Subtlety, humor, empathy, and accuracy are often difficult to convey when interpreting from one language to another. Juliette Vayer will tell you that these key skills in American Sign Language (ASL) interpreting, along with advocating for the Deaf community, are part of what compelled her to earn her Bachelor of Science in Interpreting, Deaf Education, and Advocacy (IDEAS) from the School of Education this December.
UNCG’s program is the only public four-year program of its kind in North Carolina.
“I started learning ASL in high school as part of my foreign language requirement,” Vayer says.
ASL is the third most commonly used foreign language in the United States behind Spanish and French, with an estimated half-million people using it to communicate. A visual language, ASL combines hand, arm, eye, and facial gestures to convey thoughts and feelings, with a unique set of rules and grammar.
Encouraged by her ASL teacher, UNCG graduate Lucas Wheeler, BS ‘15, Vayer applied to UNCG and the IDEAS program.
Vayer spent the first two years in the program learning the language itself. The last two years she’s been busy with interpreting classes that exposed her to how to interpret in different settings such as schools, events, medical appointments, and more.
“It’s a process to become an ASL interpreter,” she says. “There is a lot of cognitive stuff you have to do to translate. This last semester I’ve been in an internship with a mentor in the community to help discover which settings I might want to pursue a career in. There are so many opportunities.”
Vayer will graduate with seven of her tight-knit cohort this December. With such a small number in the program, they formed a supportive community and family that Vayer credits with her success in the program. In addition to their internships, each in the graduating class interpreted at the North Carolina Folk Festival this October and in the Guilford County Schools this fall.
“The hardest part of interpreting is learning how to take control of the situation when you need to,” explains Vayer. “Sometimes you have a lot of different things coming at you: people talking at the same time while someone is also signing to you. It can be hard to interpret that. But I’ve learned how to handle it by saying, ‘Hey, would you mind speaking one at a time?’ Or saying, ‘this person is still responding. If you wouldn’t mind just giving me one more second.’ Being able to do that and have that skill and be able to stand up for ourselves for what I need to do in those moments makes me successful in my job as interpreter.”
Vayer isn’t sure where she will land after graduation, but she knows she will be an interpreter. She’s considering a preceptorship with an experienced clinician so that she can learn more about how to better interpret for minorities. She also hopes to encourage others to enter the field of ASL interpreting. And she’ll also bring a good dose of humor and empathy to balance her newfound leadership in the process.
“If you’re thinking of going into this profession, you should,” Vayer encourages. “Not only is this program specifically very supportive, but the Deaf community is very welcoming to students and also wants to see you succeed.”
Story by Alice Manning Touchette
Photograph by Sean Norona
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Graduates are invited to share their accomplishments on social media by using related “digital swag,” tagging posts #UNCGGrad, and using Commencement-themed Snapchat filters at the Greensboro Coliseum. The University will display #UNCGGrad-tagged Instagram and Twitter posts live before the ceremony. Graduates are also encouraged to use the Commencement 2022 persona in the UNCG Mobile App.