Tell us a little about yourself (Name, hearing status, where are you from, training experience)
My name is Ambrose Elijah Tabb. Most people call me Eli, though. I grew up in Mississippi, but I’ve been living in Atlanta, GA for the past 9 years. I have my Associate’s Degree and Bachelor’s of Art in Sign Language Interpreting from Georgia State University (2017).
What inspired you to become an interpreter?
I have always been a very cheery person. When I was 16 years old, I worked as a skating carhop (server) for Sonic Drive-In. Every customer who pulled in I offered a bright smile and lighthearted small talk. But there were Deaf customers who came in at least once a week. They would pull in and flash their headlights. Equipped with an infectious smile, I would go out to take their order. They would silently hand the crumpled piece of paper out the car window. I would whip around and take the paper inside the store to ring up the order. After a few weeks of this, I made a decision. “Something has to be done. These people deserve to have good customer service like everyone else who comes to Sonic.”
That evening, I went home and searched “Sign Language tutorials” on YouTube. By the time I graduated high school, I was conversational. I moved to Atlanta immediately after graduation where I ran into a group of sassy deaf gay men who suggested I become an interpreter. Thus, I began my journey into the interpreting field.
What was your first offiicial interpreting experience?
During my practicum semester, I had the opportunity to visit several different local places to practice interpreting under the supervision of my professor.
Do you have a preference as to what settings you like to work in most, or desire to work in, in the future? (e.g. Medical, Performance, Legal, etc.)
Currently, I prefer medical interpreting. In the future, I would like to do more mental health work.
Is there a golden rule to maintain longevity in this profession? What is it?
I have only been interpreting professionally for three years. If I had to say there was a rule to my success I would say: Everyone is a person. Treat them kindly. I live by this rule. A lot of the work experiences that I have gotten in my short career have been because of my ability to connect with people on a very human level. This skill is invaluable.
How would you suggest that the interpreter preparation process become more inclusive of individuals that are a part of an underrepresented population?
I have been thinking of answers to this question since before I became an interpreter. I have pondered simple solutions like hanging flyers for Interpreter Training Programs in neighborhoods with high minority populations. I’ve considered how equity plays a part in making our industry more accessible while not lowing professional/ ethical standards. As a black man with a disability, I am usually the only person who looks like me in professional workshops and conferences for interpreters. But I see deaf clients every day who look like me. The short answer to the question is: I have not found a solution to the problem. But I and other interpreters are working to find a solution.
If applicable, as an interpreter or aspiring interpreter, what would you like to share with the outside community as it pertains to being a part of a marginalized community in the profession of interpreting?
We need you! We need more interpreters in general. We specifically need more interpreters of color. Like any job, there are challenges, but feeling like nobody understands your perspective should not be one.