Angie Nielsen, CI and CT, NIC Master, NAD IV
Where is your hometown?
La Habra, CA, although I currently reside in the Atlanta Metro Area.
How long have you been a member of RID?
Off and on for about 16 years.
How did you become interested in the field of interpreting?
I needed a job, and my mom knew Mike Ginter who worked for Inland Service Center in Riverside, CA. Mike told her they needed interpreters, and she had me contact them. I had no idea what I was doing and went through their live screening process. The staff members there recommended that I meet the director, Dick Babb. After he told me how dreadful I was, he suggested that if it suited me I could shadow the staff interpreters there and possibly work as an interpreter if my skills improved. After a few weeks, I was hooked. I was certified within a year; I love a challenge!
What is the most rewarding part of the profession?
The most rewarding thing about interpreting for me is knowing that when I am doing my job right, I am leveling the playing field for deaf people. I believe that the regard my consumers have for me is high because I absolutely put 100 percent into every aspect from my appearance to cross-cultural mediation and matching the language and register of both the hearing and deaf people that I am working for. I frequently check in with both to ensure the best possible experience for all. Let’s face it, our presence alone can cause feelings of discomfort or be a distraction, and we need not exacerbate that by being a hindering influence with bad signing and broken English. I strive to not be any of those things and feel a deep sense of accomplishment daily because I don’t.
What is the most frustrating part of the profession?
What frustrates me is we collectively seem to have purposefully forgotten who founded our professional organization and what ideals it was founded upon. The big D Deaf and CODA (native signer) stand-point is invaluable to all, yet so few of us are taken seriously. We are generally considered as either militant or entertainment because I think that is the most acceptable way people can internalize our experience and perspective. When I look at the interpreters out there in the field, I don’t see enough Deaf and CODA heart. I believe that the future Deaf Advisory Council (DAC) will be a positive influence on future decisions at the national level, but I think it is very sad that we actually have to bring into existence a formal DAC because we are so far removed from the RID of the 1960s. I see that the overarching climate of our profession is reflective of this separation of ideals and that is most frustrating to me.
Describe your most memorable moment.
Interpreting the opening and closing ceremonies of a national naturist (nudist) convention.
What advice do you have for new graduates entering the field?
Spend as much time as you can around native users of ASL. It is there that you will learn the local variations of the language, witness cultural norms as well as develop a better understanding of what you are studying in your interpreter training program. Deaf people are experts at evaluating hearing people, and if you come at them with an open mind and good attitude, you have an immediate advantage in gaining acceptance over those who have preconceived ideas of who and what deaf people are like.
Who is the interpreter(s) you admire most?
The interpreters that took me under their wings my first few years in the field: Suzette Schuster, Ralph Blank, Sherry Murillo and Dianna Wright. My good friends and colleagues Charlene LaVine and David Turner are now who I aspire to be most like, personally and professionally. The high esteem that they hold in the Deaf community speaks volumes, and I admire that.
What is something members would be surprised to learn about you?
That most of my immediate and extended family (30 plus members) are deaf, and I didn’t really sign well growing up. I am also very uncomfortable around hearing people.