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How to Become an Interpreter and What is it Like?

Tanya Zaricor

8 March 2013


How to Become an Interpreter and What is it Like?

Janet Cullen is an American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter.  Janet went to Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, California and Ohlone College in Freemont, California where she studied to become an interpreter. Janet completed the Interpreter Preparation Program (IPP) at Ohlone College. The reasons why she wanted to become an interpreter were because she loved the Deaf community, and they encouraged her to keep at it – and in doing so she finally succeeded in becoming an interpreter.  

The Interpreter Interpretation Program (IPP) took two years. As part of the IPP she was mentored by Deaf professionals. She also completed internships with other interpreters that were certified professionals. After all her hard work, she got her CI/CT (Certificate of Interpretation, Certificate of Transliteration) certificates under RID (The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). Janet was able to work at the California School for the Deaf, in Freemont California after testing with the State of California years ago. On top of all of her certificates she also has a Bachelor of Arts in humanities from the New College of California.

Learning sign language was challenging, but now the only difficulty she has with interpreting is when she is in a situation without adequate knowledge of the subject matter.  

Janet has had lots of interpreting jobs (called "assignments") that she has enjoyed, but because of the Code of Professional Conduct (CPC) she is unable to share the specifics of individual jobs. In general, out of all the interpreting settings that works, her favorite categories are mental health-related such as therapy, group counseling, rehab, one-on-one interactions, kids, psychology classes, birthing, and dying. 

Interpreting is one of Janet’s favorite things to do, but because she works for herself it is hard to manage her schedule, keeping up with contracts, keeping up with invoices, and paying taxes. However, she does get to pick and choose her assignments and schedule and is always treated with a lot of respect – which is important to her.

Now she is learning British Sign Language (BSL).

"ASL Interpreter Interview." Personal email correspondence,
Tanya Zaricor and Janet Cullen, 30 Oct. 2012.


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