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Eating the Elephant

A Journey of Triumph: Reflections from a new qualified interpeter - Jennie Manning

In the realm of sign language interpretation, every milestone reached is a testament to perseverance, dedication, and an unwavering passion for facilitating communication between the deaf and hearing worlds. Today, we have the privilege of hearing from an extraordinary individual who has recently completed her Signature Level 6 Diploma in BSL-English interpreting. As a student who has overcome countless hurdles, she graciously shares her unique journey and invaluable insights to inspire and encourage others currently pursuing or aspiring to embark on this transformative path.

The path to becoming a skilled interpreter is paved with both triumphs and challenges. It demands unwavering commitment, a deep understanding of deaf culture, and an unyielding desire to bridge the communication gap. Jennie, having navigated through her own share of obstacles, is ready to shed light on her transformative experience. By sharing her story, she aims to inspire those in the midst of their own interpreter training, providing a beacon of hope and guidance.

Jennie offers an authentic and personal narrative of her journey, highlighting the lessons learned, the moments of doubt and growth, and the little victories that accumulated along the way. She emphasises the significance of perseverance, the power of learning from setbacks, and the support she received from her peers and mentors.

As you immerse yourself in the experiences and reflections Jennie shared with us, we hope you will find solace, inspiration, and practical advice. Whether you are currently enrolled in an interpreter training program or simply harboring a passion for sign language and deaf culture, her words will resonate, serving as a reminder that the journey may be challenging, but the rewards are immeasurable.

Jennie's Refelctions:

Elephants have always held a special place in my heart, much like my passion for sign language and deaf culture. It's ironic how my pursuit of completing the interpreting course with BSL Interpretations mirrored the saying, "How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite." However, as I submitted my paperwork for my yellow NRCPD badge, I stumbled upon a Kiswahili motto that resonated with me even more: "kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba" - "little by little fills the pot." This motto became my guiding light throughout my journey, which began in 2011, originally with Field Interpreter Training. Despite facing numerous challenges along the way, after transferring to BSL Interpretations, I persevered, steadily progressing towards my goal.

A Rollercoaster of Training:

Embarking on my interpreter training in 2011, I initially completed the first year with Field Interpreter Training before pausing to welcome the arrival of my son. Determined to continue, I pursued Level 6 BSL and commenced the first year of BSL Interpretations in 2017, juggling the responsibilities of a 6-year-old and an 8-month-old baby, with my supportive husband lending a hand during breaks for breastfeeding.

Challenges Along the Way:

The path to becoming an interpreter was far from smooth, with several moments that tested my resolve. I vividly recall breaking down in tears during voice-over practice in front of Stephen, feeling overwhelmed and doubting my abilities. Another instance involved accidentally damaging someone else's tripod during an evidence collection day (apologies, Liz!). Technological failures rendered beautifully prepared evidence useless, and understanding how the course units interconnected often left me feeling perplexed. On one occasion, with only 30 minutes' notice, the person I was supposed to film for my final evidence backed out, leaving me unable to reschedule before the submission deadline.

Little Victories Count:

Despite the setbacks and moments of self-doubt, I gradually realised that each of these experiences contributed to my growth. Every obstacle I encountered added a little more to my pot of knowledge and resilience. It might have been a nugget of valuable information, the acknowledgment that today wasn't my day, and the chance to try again tomorrow, or the solace of commiserating with my cohort through WhatsApp, discovering that we were all facing similar challenges and could offer each other solutions. Completing one more document, successfully filming a piece of evidence after numerous attempts – every small achievement mattered, even if it meant learning from what didn't work.

The Unfathomable Yellow Badge:

Even now, the reality of having earned my yellow badge feels surreal, and I can't say that I ever truly believed I would achieve it. However, the approval of my coursework by assessors and members of the deaf community validates my efforts. I am filled with a deep sense of gratitude and hope to make them proud, armed with my full pot of knowledge and experience (and perhaps a pile of elephant bones as a metaphorical symbol of the journey).

Becoming an interpreter has been a transformative journey, one that required perseverance, resilience, and the willingness to tackle challenges head-on. Just like eating an elephant, it was accomplished little by little. Each setback was an opportunity for growth, every hurdle a chance to accumulate knowledge and refine my skills. The yellow badge, though seemingly unreal, signifies the recognition of my hard work and dedication. I am eager to step into this new chapter, equipped with a full pot and ready to serve the deaf community with pride and compassion.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to Jennie for graciously sharing her remarkable journey with us. Her courage, determination, and willingness to shed light on her experiences will undoubtedly inspire and empower others who are on a similar path. We wholeheartedly wish Jennie every success as she embarks on her career as a qualified interpreter. May her dedication and passion continue to shape and enrich the lives of the deaf community, fostering understanding and inclusivity for years to come.


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