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July 19, 2011

in the spring of 2004, i traveled with 79 other emerson students across the atlantic ocean to live in a castle in the netherlands for 3 1/2 months. it was a pretty surreal experience at first, but then we settled in and the castle became like home. you quickly got to know the relatively small group of people that you ate with in the dining hall, drank with at one of the two bars in town, and traveled with on the weekends. i was lucky enough to meet someone in that group who has become one of my best friends: shire ketterer.


since returning from the castle, we have cooked and crafted, explored the city of boston, and shared our college experience. and i was honored to be a part of her wedding when she married her husband, dave, almost 2 years ago. shire is one of the most creative and motivated people i know. she developed her own business (simply shire) out of an entrepreneurship class in college, which is a thriving videography business that she runs as a husband & wife duo in new jersey. if that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, they are also in the midst of renovating their home. but what you’ll read about today is how shire became interested in asl (american sign language) and is now working as a freelance interpreter throughout the state of new jersey. she’s pretty impressive (and i’m not saying this because i’m biased), so i hope you enjoy her story as my very first guest blogger.

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What is your profession?
American Sign Language English Interpreter


What exactly does an ASL interpreter do?
Well I think this is a good question to start with today because while interpreting in an Operating Room prep this morning, I got asked if the patient was my father. We all got a good chuckle and politely told her I was hired by the hospital to interpret. This is VERY common and I am normally asked if I am a family friend. See a long time ago (well not that long ago) “interpreters” were family and friends of deaf individuals. Interpreting has evolved into a profession with our own set of code of ethics and other professional standards. It’s mostly that people do not know who about interpreting because they have never had a direct or indirect experience. Anyways, a more exact definition of ASL Interpreting is to facilitate communication between both deaf and non-deaf parties. One thing I want to include on my website ( – which is still in the works) is a list of how to use an interpreter and more information for those curious about interpreting and deaf culture. (Click here for more info.)

How did you get into your field?
This is usually the one of the first questions the deaf client will ask you when you arrive to a job. 9 times out of 10 they are curious what sparked your interest in sign language and also curious where you went to school for ASL. ASL is not only their language but a part of their Deaf Culture. For myself – my first exposure to sign language was with my Uncle from California. He gradually lost his hearing over the course of a number of years and he and my aunt learned ASL. When we would visit I would always learn a few signs. While that was my introduction to ASL it was completely different than my experiences with Deaf Culture. My uncle was a late deafened adult. Who knew there was a difference!?


What kind of education do you have?
I do have my bachelors degree but it is not directly related to ASL or interpreting. I minored in Sign Language but went back to school after graduating to continue my interpreting education at a community college. The program is two years but I decided to take more language classes to build up my confidence in using the language. There is a national certification exam (NIC) that should be accomplished to become a certified interpreter. While you can work as an uncertified interpreter, each state is slowly changing their laws about requiring certified interpreters. There are two parts of the certification exam, written and performance. And starting fairly recently, you also need a bachelors degree to take the test. I have completed the written in April 2010 and have 5 years from that date to complete the performance. Once I successfully complete that exam, I will be a certified interpreter (which is my goal)! Not only would I be able to work in more places, including in PA -which required all interpreters to be certified- but my pay rate will increase according to my experience and certification.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is usually going home with a smile on my face saying “I still can’t believe this is my job and I get paid for it!” I have been lucky in my first year of interpreting to only meet great clients and have usually positive experiences. Even the negative experiences are something under my belt that I usually learn from. Growing up I was always told I should love my job. So I am happy to report I “love what I do, and do what I love.”


A Day in the Life of an ASL Interpreter:
6:45 am – Wake up to my hubby requesting a sandwich be made because he is running late to work.
7:00 am – Get ready for my morning walk.
7:10 am – On my way to my morning walk which included a game of tennis as a warm up!
8:15 am – Arrive home and do a couple Business Association things, including sending emails.
9:00 am – Wax my legs.
9:30 am – Hop in the shower and get ready for work!
10:00 am – Head out for my first interpreting job of the day.
10:30 am – Meet with the deaf client in the doctors office. Chat for about 45 minutes until the doctor comes in.
11:45 am – Say good bye to a super sweet deaf couple and make my way over to patient relations to talk to my hospital contact and she walks me to my next job at the hospital.
12:00 pm – Meet the other interpreter (who is my long lost twin from Emerson!) to go over if anything else is happening that day with the deaf patient. Also introduce myself to the client, whom I have met prior to this interpreting job so a brief “Hello how you doing” type conversation.
12:00-5:00 pm – Interpreting Accessibility. We provide constant interpreting services for anyone who goes into the patients room. Mostly doctors and nurses, and hospital staff. Also if any family or friends are who need of interpreting services. In between, there is normally a lot of down time which is when I do stuff like type this list! Also edit photos, write emails, read, etc.
5:00 pm – Scoot on out of here – I have to be back at 6am tomorrow!
5:30 pm – Arrive home and relax!!
9:30 pm – Attempt to go to bed early for my 5am wake up… unsuccessful! Did not go to sleep until 11:30.

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i love learning about shire’s experiences as an interpreter because it’s so different than anything i know about. i’m one of those people who is in awe of how others end up doing what they do. and this is only the tip of the iceberg – i’m sure i’ll be able to twist her arm to tell about starting her own videography business someday soon. thanks for sharing, shire!

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Interested in learning more about ASL interpreting and the culture?
A great website is which is the National Registry of Interpreters.
To learn a few signs, try this website.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 19, 2011 8:45 am

    You are too awesome! Thanks for posting and asking me to blog 🙂 Love you!!!

  2. July 19, 2011 2:02 pm

    Hooray for ASL! I’m learning with my relatives – my 3 yr old cousin has a progressive hearing loss and goes to The Learning Center for the Deaf, so we’ve been taking family sign class. I love it. Keep up the good work! The deaf community needs more great interpreters, for sure!

  3. Barbara Titus permalink
    July 19, 2011 5:25 pm

    Ashley, What a wonderful write-up for a delightful daughter.Thank you for taking the time. Hope to see you when you get down this way again. Barbara

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