My parents were Deaf, so that makes me a CODA (child of Deaf adults). I’ve been signing longer than I’ve been speaking. When I was in High School, I gravitated to Spanish speaking students. We both had different languages and cultures that we navigated everyday. I’ve always wanted to be fluent in Spanish, but never managed it.
I was a child in the 60s (small, not flower….) and this was before video phones and captions were invented. Back then even TTYs were just being introduced. If you wanted to visit someone, you got in the car and drove across town hoping they’re home. If they weren’t, you left a note and drove back home. My first client was probably my mother. She was poorly educated back in the 40s and 50s when Deaf education had more to do with changing tires than literature. My first interpreting job was probably with my mother and my elementary school principal discussing how badly I behaved in 2nd grade.
I was licensed very early in life. My first full-time job was right out of High School. I’ve been working as an interpreter for over 40 years and I find it hard to think of a part of life that I haven’t interpreted in. I’ve specialized in legal, medical and vocational over the years, but always looking for something new.
My favorite thing about my job is when, at the end of a session, people turn to me and say “That was so easy!”
This job has brought me lots of great memories. I spent one week in Key Largo swimming with the dolphins with a Deaf child who was sponsored by the Make A Wish Foundation. I’ve taken paid cruises with Carnival and acted as an interpreter for 2 hours a day. When he was running for President, John Kerry signed some letters I drafted from him to my daughters (it was all caught on TV).
In my opinion, the most challenging part of this job is staying in my lane. Exercising self restraint. Sometimes I wish I could hit a pause button and freeze everyone. But I understand that I am just the messenger.
For anyone out there wanting to try interpreting, don’t be afraid to take a chance now and then!