What’s Your Story?

Dec 30, 2021 | Interpreter Education

by: Kay-Kay Stephenson, NIC - NIR 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, I discovered 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.

*Initials may be used for privacy.

I will begin with my story.

When I was in the 3rd grade in Arlington, TX back in the 70’s, I had a Deaf classmate named Lisa. I noticed a very large apparatus on her person that had wires connected to something in her ears. This was her hearing aid. I also observed a teacher who would come into our class and sit with Lisa off to the side and they would use their hands to communicate. I was so curious and fascinated. I would go home and get the Encyclopedia book out under “S” for sign language and teach myself the American Sign Language alphabet. I thought I was a real pro. I would watch Lisa and her teacher as often as I could. I never approached them because I was afraid and I knew I couldn’t communicate with Lisa. Secretly, I wanted to be included in their private conversation. I never forgot that year in Ms. Hicks’ class.

Fast forward many years later to 2001. I was working for American Airlines and the tragic events of 911 happened. I was laid off from work, and I was at a crossroads. I literally never stopped thinking about sign language my entire life. It was my time. I decided to enroll in college for the first time ever at 34 years old. I continued college in Miami at an Interpreter Training Program for 4 years. I began my career working at a high school for a few years and then decided to interpret in a variety of settings in the community. I currently continue to freelance in settings such as medical, post-secondary, mental health and corporate. I obtained my National Interpreting Certificate in 2012. Deciding to become a Sign language interpreter was one of the best decisions of my life.

Side note: As social media has proven to help us reconnect with old friends, I looked up that little girl from my 3rd grade class, Lisa. I found her in 2019 and told her what she inspired in me. We have stayed in touch ever since. She lives in Texas and teaches ASL to high school students. She had no idea the impact she had on my life.

It is always fun to find out why and how. WHO’s story will be next? Stayed tuned for Volume #2.

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