American Sign Language (ASL) is almost a completely separate language, other than the words being used. It has its own grammar and word placement. A sentence in ASL usually will not make sense when literally translated. An interpreter must sign the subject before the action. “Talk louder do not” is the way an English speaker would say “Do not talk louder.” Just like a normal language, sign language differs in other countries based on their vernacular. ASL and SEE (Signed Exact English) are used in the United States. Juan Pablo Bonet wrote the first well-known book on the signed alphabet in 1620. In 1760, Deaf education was offered for free in a French school. In 1788, France published the first sign language dictionary. America soon caught on and offered Deaf education as well. Subsequently, the New York Institution for Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb was founded in 1818. Similar schools were created in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kentucky, and Virginia in following years. In the 1850’s, the idea of a Deaf state was proposed to allow other Deaf people to interact within their own “kind” and not having to live up to hearing people’s expectations.
It was denied. In 1890, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) was founded. The invention of the electrical hearing aid classified some Deaf people as “hard at hearing”. Hearing aids, however, could not fix everyone’s hearing, so President Eisenhower established captioning for the Deaf around 1958. In 1965, the first “ASL Signs and Linguistics Dictionary” was published, and now it is 2013, and I hope to advance sign language further. In a career like this, one must have the love for signing, rather than just the ability or knowledge. My motivations to make this love into a career are very personal. One of them would be being able to let those who can’t hear have a chance to listen. A major motivation is receiving financial compensation for being bilingual. Although the money is a great factor, I like the financial compensation for the contentedness of being able to support my family I hope to have in the future. I have worked with some Deaf people before and they are motivations to me as well. I enjoy ASL interpretation because I use the words others say, but I add my own understanding of it. It is easy to express both mine and the Deaf person’s understanding.
Not just anyone can show up to an interpretation and interpret correctly. To be licensed, one must have their prerequisites, ASL 1-4, and pass the Interpreter Training Program (ITP). These specific and thorough requirements are why Sacramento State University is my college of choice. Not many schools offer Deaf Education courses at all, so to find a college that offers more, such as teaching the Deaf and ASL Linguistics, is truly amazing. While attending Sacramento State, I must pass my ASL 1-4 with proficient or advanced, and pass any Deaf education courses with a ‘C’ or better. In addition to ITP, I would need a RID CI/CT (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Generalist Certification) or NAD, level 4 or 5, certification. I would also need to receive an Advanced or Masters NIC (National Interpreter Certification). I plan to complete these courses in my undergrad years. After I complete these courses, if I do not go straight into interpreting, I want to get my Master’s degree in Deaf Education to at least have my teaching degree for an after plan. As a hopeful interpreter for the CIA, a duty of mine is confidentiality.
Both my interpretations and position should not be publicly revealed. This is one of the biggest responsibilities I will have as it is not safe for just anyone to know what is talked about when it comes to Government relations. Another big responsibility would be the speed and accuracy with which I sign. I do not necessarily need to keep up at the exact speed of every word, but I must maintain accuracy of words that are being spoken. As an interpreter, it is my job to check for understanding of the Deaf. If they do not catch, or misunderstand, the sign, the whole interpretation could be ruined. I must also make sure that all interpretations are correct on my part. If I do a sign going the wrong way, it could portray a whole new meaning. ASL interpretation is more than just knowing how to sign. It is about being exceptionally well at it, too. I am good at signing because I have excellent grammar skills. In addition to my grammar skills, I have broad diction. For example, if the word “prosthetic” is said, I would sign “fake”. I excel in English, as both a course and language. I am aware of both sentence frames and rules, and how they differ from ASL. I can also sign quickly while accurately translating.
My ability to think fast helps me be qualified even more. With qualities like such, one would expect interpreters to make amazing money. Well, that depends. A regular interpreter who is just starting, would approximately make $37, 530 annually. When in the profession for a while, the pay increases to $57, 930. The high pay a regular interpreter would make up is $72, 330. The area I hope to interpret for is the CIA. A CIA interpreter’s beginning pay is $74, 872. That is more than the highest pay for a regular interpreter! Their middle pay is $95, 307. They can make up to $115, 742 as their high pay. I believe the CIA’s pay scale is greater because they are paying for quality. Before permanently deciding this career, I would interview someone in the career field. Someone I could interview is either my cousin who is an interpreter, or my aunt, who is a special education teacher with a degree in Deaf Education. I would ask them if they believe signing is a gift. I have heard many people say signing is something you are blessed with.
I would also like to know the worst thing a new interpreter should be prepared for, because it is the difficult, unexpected things that make people second guess their career choice. A question that I would ask multiple people would be the biggest challenge to overcome, as I would like to mentally prepare myself for anything to happen. Before seriously considering someone’s answers, I would also ask how long they have been interpreting because they are answering based of off experience. I would trust an answer from an young, but experienced interpreter, rather than someone who is older, yet new to the field. I learned sign language is something others truly depend on. I also learned someone who is hoping to learn sign language, should learn from a trained professional rather than someone who knows “a couple of signs”. Something I would share with hopeful interpreters is the struggle of retaining everything you learn. However, I would not fail to let them know the joy of helping someone cope with their disability. The biggest thing I learned is that a love for sign language is not enough to get you a career. You must have the drive, as well as the training. Sign language is not meant for everyone. All in all, I want to continue to pursue the career of sign language interpretation.