August 2018 Member Spotlight! Rafael Treviño

NIC Advanced

Washington, DC

Region II

Why do you have a passion for interpreting?

I think what I enjoy most about interpreting is the translational task itself. In a way, trying to convey someone else’s thoughts is an act of audacity. This is especially true because we, as humans, know that it’s hard enough to convey our own thoughts clearly, much less someone else’s. Add to this the fact that we’re often working between differing worldviews. But we do it anyway, and with aplomb. José Ortega y Gasset has an essay entitled “The Misery and Splendor of Translation” (1934), and I think the title is a good description of what we do. We have an impossible task before us, but each time we interpret is a time either to grow or to celebrate a job well done or both!

Where does your passion lie? Is it in being a bridge between hearing and deaf constituents? Is it in your love for the Deaf community? Is it in interpreting itself? Is it in the “Aha” moment when those you interpret for reach the intended level of understanding made possible through your interpretation?

My passions have multiplied over the years. When I first entered this field, I was most passionate about the act of interpreting and languages of all kinds. I soon became concerned about the public’s lack of awareness about the Deaf community. Lately, my passions have grown to include research into innovative practices in interpreter education and fostering Latinx interpreters and other interpreters of color, both Deaf and hearing.

Is there a golden rule to maintaining longevity in this profession?

I don’t think there’s a universal golden rule; I think people have to learn what works for them. What has helped me stay in the game is diversifying my interests (interpreting, translation, teaching, research) and learning what I need to be happy in the places where I work.

What was your first official interpreting experience?

It’s a little hazy now, but I remember one of my first official interpreting experiences being a group meeting. What I do remember clearly is that the assignment was about an hour and a half away from Tampa city, which is probably why no one jumped on it. I figured, however, that if I could demonstrate I was a good, ethical, professional interpreter with these hard-to-fill jobs, then eventually my job offerings would increase. And they did.

When did you know, “This is for me!”?

For a brief time, I considered leaving the interpreting field. I wrote down the must-have criteria interpreting afforded me that I wanted to keep, which included 1) a flexible schedule; 2) exposure to new settings and experiences; and 3) a good salary. Fortunately, I couldn’t find anything that could match up, even with just these three criteria, and so I knew this field was for me!

How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?

I’ve known about interpreting since I was in middle school. My parents told me about one of my father’s cousins who had studied languages so she could be an interpreter for the United Nations. After that, I started checking out books on Spanish for heritage speakers so I could improve my literacy skills. In high school, I took an ASL course, and my teacher, Nancy Weems, introduced me to sign language interpreting. She’s the one who gave me the idea and encouragement to be both a spoken language interpreter (Spanish-English) and a sign language interpreter (ASL-English). Eventually, these identities turned into trilingual (ASL-Spanish-English) interpreting.

How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?

I’ve been able to see the world and meet a world of people through my interpreting work. One of the biggest benefits to interpreting is the tacit learning that takes place regarding human interaction in a variety of settings. For example, I once took on a position as program coordinator for the interpreting training program at Miami Dade College in Florida. During my second week on the job, I was asked to give the board of trustees a presentation about our program. I noticed that I should have felt a lot more nervous than I did and wondered why not. I realized that I had interpreted enough board presentations, talks between leaders, workshops, etc., to know that the most anyone ever expects from you is to be yourself. That’s what I did, and the presentation went better than I expected.

Describe your training experience…

I have an A.S. in Sign Language Interpretation from Hillsborough Community College, Tampa, Florida; a B.A. in Spanish with a minor in General Translation Studies, a Certificate in Legal Translation and a Certificate in Court Interpreting from Florida International University, Miami; and a M.A. in Spanish Translation and Interpreting from the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. In the fall of 2018, I will begin my Ph.D. in Interpreting at Gallaudet University.

I must say, however, that the best education I have ever received was advice from my grandfather. He said that if there was something I wanted to learn, nothing was stopping me from learning it. The same books used in a course at Harvard are available at the library for free.

What words of encouragement do you have for a person like yourself, who is interested in becoming an interpreter?

My advice to anyone coming into the field is to foster your self-learning. There is a wealth of knowledge available related to interpreting and translation, but only a fraction of it is introduced in the classroom and in workshops. Check out a book, open a search engine, and go find the rest.

See previous issues of VIEWS in our archives, located HERE