Rebecca’s path to interpreting began in high school when she elected to take ASL as her foreign language. Growing up in Fairfax, Virginia, Rebecca attended Woodson High School, a school that not only offered ASL classes but also has a large number of deaf and hard of hearing students. After graduation, however, ASL was still not accepted by many colleges and universities as a foreign language. Frustrated, Rebecca began to think about her future. She loved ASL, but after taking it in high school, she wanted to somehow continue learning it.
Rebecca decided to look into interpreting as a possible career path and went to visit Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). She sat in on a couple of ITP classes and met with department chair Dr. Laurence Hayes. After this experience, Rebecca knew that she was on the right path to a career. Rebecca enrolled at EKU and spent six years there. She took her spring internship at Frost Middle School in Fairfax. She graduated from EKU with a B.S. in the interpreting training program and also earned a B.A. in anthropology.
Following graduation in 2010, Rebecca was able to secure a job as a full-time educational interpreter (K-12) at Fairfax County Public Schools. She became RID certified in February 2012 and is now a full-time freelance interpreter.
What inspired you to become an ASL interpreter?
I believe my continued interest in learning American Sign Language had very much to do with the fact that I had Deaf students and interpreters in my everyday life in the classroom and on the softball field. By the time I was a senior and contemplating college I had a strong foundation and love of ASL and Deaf culture. While growing up my Mom had always told me, “you need a skill.” I knew ASL, or any second language, is a skill. My sisters were both fluent in Spanish by the time they were in highschool and I understood what my Mom was talking about. I saw interpreting as the perfect career choice to incorporate a passion, language and skill.
What are some differences you see in the interpreting field today compared to when you first started?
I started at EKU in 2004 and the technology changed before my eyes. The Internet, audio/video, and access in general has changed so much in just the short time I have been in the field. The Deaf community, Interpreters, ASL students and ITP students have so many opportunities to connect, share, learn, and improve in an instant.
Can you share with us an interesting moment or event that happened to you on an interpreting job?
When I was in high school I participated in a club that went once a month to the local elementary school with a Deaf education program. I was paired up with a kindergarten student. We spent time signing children’s books and interacting with the other deaf students and staff. It was a special moment for me and one of the main reasons ASL and Deaf culture really captured me.
I returned to Fairfax for my internship at Frost MS. My first day “on the job” while meeting the interpreting staff and seeing the pictures of the students in the DHOH program, I spotted that little kindergarten student. I was surprised and excited, I felt like I had come full circle. That little girl had no idea how much of an impact she had on me. It reminds me that everyday, especially in our field, we have an impact on someone or something.
What advice would you give to aspiring ASL interpreters?
I think you can love ASL and be a great student of the language, but in order to develop as an interpreter you have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to attend Deaf events and be active in the community. You have to become a life long student of the language and culture.
With the new degree requirements from RID, I would encourage anyone interested in interpreting to look into entering an ITP. I believe a good ITP program has much to offer the future interpreter; training from a educated and experienced staff, mentors, technology, etc. I also want to stress the importance of learning from those who have gone before you. I have had the opportunity to learn from and work with some amazing interpreters. Building lasting relationships and respecting your fellow interpreter is priceless.