HIS Sign spotlights ASL interpreter Hillary Froitzheim (nee Burroughs). Hillary was born and raised in the Southern California town of Riverside. She began picking up sign language in elementary school from a Deaf classmate. After graduating from a high school down the street from California School for the Deaf Riverside (CSDR), Hillary enrolled in the local community college to continue to develop her second language – ASL.
With one year of ASL under her belt, Hillary, then 19 years old, found that her religion offered services completely in ASL in a nearby town. Upon joining this congregation consisting of 70 individuals, of whom 30 were Deaf, Hillary was immersed in the culture and language of ASL. Three years later, she moved to South Central Pennsylvania where she came in contact with more of the Deaf community located in York. She continues to volunteer 70 hours per month to Deaf Bible education. She began working as a sign language interpreter in 2006 at Hagerstown Community College and various other community jobs through an interpreting agency.
By 2008, she had married into the Deaf community through her husband who has been deaf since birth. Hillary interprets in the educational environment, medical, platform, government, VRI, and others while also developing a passion for theater interpreting. Hillary holds a Bachelor of Education in TESOL specializing in ASL as a first language. She is pre-certified and plans to get her EIPA and national certification this year.
HIS Sign caught up with Hillary to get her thoughts on her career and the interpreting field.
What inspired you to become an ASL interpreter?
I am a visual learner and have always loved languages, and I became fascinated by the Deaf community surrounding me growing up in Riverside. Although I still speak some Spanish I learned in high school, I moved to Frederick, Maryland, so I could focus on the Deaf community and culture, and develop my sign language. It was being able to clearly communicate to the Deaf community the message from the Bible that brought me to interpreting. The “be my own boss” part of contracting with interpreting agencies really appealed to me. This meant I could set my own schedule and work part-time so that I am able to continue to devote 70 hours monthly to the volunteer Bible education work I do.
What are some of the differences you see in the interpreting field today compared to when you first started?
It is comforting to know that this field is trending toward professionalism. When I first began interpreting, I had the opportunity to team with some very talented, experienced professionals in the field. I also saw some interpreters who weren’t as interested in the message they sent by way of their dress and demeanor. I appreciate being able to more consistently work with professional interpreters who set the bar for others in the field by way of dress, demeanor, and signing ability.
Can you share with us an interesting moment or event that happened to you on an interpreting job?
I met my husband through an interpreting job. I was a new interpreter working through an agency for a college. My male student studying criminal justice was very patient with me as I learned the specific signs for the police field. One group homework assignment with just me as the interpreter ended up lasting over 4 hours. Because I was so new I did not know I could call for a team or a replacement. After the assignment was completed, I was treated to dinner for now being the patient one. We have been married for five years.
What advice would you give to aspiring ASL interpreters?
Get involved in the Deaf community. Go to interpreted plays, captioned movies, Deaf Bowling, Deaf school events. Deaf people lend trust to those faces they see the most often. You may develop some of the strongest friendships with Deaf people. If you incorporate the nuances from the casual conversation you have in the Deaf community events, this will add color to your interpreting. Copy facial expressions, body language and Deaf-isms you see. This will bump your interpreting up to the next level.