By Stacy Damitio
Living in America, it comes as no surprise to hear a variety of languages being spoken throughout the day.
There is however, a language spoken amongst some, yet unheard by most.
Sign language enables those who are deaf the ability to communicate with each other, and if they have an interpreter, they can also communicate with the hearing world.
Glendale Community College currently employs 34 interpreters to facilitate communication in classrooms for deaf students. The majority of GCC’s interpreters attended the training program at Phoenix College, and went onto take the test to be certified.
“Our role is to interpret everything that is being said,” said Dina Young, an interpreter who has been at GCC for one year.
Young was a teacher at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf for 13 years before she came to GCC, and has been proficient in sign language for 20 years.
Interpreters must be versatile in their abilities. Sign language varies in its structure which means they must be able to adjust to those differences.
“The variety of sign styles out there is so broad,” Young said. “As an interpreter part of our role is to adapt to the needs of [the students,]” Young said.
The two most commonly used are American Sign Language and See Sign. These two vary greatly in their structures.
“[With C-Sign] you are taking everything you are saying in English, and putting in in the exact English order, only in signs, which is not what ASL is, [ASL] is its own structure, its own format,” Young said “They are kind of opposite of each other.”
New signs are being created daily, as the hearing world’s language changes and evolve, so does that of the deaf world.
“Something will come up, and a sign is made and it spreads pretty quickly. There are always new signs being introduced,” Young said.
Adding an extra element to any classroom presents unique challenges for students and the teacher. All parties must learn to get used to the new dynamic within the classroom.
“It is kind of a learning experience for some of the teachers sometimes,” Young said.
“Luckily we have so many instructors who are so welcoming and open to feedback.”
Group work outside of the classroom also presents a unique challenges to deaf student, the interpreter and the hearing students.
“For the deaf students, they have to make sure there is an interpreter available to go [with them,]” Young said.
The interpreters also help the hearing students learn how to effectively communicate with the deaf students.
“The communication is happening between [the students] I am just facilitating,” Young said. “I am making it happen; I am making it smooth that is my role.”
This makes communication a little tricky at first, most peoples first reaction is to talk to the interpreter, instead of talking to the student.
“It’s kind of a frustration for the student because they are like, ‘look at me, you are talking to me,’” Young said. “We never want them to feel invisible.”
Interpreters do not do learn for their students, if they missed something; it is their responsibility to make sure they get all of the information they need.
All interpreters are expected to follow the Code of Professional Conduct, which states everything that is said, is done so in confidentiality. Interpreters are also expected to only accept jobs they can perform in a manner to meet their clients needs.
Most of the deaf students who come to GCC were at a school for the deaf prior. Coming to a hearing school and having to rely solely on an interpreter is a big change for them, which is why it is essential they have skilled interpreters to help guide them through the process.
Young always wanted to be a teacher, and started taking ASL classes for her foreign language while in college.
“I took it because my friends were taking it, and I ended up falling in love with it,” Young said. “It’s so much fun. I really love it, I feel so lucky.”