Tell us a little about yourself (Name, hearing status, where are you from, training experience)
My name is Taiwo Olopade. I am hearing. I am originally from Nigeria in West Africa but, I now call Portland Oregon home. I got my bachelors in Economics thinking I wanted to work in business sector but that was not to be. I first got exposed to signed language in 2002. From there, I took ASL classes and then got accepted into the ITP program at the Portland Community College in 2006. I graduated from that program in 2008 with an AAS in Interpreting. I worked as a freelance interpreter from 2008 to 2010. In 2010, I joined VRS and worked for a year. I left the country for two years and came back in 2013. While on hiatus, I got nationally certified by RID. I rejoined VRS again upon my return and did some freelance work in different settings such as medical, religious and community. In 2017 I graduated with my masters in Interpreter Education. Over the course of my career, I have taken numerous workshops, webinars and training. One notable mention is the training “As on stage” under the tutelage of Dot Hearn geared towards interpreters of color. The goal here was to increase the pool of POC interpreters in the Performing Arts.
What inspired you to become an interpreter?
First of all, I fell in love with the language. Coming from Nigeria, I did not get the opportunity to meet any Deaf people. Culturally, it was a thing of shame to have kids with disabilities. Parents would oftentimes hide their kids from the public. Most of the disabled people in Nigeria were beggars. Coming to the US, it was a mind shift for me. I not only fell in love with the language, I also fell in love with the Deaf community. While taking ASL classes, my Deaf ASL teacher told me about interpreting and it blew my mind. You mean I get to use the language and work with Deaf people? And of course getting paid wasn’t lost on me. This is how I got into the interpreting world.
What was your first official interpreting experience?
My first official interpreting experience was freelance in a K12 setting. Even though I had trained to do the job, I left inadequate. MY imagination and reality were totally different. I worked with a student who had cochlear implants and could voice for themselves if need be. I felt useless to say the list. But I remained optimistic.
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.)
I have worked in numerous settings such as medical, k12, community, legal, etc. I currently do most of my work in VRS which is kind of a combination of all the settings imaginable but in little chunks. I love VRS in that it is challenging, the work is stable, and you get a very flexible schedule. I recently started performance interpreting and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Its a lot of work but very rewarding. I did do some post secondary settings and I wish i could do more of that.
Is there a golden rule to maintain longevity in this profession? What is it?
The golden rule for longevity in this profession in my opinion is self-care. Without it, you are bound to exit the profession prematurely. I am speaking from experience
How would you suggest that the interpreter preparation process become more inclusive of individuals that are a part of an underrepresented population?
One of the factors lacking in ITP programs in general is the lack of representation of said underrepresented population in the faculty. Not only that, for most ITPs, their curriculum is lacking in contents related to underrepresented population especially within the Deaf community. Most Underrepresented students come from lower income bracket. For ITPs to encourage diversity, there needs to be some sort of scholarship/grant in place to be able to achieve this. Most ITPs send representatives to the communities to talk about careers in Interpreting. Unfortunately, most of the time the representatives sent out are from the majority culture. Students from unrepresented groups do not get to see people from their culture and oftentimes think this career is not for them. Having representation from their population can boost confidence in the students and thereby increase the likely hood of such students thinking about such careers. Having these in place would be a good start in making ITPs inclusive.
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?
As an interpreter, one thing that i have always experienced is that people tend to judge me by my outward appearance. By that, I mean my skin color. This applies to hearing customers, Deaf clients and interpreters. And 100% of the time, they are surprised that their assumption of me was wrong. It might be hard to not judge a book by it’s cover, but at least try to give the benefit of the doubt. I live in a city where it is hard to find an interpreter who looks like me. I guess I get more of this experience and others but I doubt it.