I’ve just finished my first week of SLIP (Sign Language Interpreting Program) classes. The first day (Tuesday) was, of course, pretty much just orientation and telling about what we’ll be studying. There are 22 people in the class. I know about 75% of them from last year’s classes. We’ve each had the equivalent of at least two years of college sign language training, and each have passed a careful selection process. There is an age range of about 19 through 50s, and we have four guys (big number, actually). Each of us come from completely different background, from the two CODAs who grew up in a Deaf home, to those of us who have only been taking classes for a few years. This is my new family. I’ll be spending much of the next two years with them.
Wednesday we will normally only have one two and a half hour afternoon class, but yesterday we had a full day. The second-year students threw a party for us, to give us a chance to ask them any questions we might have. This group of students is making a special point to take us first-year students in under their wing. Besides just the traditional party, they are setting up a Yahoo group so we can contact them to ask for help with anything, and they’re going to set up get-togethers throughout the year.
Another tradition is for the 2nd-year group to give us a box. This is a box filled with useful little things like pain meds, hair bands, cough drops, lint remover, etc. Each year the 2nd-years give the box a “personality” and saying. Last year’s box was a hatbox with a pair of disposable underwear decorating it, and the word “DEPENDS”. The saying of that class is “it depends” (how you interpret something depends on context, ect, ect.).
This is a pic of our adorable box. Our saying comes from something one of our teachers likes to say: “Interpreting is a whole ‘nother animal!”
We have four classes this semester, and three teachers--two Deaf and one hearing. Deaf Studies explores traditions, language, and basically everything that makes up culture. (For this class we actually have two interpreters--the first day of class we students were rather surprised to discover that, since we all obviously have a pretty good grasp of the language. But the teacher explained that it’s easier to discuss things like that in our native language, and the class is about culture, not about the language, so she wants to make sure we get it all.
Our next class is Interpreting Process. This semester we are learning translation, which means that we will be doing things like changing written English into sign, or a video of sign into written English. In other words, we will be able to take time with the translation and keep going over it until we are satisfied, rather than real-time interpreting. We would use translation in our interpreting jobs for things like explaining a contract to a Deaf client.
Then we have Fingerspelling. Each week or so we have a presentation to give that must include at least ten fingerspelled words (or number sequences). We’ll be tested on our receptive skills, too. Our last class of the day (and the one we have on Wednesdays) is ASL I. We’re learning vocabulary for things like politics, science, and math. My college is unique in that their interpreting program continues to teach vocab throughout.
Today the effects of changing my sleeping schedule and the busy days caught up with my health problems. I didn’t sleep well and woke feeling very sick (not necessarily unusual). I was feeling a little better by the time school started, but that added to the smell of perfume and cigarette smoke caught up to me again by lunch time, and I got a headache. By the last 45minutes of class I was pretty much out of it. I’m gonna have to talk to the teacher about that last little bit, since I was doing good just to hold my head up, much less understand a foreign language.
Despite the knowledge that my health will be a continuing struggle during the program, I am really excited about this next two years. I’ll be working incredibly hard, and am already feeling like I’m a bit in over my head in knowledge, but this is going to be awesome. I love the language and the people, and I’m looking forward to learning about and loving interpreting.