HIS Sign spotlights ASL interpreter Caroline Chabolla. Caroline did not always know what she wanted to be when she grew up. She initially attended George Mason University in hopes of becoming a nurse. However, she quickly realized that was not her calling. After transferring to Northern Virginia Community College, Caroline took her first formal ASL class, and that’s when she knew what her passion was. Caroline took more ASL classes and began interpreting classes, which resulted in graduating with an A.A.S. degree in American Sign Language to English interpretation from NVCC. Caroline recently transferred to Gallaudet University to continue her education. Caroline has an EIPA of 3.8 and is scheduled to take her VQAS in December.
Caroline worked for Fairfax County Public Schools as an instructional assistant in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing department for one year and she is now a full-time student at Gallaudet University. HIS Sign caught up with Caroline to get her thoughts on her career and the interpreting field.
What inspired you to become an ASL interpreter?
I began learning signs when I was about 13 years old and I really loved it, but I still didn’t know that ASL would be involved in my future career! I began my college career at George Mason University and quickly realized that it wasn’t for me; which resulted in my transferring to NVCC. I had not signed in almost a year and I missed it, so, I decided to sign up for an ASL class. I had never had any formal teaching in ASL and I learned so much about the language and culture, I knew I wanted to learn more. I progressed through the sign language classes and began interpreting classes; that’s when I fell in love!
What are some of the differences you see in the interpreting field today compared to when you first started?
I am very new to the field of interpreting but I would say the requirement of a bachelor’s degree to become RID certified is the biggest change. Previously an interpreter did not need to have a bachelor’s in order to sit for the RID certification, which I never quite understood. I love seeing that the standards are getting higher and higher, it shows that our profession is serious and here to stay!
Can you share with us an interesting moment or event that happened to you on an interpreting job?
Anytime I bridge a cultural gap is a special moment for me. Whether it be between a student and teacher or patient and doctor, I love when a perfect interpretation happens and both consumers are satisfied!
What advice would you give to aspiring ASL interpreters?
Attend workshops, network, go to silent dinners and put yourself out there! You have to get out into the community in order to improve all of your skills. Don’t be afraid to mess up a sign or ask for clarification and don’t be hesitant if you don’t have perfect ASL! The best way to learn is to practice and just do it! Find a mentor who can help you learn the profession! I am new myself, and am still learning this all myself; but putting myself out there has helped me grow immensely!