Mark Halley is Assistant Professor of ASL/English Interpreting at the University of North Florida. He has worked as an American Sign Language/English interpreter in private practice since the age of 18. He is now 26 years old, which means he has been interpreting for nearly a decade. He first worked as an interpreter in Michigan. He then relocated to Washington, DC, where he earned his graduate and doctoral degrees. Mark now lives in sunny northeast Florida and could not be happier. As a researcher, he is interested in the work of interpreters in contentious political settings like protests.
1) How did you become interested in sign language and the world of deaf people?
Although my great uncle was deaf, he did not know American Sign Language. I learned a few signs when I was a young child, but I truly began learning American Sign Language at the age of 13 when I befriended a deaf student at my middle school. Soon afterward, I began taking courses at Oakland Community College, and I eventually enrolled in their interpreter education program. I like to say that I learned American Sign Language and interpreting both from my formal teachers and from my friends in the deaf community. I will be forever grateful to them for offering me opportunities in life I would have otherwise never had available to me.
2) What kind of difficulties, if any, did you encounter while learning ASL?
Because I started at around the age of puberty, I think I was quite lucky in that language learning was not particularly difficult. As an adult learner of Portuguese, I am experiencing firsthand how the brain loses its ability to learn language with ease. However, I think the greatest difficulty I encountered when learning American Sign Language was signing in a way that was cohesive and coherent. I am a fast speaker, and I found that I was also a fast signer. To put it simply, my production lacked commas. With time, I learned to slow down, and sign in a clearer and more deliberate way.
3) What type of studies/training have you chosen in order to qualify as an ASL interpreter?
All of my degrees (AAS, BAS, MA, and PhD) are in interpretation. I am also a nationally-certified interpreter (RID: NIC), and I formerly held state-level certifications in Michigan (BEI: Basic and Advanced). I consistently seek out professional development that further improves my qualifications. I am currently considering studying for healthcare interpreter certification (CoreCHI™).
4) How would you describe your experience at Gallaudet University?
My experience at Gallaudet was incredible. I was welcomed in by the student community, and the faculty went above and beyond to provide me with an excellent educational experience. I was especially fortunate to be mentored in research by Dr. Brenda Nicodemus and in teaching by Dr. Keith Cagle. My experience at Gallaudet was life-changing, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
5) Is it mandatory, in your State, to be registered with RID in order to work as a professional interpreter?
There are currently no legal requirements regarding interpreter qualifications in the state of Florida. This has led to numerous unfortunate circumstances, including all-too-frequent cases of unqualified 'interpreters' working in emergency briefings before severe weather events and other disasters.
6) Do you engage in PC or tablet video interpretation?
I do not have experience in this field.
7) Do you also offer ASL multimedia translation services (from text to video)?
I do not frequently translate English text to video, as I believe deaf translators are able to create superior translation products when working into their native language (American Sign Language). However, I do have experiencing translating signed videos into English. I am also currently translating an abstract from English to American Sign Language that will be published in an academic journal this month.
8) What type of teacher do you consider yourself to be?
I see myself as a funny and engaging yet serious teacher. I try to help my students see the value of their work in new and interesting ways. By engaging with students on a personal level, I find that I am able to push them to do their best work and engage in the challenge of continuous learning.
9) Which interpreting services does North Florida guarantee to deaf people (i.e. in hospitals, local administration offices, schools, universities, TV)?
I am not an expert on accessibility law. However, in general, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees "auxiliary aids and services" to deaf and hard of hearing people, including 'qualified' sign language interpreters. (However, as I understand it, the ADA does not define 'qualified' in any meaningful way.) Since its passage in 1990, the ADA requires that state and local government services as well as public accommodations and commercial facilities make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. One thing I always emphasize is that I am not an interpreter 'for' deaf people. In fact, if a doctor, professor, or lawyer knew American Sign Language, my work would not be necessary! In reality, I am there for hearing people just as much as I am for deaf people.
10) Are there, in your opinion, common aspects in both Deaf and LGBTQ communities?
This is an interesting question and something I have never really considered. I should mention first that I am hearing and gay, so I cannot claim to speak on behalf of the deaf community or the LGBT community. However, I know friends who have made comparisons between the struggles faced by deaf people and the LGBT community. In essence, deaf people and LGBT people are often viewed as 'abnormal' or as 'others' and are expected to conform with the mainstream in a variety of ways. Some draw parallels between speech therapy and language deprivation in deaf children with so-called "conversion therapy" forced upon some LGBT people. In essence, the thinking is that members of both marginalized communities are being told to do away with their identities and become 'normal.'
11) What are your ties to Italy?
In my time at Gallaudet, I was fortunate to work under an Italian researcher, Dr. Giulia Petitta. Dr. Petitta and I joined a research team that published three articles focusing on interpreter management of metalinguistic references. One of the venues in which we published (Rivista di Psicolinguistica Applicata) is an esteemed Italian academic journal. I also attended a translation conference in Trieste, and this past summer I participated in the Nida School of Translation Studies in Misano Adriatico (Rimini). I highly recommend those with an interest in interpreting studies or translation studies participate in the Nida School, which is offered every summer.
12) What could your motto be?
"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." The Dalai Lama
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