August 2019 Member Spotlight

Sarah Blattberg, CI and CT, SC:L
Washington, DC
Region II


Why do you have a passion for interpreting?

I’ve always enjoyed learning other languages and connecting people. Interpreting seemed to be a way to combine those two passions. 

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?

I love it when communication flows, when it seems effortless for the people involved, when even though my brain is working hard, it seems smooth.

Is there a golden rule to longevity in this profession?

Relationships and reputation. Both can take you far in this career or short-circuit it completely. 

What was your first official interpreting experience?

I had just started working at a social service agency with the strict understanding that I would always be teamed with a more senior interpreter. On my first day, the executive director pulled me from observing a colleague to handle an unexpected interpreting need, and I was on my own! Trial by fire, indeed.

When did you know, “This is for me!”?

I think I was pretty young when I realized I wanted to be an interpreter. At that time, the only option I was aware of was the UN. Luckily, I met people along the way who opened my eyes to this profession.

How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?

There was a Deaf boy in my high school (different grade) who had an interpreter working with him, so that’s probably how I learned that it was an option. 

How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?

My life has been immeasurably enriched because of interpreting. I’ve been able to travel all over the country and the world as a result of doing this work. I’ve been privileged to serve on committees and as President of my Affiliate Chapter. I’ve gotten to dip into all manner of lives and lifestyles, work settings, and ways of being human in the world.

How would you describe your training experience?

I did not attend an ITP/IEP. I do not have Deaf parents. I guess that makes me somewhat unusual. I studied ASL informally and formally and got my MA degree in linguistics from Gallaudet. Of course, I’ve attended many workshops over my 25-year career, but I do not have an interpreting degree.

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

Never stop learning. You need to have flexibility in both languages to match the various consumers you might meet. Also, football is going to come up when you least expect it. Try not to fall flat on your face. 🙂

Know someone who is making a positive impact in the interpreting profession?

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