“What’s your college history?”
Two years of computer applications training before I dropped 3 classes shy of graduating with honors. 3.89 GPA if that helps.
“Where are you in your ASL Interpreter Training?”
In the last semester of my second year as an ITP major. Interviews are first week of April. I will find out mid April if I get into the program or not. I’m currently in the top 15% of my school grade wise, am on Dean’s List and President’s List, and I’m slacking off like a mother fucker this entire semester.
“Wait… you don’t just automatically get in? How does it work?”
The program is separated into 2 parts, the first is an ASL minor that takes 2 years and the second is the actual 2 years of interpreting. Anyone can train in the language for 2 years. If you want into the program they have a set of requirements you have to get through first. This last semester they toss you one interpreting class to give you a taste of what it will be like. Many people drop this semester because they realize they can’t do it.
“What can’t people do that makes them drop?”
Interpreting is more mentally consuming than people realize. You are listening / seeing to receive a message. At the same time, you are mentally translating that message for meaning. Words are not as important as the purpose and goal and meaning of what you’re getting. They have a different culture, you have to take what you know of their culture and adjust. You also need to be mindful of the register you’re using. Is this a time to use big words? What word is a synonym for that word which would make sense in this context? While you’re doing all of that, you’re also speaking / signing. You also have to monitor what you’re putting out as well as what you’re taking in. You have to keep an eye on your intonation (ie: are you saying it with the right tone that is being implied through sign or signing it in the right way to adjust for the actual meaning of tone change. For example, “can I help you?” has varied meanings. Sometimes it really does mean “is there anything I can do for you?”. Sometimes it means “hey I work here”. Sometimes it means “back up off of my ass, jerk off, I’m not interested in you”.)
You have to monitor how loud you’re speaking. You have to ignore any distracting sounds, sighs, lights, smells, thoughts you are having. If people are coughing and babies are crying well that’s too bad, you still need to focus on what you’re doing. And you have to be able to do it all well. In some cases you may be required to retain information in your head and hold onto it for several minutes before being able to repeat it. This requires good attention to detail and memory. The ability to hold onto names, numbers, dates, place, times, etc. There is no way to “study” for this. You cannot “learn” it. All you can do is practice practice practice and hope you get better. Either your mind can do it or it can’t do it. Period. Some people just can’t do certain parts. My weakness is numbers. I have a hard time holding onto numbers that are longer than 3-5 digits because my mind cannot visually comprehend numbers.
However, I still hold onto many of them very well, but I have to have a trick to doing that. So while my brain is processing more of what I’m hearing and seeing and sitting there quietly taking mental notes on this, I’m having to section off a part of my thinking to constantly repeat numbers in my head. When a number comes up, it gets added to the repetition cycle in my head. For example, I’m listening to a story someone is telling, they mention august first 1978, I will begin repeating that in my head while I’m listening to the rest of the story with enough attention to continue to draw visual images in my mind of what I’m hearing since pictures stay better than words. Then they mention that 20 people died in the fire, 6 of them were females. Now I’m having to juggle: august 1st 1978, 20 people dead, 6 women. Over and over again to hold those numbers. The fire fighter in charge was Dan Conway, now you have a name you need to remember accurately.
The story could be very detailed and a few minutes long and give you lots of information to process. You hold that information in your head for about 6-12 minutes. Then you must repeat the story in detail and recall as much of exactly what was said as possible. You’re graded on wording. For example, if I said “they hung rows of charms from the ceiling in the basement of the church”. I get docked half a point. The story only said that they hung rows of charms in the basement of the church. Where else are you gonna hang a charm in a basement? Probably the ceiling, but you cannot say that because then you are adding information that was not given. You also may not leave out information. For every mistake you either lose a half a point or a full point. There are basically 100 things you have to remember 12 minutes later. Of 20-30 people in my class, 6 got an A, 1 got a B, and 2 got Cs.
Of those 6 As, the highest score was 94% accuracy. Only 2 people in the classroom got that score. I am one of them. This is why people quit. Because to do that… is very difficult and it sucks ass. My flaw is truly that I don’t feel competent enough in the language itself to do a good job. People tell me that I am fine in the language except that I lean toward English sentence structure and I have to learn to lean toward ASL sentence structure. It’s a process. And if I get in, the language will have to be something I improve upon or there’s no point in being a half ass interpreter.
“What are these social events?”
Social events within the Deaf Community. In order to get into the program, you not only need sparkling grades, but you have to be extremely well liked within the Deaf Community.
“So what requirements do you have to meet?”
- Great grades
- Likable personality
- Liked in the Deaf community
- 3 letters of recommendation
- Hand written application selling your soul
- An interview with a panel in sign language
- The ability to handle large quantities of stress
“Where are you in the process?”
I have submitted my application, my letters of rec are in, my grades are livable if not chuck norris amazing, I dunno if I’m likable, we’ll find out. My interview is Monday April 2nd at 4:30PM and it will last an hour. Wish me luck that day, I’m gonna die of a heart attack. So much for large quantities of stress.
“When do you find out if you get in?”
The week of April the 15th.
“What happens if you get in?”
Then I will spend the next 2 years, all day long every day with the same 20 people, in the same classes, as a unit. We will interpret for the community, continue to rub elbows, volunteer, intern, etc. We will be on call at all hours for interpretation needs.
“And then what?”
Once I graduate, I take my degree and I go beg Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. to admit me to their ranks so I can get my Masters Degree in specializing in psychology and gender studies for interpreting.
“What happens if you don’t get in?”
I will be very depressed. Anybody that doesn’t get in just wasted 2 years and $20K. You cannot reapply to the 2nd half of the program for another 2 years. They only accept applicants every even numbered spring year. If you miss it, that’s it, you just shot your chances. Most people move on and change majors and try to find something else to do with themselves. If I don’t get in, I don’t really know.
“Why are you so stressed?”
Beyond the major? Transitioning in the open is a massive nightmare and people are assholes.