While doing research for my final paper focusing on ASL, I learned several sobering facts about how difficult becoming a certified interpreter is. Even simply being fluent in ASL takes years to master, and an understanding of the unique Deaf culture is imperative as well.
Learning ASL is not something one just “picks up” in a month or two. It is a foreign language, and like any other, it must be learned in the context of the culture that has created it and which it in turn helps to shape.
While deaf people who are dependent on ASL to communicate can learn the language quickly, hearing students have a much longer experience simply because they are not fully immersed in the context. When a hearing student leaves the classroom or turns off the video, ASL is no longer their primary means of communication, and thus it is much more difficult to build fluency rapidly.
I was aware that even if I am able to gain an operative command of ASL, I will need to take special classes before testing to become certified as an interpreter. The biggest challenge for me will be finding ways to develop my fluency before I reach this stage, especially with the other commitments I have as a college student.
If I want to pursue becoming an interpreter, I will need to be proactive in seeking out settings in which to practice my skills and immerse myself in deaf culture. Being patient will also be a key part of this process.
While this career path is much more difficult and involved than I could ever have imagined when I first began, I still feel that the end result will be worth the time and effort I will need to spend.