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RIDEr from the West

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Level of Professionalism

Greetings from Sunny Arizona, USA!! As I write this article for PAIDE, it's about 7pm and 110 degrees outside! My mind wanders and I can't help but think how cooool it must be there in the SM Mall! HA!

Every now and then I am asked what I do for a living. "Oh..." I reply, "I work as an interpreter for the Deaf." And usually I would wait for the questions with a pensive face.

Usually the replies are something like, "Oh....mmm……interesting" "What does that mean?" "You mean you teach deaf kids?" "Oh, you're a volunteer? Do you have a regular job?" "I know a lady at my church who can do that….so nice of you to help"

And my favorite: (drum roll please) "I didn't know men could do that….I thought that was a woman's job!"

Most folks don't know what to say, because my reply had always been so vague.

We work and strive to advance our profession, but we're often treated as curiosities or sideshow performers. When people find out that we require training and licensure/certification they're often surprised.

I happen to have a couple friends who are both accountants, they each work for themselves and I've had the chance to hear them both reply to questions as to what they do for a living.

Associate number one replied, "I'm an accountant…." The replies are as varied as the once I get, "Oh do you work for a company?" "Are you like a cashier or bookkeeper?"...etc …etc… you get the idea!

On another occasion, Associate number two replied." I'm a Professional Freelance Accountant."

Notice the capital letters of the accountant number two? That's how it sounded, it wasn't a job…it wasn't just something she did, it was what she WAS…it was her profession! That reply resounded in my head. Next time, I decided, I would use that phraseology.

I practiced saying it over and over, each time it sounded better and better, my body posture seemed to straighten, my head seemed to level and I swear I was an inch taller! I couldn't wait to try out my new self-perception.

It happened about 2 weeks later, I was on a flight to Florida for a conference. The gentlemen in the seat next to me started to make chit-chat. The chance came when he asked me, "So what do you do?"

I sat straight, looked him in the eye and told him proudly, "I am a Professional Interpreter!" He was hooked, "That's fascinating! What language?" "American Sign Language."...and the dialog started. Those around us will treat us as we project ourselves. We, as interpreters, have honed our craft, trained and worked hard towards a level of professionalism that we deserve to be treated as such. Those of you in the field know it's not easy to stand up in front of a crowd and know that effective and accurate communication comes only through us, and that all parties involved place an enormous trust in us that we will dispatch that duty effectively.

To be the professional, it's not enough to just take some sign language classes, Koko the gorilla learned Sign Language! You must train and re-train, attend workshops, practice; self evaluate, read voraciously, learn about current events, and keep up with local news and international news, the list goes on. The professional never stops learning, the professional never stops trying to improve their craft and skills, the professional always asks how can they improve and what can they learn from every assignment.

Let's all act as professionals and portray the image of the professional. With the same view as we see Professional Doctors, Attorneys and someone who can help another at as level no one else can.... WE ARE PROFESSIONAL INTERPRETERS!

God bless you all and let his gift of Sign Language flow through you.

Till next time! Take care!