Learn American Sign Language
IÂ have worked as a sign language interpreter in both education and freelance situations having eight years of experience working in the field and fourteen years experience in signing. Being a sign language interpreter requires extensive knowledge of both American Sign Language and the English language. It also involves having intimate knowledge of the Deaf community, its members and the rules regarding interactions.
Interaction with Deaf People
I entered the field after I met a deaf student while substitute teaching. I felt frustration at not being able to communicate with the child, so I delved headlong into the language. It took at least three to five years of classes, interacting with Deaf people and studying the language in depth to become proficient.
Those wanting to enter this field need to focus on getting a quality instructor and spending as much time as possible using the language with the Deaf. This is the best way to learn it. Never underestimate the importance of non-verbal language; we all communicate through our faces, hands and the rest of our bodies. In fact, non-verbal language can help people detect if someone is attracted to them, bored, sad or mad. Also, gestures tend to betray people when they are lying.
Ethics are a vital part of being an interpreter. I had to test with the state to get my license and then followed the ethics that were outlined under the law. One of these is not to accept jobs that were above my level, which often meant passing up a good pay check. This is important when it comes to jobs that deal with mental health, hospital and legal interpretation which require greater skill, knowledge and experience.
During my career, I came across several situations that challenged me both mentally and professionally. One of these was having to make tough decisions when it came to working in education. I had to educate people on my job while I couldn’t do certain things that could compromise my duties and doing my best to interpret accurately for students. It was hard to make people understand at times but with professionalism and perseverance, I was able to get through to most.
Making a Difference
Every night, I go back home feeling that my job is helping make a difference in someone’s life. And hopefully, I am also helping make a difference in the way people sees deaf individuals. I think that this is one of the very few careers where you get that strong, warm feeling.
Pay May Vary
The pay can vary with where you work and the type of position. If you are in education, your earnings will be lower than you can make in freelancing. There are some that do offer competitive pay.Â In general, money should not be your motivation to enter this field – or at least not your main motivation.
Find a Quality Interpreter Training Program
If you are considering this line of work, it is essential that you become comfortable with the culture, find a quality interpreter training program and interact with the Deaf as much as possible. This helps you to absorb the body language and facial expression that is so vital to the language.
Need To Educate Prejudiced People
If you choose this line of work, you will probably notice that some people are still ignorant and hold many prejudices against deaf people. Sometimes, you will feel like you need to educate them but you can’t get rid of ignorant comments by yourself, so sometimes it is best to ignore some things. It is best to surround yourself with people whoÂ are well-informed and justÂ ignoreÂ those who make ignorant comments.
Deaf People Are Not Less Capable
I don’t want people to feel sorry for deaf people; I want them to realize that they are capable of doing a lot of things – sometimes even more than we give them credit for. Sometimes, even relatives and friends tend to treat deaf people like they are somehow less capable. In reality, most of them are different to the average American just because they can’t hear.
Also, keep in mind that it is different to work with people who have been deaf all their lives than working with those who became deaf.
Patricia C has a degree in International Relations and enjoys learning from other cultures and traveling. She has contributed the above interview conducted with an experienced Sign Language Interpreter.