Written by Lynx – PGDip, DipSLI, BA
I came to the complex, challenging, eye-opening and immensely satisfying world of the Deaf community and New Zealand Sign Language interpreting almost twenty-five years ago. I was very close to finishing a law degree, supporting myself through that by working as a driving instructor. This included teaching Deaf teenagers from the local Deaf school to drive. I decided to go to a night class in NZSL so that I could communicate better with the students – and ta da! I had found my passion. Four years later I was a qualified NZSL interpreter (never finished the law degree).
My only regret is that I didn’t discover the Deaf world until I was forty years old. I think embarking on learning a new language at that advanced age is one of the reasons I am so passionate about professional development – I have had to work hard to keep up my professional knowledge and skills and to learn new ones.
In 2011 my business partner, Daniel Hanks, and I established Connect Interpreting, one of the three NZSL interpreting agencies in New Zealand. Having witnessed the transformative qualities of supervision through some interpreting assignments, we thought that this would be a positive and supportive benefit that Connect could offer back to the interpreting profession – and so we enrolled in a 3-day intensive course in Professional Supervision.
We learned a few basic skills (the importance of contracts, curious questioning and attentive listening, not giving advice, a couple of different supervision models). I remember being surprised that there was no requirement for specific qualifications to start working as a supervisor – but since that was the case, I started offering supervision to other NZSL interpreters.
For the last decade, Connect has been providing bi-monthly group supervision to interpreters as well as one-to-one supervision. In the months in between, we have been offering other training sessions and workshops on a variety of topics. We have also provided three-day workshops with international presenters, including some focussing on Deaf interpreting. We support all newly graduated interpreters by offering them free one-to-one supervision throughout their first year of interpreting work. We strongly believe that agencies have a responsibility to provide PD so that interpreters who are contracted to them have maximum opportunity to fulfil their professional and ethical obligations.
With our commitment to providing ongoing professional development, it was exciting to see the emergence of Linguistpd in 2015. We have encouraged interpreters who contract to Connect to take advantage of the webinars on offer, either live or recorded. As well as Connect’s monthly PD, the Sign Language Interpreters Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ) offers several professional development sessions every year, including a yearly conference, and there is occasional PD organised by the other agencies and groups. However, Linguistpd remains a valuable resource for all interpreters regardless of their affiliation and regardless of their geographic location.
A pivotal moment in my personal journey was in January 2016 when I decided to join a Linguistpd session on ‘Supervision for Professionals Working with Deaf People’, facilitated by the wonderful Omoyele Thomas. Omoyele is an experienced BSL Interpreter who had completed a Diploma in Professional Supervision via 360 ( https://360supervision.co.uk/).
I was reassured to find that Omoyele’s presentation largely reflected my own supervision practice. However, one comment she made had a profound impact on me. She said, “It’s not enough to have done a few hours of ‘supervision’ training – if you want to become a professional supervisor you need to undertake a Diploma level course.” It made me acutely aware of my own lack of training, and I became determined to seek out an appropriate course here in New Zealand.
Having now completed a Post-Grad Diploma in Professional Supervision after four years of part-time study at the University of Auckland, I feel much more competent and more informed about the history, the approaches, the functions and models of supervision. I continue to be excited and inspired by the transformative nature of this work, and I am encouraged that there is increasing recognition, both nationally and internationally, of the importance of supervision in the sign language interpreting profession. There are two NZSL interpreters currently studying the same post-grad course at the University of Auckland, which will increase the capacity of professional supervisors in Aotearoa/New Zealand and will give interpreters who seek supervision more choice.
On a final note, I want to acknowledge the many other great presentations that Linguistpd offers. One that held particular resonance for me was ‘Legal Interpreting – What’s the Worst That Could Happen?’ presented by Byron Campbell. The various scenarios and questions raised by Byron apply equally to legal and court settings in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and I’m sure in many other countries around the world. I look forward to accessing many more Linguistpd Webinars – such a valuable resource for us all.