HIS Sign spotlights ASL interpreter Frank Turk, Jr. Frank is a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) and has worked in the field of deafness for over 30 years. He has a Masters degree in Deaf Education from McDaniel University.
Frank recently retired after working for 30 years at Laurent Clerc Deaf National Education Center. His interpreting resume includes one year as the sign language interpreter at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia; five years as a free lance interpreter in the Washington, D.C., metro area; and three years as a staff interpreter and interpreter referral coordinator for the northeast region of Minnesota. Frank also worked for eight years with Long and Foster Realty as a real estate agent and worked closely with the deaf community in Prince Georges and Montgomery County, Maryland.
Frank’s wife, Rosa, and their three young children live on eight acres near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and enjoy raising rabbits and chickens for eggs. Frank enjoys family outings and during this past summer, he and the family camped at Assateague Island National Seashore, bicycled on the C&O canal, and swam at the local pool and water hole. Frank has hiked over 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail and hopes to eventually complete the 2,150-mile trail that extends from Georgia to Maine.
HIS Sign caught up with Frank to get his thoughts on his career and the interpreting field.
What inspired you to become an ASL interpreter?
It was a natural choice because it’s what I’ve been doing for much of my life. For me, my retirement from Gallaudet University last year left a sudden departure from ASL because there are not many deaf people in Harpers Ferry. Interpreting has allowed me to fill the void that remained after working in the hearing world for a year. After only the first week, I realized what a good decision my return to interpreting has been.
What are some of the differences you see in the interpreting field today compared to when you first started?
The technology available is amazing – everything from VRS, Facetime communication with cell phones, and even the scheduling software used to communicate jobs to interpreters. Contrast that reality with my Dad’s high-tech of yesterday – 45 years ago to be exact – when he used his huge, loud “toy” the Model 30 TDD machine.
Can you share with us an interesting moment or event that happened to you on an interpreting job?
Not exactly as an interpreter, but as a real estate agent I recall preparing to show properties to a deaf couple and the print readout for one of the homes I wanted to show them said, “… be sure and say hello to ‘Panama’ when you visit.” Hmm, what did that mean? Well, we arrived to the property, knocked and because the owners were not home we accessed the home using the key from the lock box. As we entered the home I heard a loud and clear, “Hello” from the living room. As the deaf couple went towards the kitchen, I went towards the living room only to learn that the greeting came not from a human, but rather a large parrot. You can imagine the surprise and laughter as I shared this with the deaf couple. It was a good beginning because the deaf couple ended up purchasing the home.
What advice would you give to aspiring ASL interpreters?
Let the journey begin!