Member Spotlight: Kerry Kissinger
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.
Hi there, awesome DBC members! My name is Kerry, I'm 31, and live on Long Island with my husband, Dan, of (almost) 5 months! We have been together a total of 8 years. I'm an American Sign Language Interpreter, and I absolutely adore my profession. My full time work is in education, where I interpret for one Deaf high school student for all classes during the school day, and sometimes after-school activities like clubs as well. I also work in video relay service interpreting (phone calls), as well as freelance on the side. One of my favorite settings to interpret in is AA meetings.
Why is this month’s topic, translation, near and dear to your heart?
Deaf individuals have been oppressed and misunderstood for centuries. There are a lot of negative assumptions made about Deaf and hard of hearing people, many stemming from a lack of communication between them and the hearing world, leading to a lack of understanding. I never want to speak FOR anyone, but I believe that everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard. Bridging the communication gap between the Deaf and hearing communities is one way I can be of support for an underrepresented, diverse group of people.
What are your favorite works in translation? Why?
This is probably cliche, but I will always love The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Night by Elie Wiesel. World War II is one of my favorite time periods to read about, and these are two works by incredible authors who experienced unimaginable pain and suffering that needs to never be forgotten.
When did you discover your love of American Sign Language and interpretation? Why did you decide to make that your career path?
My first exposure to ASL was in third grade, when a guest presenter came to class, teaching us some ASL. We learned the alphabet, numbers, and a few signs. I was absolutely fascinated and thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I went home and incessantly showed my mom what I learned, and anyone else who would give me the time of day. I'd always wanted to learn more since then. Finally, when I got to high school, I found out that ASL classes were offered starting junior year! I jumped at the opportunity as soon as I was able to, signed up for class, and from the very first day, I was in love. I've been signing ever since, and knew that I had to make it a part of my career. At first, I thought I only wanted to be an ASL teacher, so I could spread awareness of ASL and Deaf culture, and didn't want to be an interpreter. However, after Deaf friends asked me to interpret a few things for them, I realized that I very much enjoyed it, and needed proper education and training to be qualified to continue to interpret professionally in the field, so I went back to school again to improve my skills. I can't imagine doing anything else.
Are there any additional resources (movies, articles, podcasts, music, etc) about translation that you would recommend to our readers?
These aren't about translation or interpretation, but there are a few movies I can recommend to watch to learn a little about ASL and Deaf Culture: Children of a Lesser God, Mr. Holland's Opus, And Your Name is Jonah are a few good ones, despite them being a bit older. Switched at Birth was a good TV show too, especially in the beginning when it focused on some Deaf culture issues.
Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?
There are a myriad of things I could say, however, I'd simply like to encourage everyone to learn even a little bit of ASL (or your country's sign language). Even a little goes a long way, and helps to ease so much frustration with individuals with hearing loss who use sign language to communicate. Many of their own family members do not learn sign language, and they are often left out of conversations and isolated. Consider being one less person with whom Deaf individuals need to struggle to converse. You may even make someone's day!