What’s Your Story? Volume #4
by: Kay-Kay Stephenson, NIC - NIR Interpreter Coordinator
Often times when I am on an interpreting assignment, the question is posed…. “Why or how did you become an interpreter?”
After speaking with many of my colleagues, this is a common occurrence. I thought it would be interesting and fun to find out why or how interpreters came into this field. I think you will find every story a unique one.
I interviewed many interpreters. Here is a brief glimpse into their lives and how they landed into the field of sign language interpreting.
This is Diana’s story
I was working in a Home Health agency in a retirement home. There was a resident who loved it there who happens to have a daughter that is Deaf. When the daughter requested a meeting with the retirement home’s administration regarding her father, an interpreter was provided. Witnessing this exchange of communication was my first exposure to interpreting and sign language. Several years later, the company was sold and most of the staff were laid off. I had no idea what to do with my time. After speaking to my husband, it was my husband that suggested I take a sign language class. He knew how intrigued I was with the language after hearing my stories from my job.
I enrolled in my local community college and took ASL 1 and ASL 2. It was in ASL 2 that there was an interpreter working due to a Deaf student in the class. I approached this interpreter after class and asked if she would be interested in tutoring me. She agreed and we designated a schedule in tandem with me taking ASL classes. This tutor gave me hope. She said I have potential and I learn fairly quickly. I grew more in love with the language. I then transferred to an Interpreter Training Program and continued to progress to become an interpreter. To this day I remain friends with this tutor and feel she has become a mentor.
It was in the Interpreter Training Program where I had a Deaf professor. This professor had an organization to help Deaf students with literacy. I agreed to volunteer in this organization and immerse myself in the language. This was hugely beneficial in my growth and my knowledge of Deaf culture. It was also here I met a core group of mentors and friends. With their guidance, they challenged me to become better at communicating in ASL. I will never forget this most valuable experience.
Eventually I graduated from college and started my career as a Sign Language Interpreter. My goal is to become nationally certified and I know with my perseverance and tenacity, I will achieve this.