Anne Leahy, CI and CT, NAD V


Where is your hometown?
I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO, and now live in Falls Church, VA.

How long have you been a member of RID?

How did you become interested in the field of interpreting?
At the insistence of my roommates, I began casually taking ASL at Brigham Young University in January 1988, purposefully avoiding classes which would have steered me toward interpreting—I was an English major and wanted to become a writer. In time, I was pressed into service by a close friend who needed a substitute to cover his schedule for a week at the local community college. After introductory Algebra and remedial English, I was surprised that I did not die. Eventually and by very small degrees, I allowed the possibility of supplementing my income with light interpreting work. The leap to full-time interpreting came in 1991, and certification in 1994.

What is the most rewarding part of the profession?
First, watching my colleagues enjoy the freedom of their own direct clienteles and independent peer networks. Second, maintaining a flexible schedule to accept many last-minute rescue assignments and unique opportunities.

What is the most frustrating part of the profession?
Listening to full- or part-time interpreters who are desperate to leave their staff jobs but feel trapped and convinced by their families, employer, or own self-doubt that they cannot develop a private practice.

Describe your most memorable moment.
Anytime I hear epiphanies about work/life quality such as, “Thanks to the support of other independent freelancers, I finally bought my first house / can spend more time with my daughter / went back to school.” Interpreting should work for us just as much as we work for interpreting!

What advice do you have for new graduates entering the field?

  • Be a competent generalist, and market your expertise in some content area or setting of interest and become the go-to person for the next SCUBA class, lacrosse camp or Russian studies lecture.
  • None of the consumer surveys I have ever read rank linguistic skills first—flexibility, professionalism and demeanor always outweigh raw interpreting ability. As you grow as an interpreter, develop those soft skills, and it will invite a positive opinion of your work.
  • Remember that true prosperity comes through placing cooperation over competition.

Who is the interpreter(s) you admire most?
Those whose work does not suffer or make excuses, even when conditions grow difficult—perhaps they were sent to the wrong building and arrive late, or a routine meeting becomes emotionally charged, or they were up all night with a sick child, or a speaker insults a group they identify personally with. And you would never know it.

What is something members would be surprised to learn about you?
I have lived happily without a television for ten years.