I liked the teacher right away. I felt at home for some reason and settled into my seat.

The community college down the road had a new interpreter training program. The working interpreters there wore smocks with front side pockets. I thought, that wasn’t too stylish, but I liked the idea of being identified as an interpreter (luckily smocks have gone far, far away into the land of make believe).

My idea was to learn how to interpret, get my AA degree, and then work as a way to continue on to the University to finish my degree in English with an emphasis in teaching special education. Being an interpreter, I had about two or three years in mind. Turns out, I’ve been one a lot longer than that.

They say burn-out in the field can be at five years. So now I would say, I’m a little bit on the crispy side. Truthfully, I still like to interpret when a class is an hour, or if longer, I have a team. But I have put in my time, and my direction has changed. Yet, I’m still in for awhile.

Life has a way of taking the best of plans and scribbling all over them. In high school, I was on somewhat of a utility road with my nibs and ink pots. High school wasn’t the place where I learned too much. But it helped steer me into a life I would have not known, and I am delighted with that concept. I have things to write about now.

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