arts and culturefeatured-art-and-cultureIssue 14

The Science, Art and Heart of Sign Language

Sign Language-2

BY JACQUI D. SINARLE

Part science, part art and part heart, the role of sign language interpreter requires a special person who possesses unique skills, talents and compassion.

Fortunately, there are a number of these special people in the Stanislaus area who enrich our community with their dedication, generosity and enthusiasm — and it shows.

“I love my job!” exclaims local freelance sign language interpreter Mark Medina, Jr.

“As a sign language interpreter I’ve learned the importance of being well-rounded in … pretty much everything,” Medina reflects. “Acquiring a little bit of knowledge from all different types of topics, from recent elections to popular events, can be of great use when interpreting in our community.”

“Being able to use a unique skill set that I possess to help people communicate is very rewarding but it also can be bittersweet,” Medina adds. “In any given day, I can be requested to sign for a routine medical appointment, parent teacher conference, labor and delivery and then a funeral or memorial service. All in one day. It can be mentally as well as physically tasking. But in the end, I come home excited to wake up and start my day all over again.”

Connie Ambrosia-Wann found her calling as an educational interpreter for the deaf and hard-of-hearing with Modesto City Schools.

“What I enjoy most about being an interpreter is working with children and students of all ages,” says Ambrosia-Wann, who interprets for students in a variety of learning levels, classes and subjects at Downey High School as well as at assemblies, musicals, dramas, meetings, graduations and more.

“Language and communication are the greatest skills a person can have in their lives; they are needed for everything we do,” Ambrosia-Wann says. “As an interpreter I become the ‘voice’ of the teacher and other students. Helping our deaf and hard-of-hearing students understand the world they are living in gives me great joy.”

Kaye Osborn enjoyed many years as an elementary teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing at a residential school for the deaf in Riverside and at Lakewood School in Modesto before retiring from that phase of her career. Today she shares her knowledge and passion for sign language as an American Sign Language instructor at MJC and by interpreting plays and music.

“I encourage people to learn sign language because our community needs qualified, certified interpreters as educational interpreters, freelance interpreters and interpreters for medical, court and video phone settings,” Osborn says.

In addition to MJC, ASL classes are offered at some churches and by the Society for Disabilities. Osborn notes that Modesto has a deaf church at Sherwood Bible Church and that there is a deaf social at Vintage Faire Mall’s food court on the third Tuesday of every month.

“To become a skilled interpreter for the deaf, you need to be skilled in English,” Osborn explains. “It takes lots of practice and dedication, and to maintain certification one must attend workshops, but it is a rewarding career and the deaf community is a loving one and always eager to meet new signers.”

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