June 2018 Member Spotlight! Shawn Merriman-Roberts

CI and CT

Berkley, California

Region V

Why the passion to interpret?

It is the whole process that interests me from the message (voice to sign, or sign to voice) to processing and delivering the meat of that message with all the nuances that are conveyed, and to do so as if I weren’t there. I fully understand my role as the interpreter, but I prefer to fulfill that role without being a distraction and/or a burden to the party’s involved. It is also my goal to function professionally in every aspect as the role of an interpreter is not well known to many and I can be that bridge to understanding the role and function of the interpreter and holding our profession to a high standard. All of this is what I take on daily with pride as the Deaf community should have the best of what our profession has to offer without undue stress or concern that their rights will be infringed upon. And to also maintain a level of advocacy and support, when asked, to ensure that continued successful progress for every member of the community.

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

All of the above. What lured me to the interpreting profession was when I was a young ASL student and working with the Black Deaf members of Ujima, which was a branch of Black Deaf Advocates (BDA) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their welcoming openness, love, support, and encouragement lead me to become the interpreter I am today.

Is there a golden rule to maintain longevity in this profession? What is it?

For me, I take good care of myself by not accepting too much work and not overworking myself. Taking advantage of Deaf/Hearing teams whenever possible. Also, I find it beneficial to remain vigilant in maintaining and improving my skill by keeping contact with the Deaf community, attending workshops in related issues to the interpreting field and personal growth and development in becoming my best me!

What was your first official interpreting experience?

My first official interpreting experience was being treated as the professional interpreter for a dynamic Deaf social worker. All other jobs followed after that. I have been working steadily ever since for the past 24 years. Yikes!

When did you know “This is for me!”?

When I was challenged to come up with a better interpretation of what I heard while performing this task in a safe space. Led by an instructor (CODA) and Deaf friend. That experience sparked my hunger to always seek to become a better interpreter.

How did you learn of interpreting as a profession?

Seriously, I tripped into the profession. I studied ASL at college. While there, a friend who was already an interpreter asked if I was interested in applying to a school district as an interpreter. I was hired and was fortunate to be part of a very well run Deaf/HH mainstream program.

How has interpreting provided opportunities for you?

The best opportunities have been the friends that I have come to know over time in the Deaf community.

Describe your training experience?

Most of my skill was learned in the Black Deaf community as well as my interpreting classes at Vista College taught by Nikki Norton-Rexroth who taught “Tools for Interpreters” as well as other supportive skills dire different semesters. I took full advantage of those classes. Rather than attend what was a very good Interpreter Training Program (ITP) at Ohlone College, I chose to team with advanced skilled Interpreters and mentors. Attend every workshop that applied to ASL language development and interpretation.

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

As I said above, I tripped into this profession. It was a desire to become a better interpreter that kept me going. If it is your interest to become an interpreter, check your motives for becoming an interpreter. Bounce your ideas and feelings off of a trusted mentor who is already in the field. Whether you are Deaf or Hearing, immerse yourself in the Deaf community. That is essential to your progress to becoming successful and an accepted interpreter to the community you’ll be working with. If it is within your reach, research and attend an ITP/IPP (Interpreter Training Program/Interpreter Preparation Program) so you learn the nuts and bolts of this profession and the seriousness of the undertaking. Good luck and I am here to support you on your journey to success.

See previous issues of VIEWS in our archives, located HERE