Featured Interpreter: Robin Byers-Pierce, CSC, BEI IV, Court-Certified, VRI Manager at Bromberg

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

A: I started interpreting in 1975. For a simple reason: The Rehab Act of 1975 was passed requiring interpreters for certain situations, and the government realized they did not have many. A federal grant was given to several universities around the country to establish interpreter training programs. NITC, National Interpreter Training Consortium, was founded and offered scholarships to people who were interested in going into the field of interpreting. Pre-existing ASL skills were not required but preferred for the first few rounds of awards. I was accepted into the program and started school for the spring semester.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

A: I have generally worked as a community interpreter. One of my first jobs was interpreters for a Skills Training Center that taught auto mechanics and carpentry skills.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

A: This depends on the job. For medical and legal, I review relevant terminology. Often we go in without any information, but I try to obtain as much as I can before the appointment. Agencies can often provide some background information.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

A: My favorite all time job was interpreting for Tommy Chong (Canadian American comedian). He made fun of me and made a prop of me plus had me teach the whole audience a bad word. Actually, he kept repeating it and instructed the audience to follow along. I was quite amused and entertained.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

A: Hands down, interpreting for a mother in childbirth and the baby was stillborn.

Q: Who is your role model and why?

My two role models are Reuben Pois and Annette Long. From my grandfather, I learned how to sign, and his great sense of humor shaped me. My mother taught me so much. Her wisdom and kindness shaped me into who I am now. She also taught me how to be an interpreter, and for all of that, I cannot begin to express my thanks. I did send her a thank you card later in my life for my birthday every year for not killing me when I was a teenager. Her self-control was admirable.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

A: I do use Facebook, but mostly it is a mode for me to contact colleagues and stay in touch with family and friends.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in or about ASL? Can you recommend something to our readers?

A: My favorite book is Seeing Voices by Dr. Oliver Sacks. The book is divided into two sections, and for anyone working with the Deaf community, the first part of the book is a must. Although there are many newer studies, The Signs of Language by Edward Klima and Ursula Bellugi are still my favorites.

Q: Which stereotype about Deaf culture would you like to eliminate? What are your favorite things about Deaf culture or ASL language?

A: I would eliminate the stereotype that all people with hearing are the same. Just as with the general community, there are nice people and not so nice people.

I love the visual-spatial nature of the language. An event can be relayed with clarity in ASL that no spoken language can convey.

Q: What advice would you give to an up and coming interpreter?

A: Knowing the community you serve is primary. Don’t expect to save the world – you are “The Equalizer”, you make the world the same for hearing people or English speakers as it is for Deaf people or non-English speakers.

Q: How did you prepare for your certification exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?

A: RID and the BEI offer materials to study. I highly suggest interpreters obtain and know the material. The Code of Ethics and the Canons of Ethical Behavior of all fields are similar, and knowing the correct ethical decision is crucial.

Practice interpreting television and radio. Professional speakers are trained to be clear and very fast. If you are comfortable with this rapid pace, when you go in for your test – it will seem slow.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?

A: I consider myself a learn-a-holic. I am always seeking ways to enhance my interpreting skills which include adding vocabulary and an understanding of a variety of fields. All of the above is how I do professional development.

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

A: One thing I like about the IEO and the webinar series is that they are for interpreters who already have the basic knowledge. Conferences are so often providing training for those at an entry level that it is hard to find something of interest to us vets.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: I love the field that I have chosen. Though I love road trips, the daily grind of 100-500 miles a day was tedious and environmentally unsound. VRI solved this problem, and as the platforms improve their stability, it gets better every day.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

A: Be thick-skinned. People will take their frustrations out on you. Know the difference between critique, which will help make you better, and someone who is taking their frustration out on you. Learn something every place you go.

 

Robin on LinkedIn.

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