Professionals, how long has it been since you’ve been to a workshop pertaining to your job? No, a meeting at work doesn’t count, and if it’s been a year or longer, that is too long. Staying up to date with what is happening in this modern society is vital. Things are constantly changing, advancements are happening often, and you could unintentionally offend people by not knowing the latest terms, culture, or news.
I want to focus on the deaf community because I have experienced the lack of knowledge firsthand. I go to many deaf events. Dinners out with an ASL club, mentoring interpreting students at SWIC, being a camp counselor at a silent weekend, and the list goes on. Yes, I’m deaf, so hanging out with friends that are like me is great, but socializing with the deaf community keeps me up-to-date with everything. Signs change all of the time, just like we adopt new slang all of the time.
The best interpreters are the ones that I see at deaf events, video chatting with deaf people, or watching videos discussing interpreting topics on Facebook. It is because they’re improving their skills by socializing and using the language. You can read as many books as you want, but books can’t teach you culture, you have to experience that.
Stef Lagona, a local sign language interpreter, made some intense points about the deaf community. “It’s my job to accurately communicate what others are saying to deaf people. It’s like every situation is a cold reading, and I have to make sure they understand what is happening. Deaf people have been told ‘nevermind’ their whole life, I am the last person that needs to come in and not know how to communicate with them. I can’t do that and label myself as an ally, but really not be. Back when I started learning sign language, there wasn’t social media or email, so I had to go out and socialize with the deaf community to learn. Workshops are so important for interpreters because signs are constantly evolving, and that is how you keep a language alive. You have to know both language and culture.”
Kayla Snyder, an educational interpreter, says similar things. “Things are constantly changing, and now there are signs for things that didn’t even exist when I was growing up. There are so many signs, and while some may seem ‘accurate,’ they can actually be offensive. We need to learn the appropriate signs because you can offend someone unintentionally if you aren’t informed with what is happening in the deaf and hearing worlds. Some of the best workshops are the small groups just talking about real life experiences because they actually happen, and you can really relate to them. I think you learn the most from things you can relate to. It’s awesome to learn something that you don’t think you’ll use, but then getting excited when you get to use it.”
Jess Lagona, another interpreter, brings up even more about this topic. “We have to understand terminologies in each of the areas in life to make it make sense for both people. We’re alone so much on the job, and we have to make decisions based on the knowledge we have. I don’t usually have people with me, so I make like an internal panel in my head. Being an interpreter has only been a job since 1964, it’s a very new profession, but it’s still changed so much. If you don’t keep up, you will get left behind. I once worked with an interpreter who’d been interpreting for 30 years, and she was so bad. I’ve seen people at workshops who have actually said, ‘I’m just here for the certification.’ They sit through it and text, or whatever, but they don’t use it as a learning experience to apply what they’ve learned.”
Your skills matter, your credentials matter, and the effort you put in is so important. Stay involved for those affected by your job.