With so few qualified interpreters about, it’s unsurprising how many people launch into 20 questions when they hear about my work.
Fewer people are concerned about ‘how I became a PhD student’ but almost everyone I meet (even those who regularly work with Deaf people) seem to ask ‘how I became an interpreter’.
In Northern Ireland I think it’s fair to say there will be almost as many routes to qualification as there are interpreters. Northern Ireland doesn’t have a well established training programme (yet!) such as those in Wolverhampton or Preston. It doesn’t have a high profile, albeit intermittent, training history like Edinburgh. Northern Irelands training record is a smattering of short term one off projects, established when funding was available and there was someone to take charge. These courses each had their own merits, yet I was unfortunate enough to fall between their span, contributing to my decision to temporarily leave Northern Ireland.
That explains, in part, my reason for choosing the course that I did, but not why I decided to become an interpreter in the first instance, or why I chose sign language (or indeed BSL).
No, I’m not a CODA*. No, I didn’t have a Deaf friend growing up. No, I didn’t want to helppoor unfortunate hard of hearing folk**. I liked the language.
I liked the language, so I started to learn. Although I live in a country with a sign-bilingual Deaf community (or so I hope my research will find!), in my area there wasn’t an option to learn ISL, so I enrolled on a BSL course and I discovered I was fairly capable! I went on to study at the next level and at that stage (A-level year) began looking for University courses. Much to the dismay of my schools career teacher, I found an interpreting course at Wolverhampton and was accepted. I say dismay as I went to a grammar school where the career options were ‘teacher, doctor or solicitor’ and was asked if I would consider these options and do a ‘night class in language’. Delightful.
Undeterred, and with Confucius’ cliché*** ringing in my ears and successfully drowning out the advice of others, I accepted the place at Wolverhampton and luckily enough, did start to love it. I found a job I liked and it came with an under saturated job market.
Alright, so I haven’t explained everything (why did I start learning sign language in the first place, why do I still interpret now that I’ve got a PhD position, why not other languages too) but I’ve got to leave something for the small talk at cocktail parties and faculty mixers! At least now I can direct people to this blog post as I refill my mojito in preparation for the next 20 questions.
For the record- I do love my work and I do enjoy talking about how I came to do what I do. Just maybe not with every person I ever meet. Although, to be fair, I’d still rather talk about that than the latest episode of TOWIE that I have no desire to ever watch. See you at the next social.
* CODA is a child of Deaf Adults. Many children of Deaf parents are expected, by those around them, to interpret informally for their parents and some chose to train as interpreters in adult life.
** No, no, no, no, no. Wrong in so many ways.
*** “Find a job you love, and you will never have to work another day in your life” Confucius (or so Google would have me believe)