Mary Kocsis

June 2013

Returning to Freelancing An Interpreter’s Journey

We interpreters are a diverse lot. Some of us learn to sign as kids, others of us learn from church, and still others go to an ITP. It goes with the territory, really. An assignment can take you any place. You can interpret for clients on a variety of assignments with a tremendous range of register from the mundane to the obscene.

My interpreting journey began in the 1990’s. I wish I could say it followed a linear path, and I did all my homework and progressed through the levels of mastery on target. Nope. It led me here today, loving the only job I ever really loved, but having to make a hard decision about my place in it.

Deaf people have fascinated me since the first day of my first community college class at Waubonsee, where I changed my major and decided I HAD to get to know how to do THAT. I got a B.S. In Deaf Education (I allowed my mother to scare me into thinking interpreters would be obsolete someday due to technology) and I worked at the college as an interpreter. It was the coolest job I ever had. I worked with the coolest interpreters (most of them CODAs), coolest clients (deaf college kids? CODAs? yeah, we had fun). The field was exciting to me. Partner work made me the interpreter I was.

I placed at an intermediate level on the ISAS, a test long since forgotten in Illinois. But the need for health insurance had me teaching during the day and interpreting at night. I was losing my contact with the Deaf Community. I had a family. I moved to the suburbs. I had to choose: what am I?

Yellow license in hand, I took jobs within my comfort level. I worked with partners and observed their skills. I have a Deaf friend who I see frequently. I got involved with my professional organization and joined my Geographic Member Group. I read. I studied.
There were only a few ways things could have turned out. A) I keep working, my skills improve. B) I keep working, my skills do not improve, and I work under half steam C) I withdraw from work, work on my skills, and do what I can to be a professional interpreter from behind the scenes.

I really wanted A to happen but the universe dealt me some health issues, so It was looking like B. That did not sit well with me. So C it was. I have to be OK with that for now. I am a professional.
Just because I did not have any complaints in my “successful” years as a freelancer, did that mean I was rendering the message faithfully?

I have to be the interpreter I would want my Deaf friend to have. I have to work hard and trust that it will turn out OK if I remain willing to be teachable. So, no matter where you are on your personal interpreting journey, I hope you find the quest for continual improvement and study of skills part of your daily life.