This week, I interview ASL interpreter Amy Salazar.
1. What are your favorite childhood memories?
Growing up, I have always loved nature. I would go outside any chance I got. I loved spending time in my Nana and Papa’s garden during summer vacation. I loved running barefoot on the grass and writing stories on their porch.
2. Are you a cradle Catholic or did you convert?
I am a cradle Catholic and a revert. I went through a period of religious exploration during my second or third year of college. I was interested in possibly opening myself to Buddhism or Islam–I was especially drawn to Islam–but then I befriended a friendly priest and his compassion drew me back to rediscovering my faith. Since then, my faith has been challenged many times, but it was the Catholic faith that made me reconsider my Republican beliefs, until finally I had to choose between Jesus and the GOP. I chose Jesus and never looked back.
3. How did you decide you wanted the be an ASL interpreter?
The Lord placed an interest in sign language in my life by first introducing me to Helen Keller in the 3rd grade. I went to a book fair and picked up a book about her. This was a defining chapter in my life, because Helen’s story inspired me to want to make a difference in the world. It also piqued an interest in sign language. In high school, I was friends with a girl who was hard-of-hearing and she had an interpreter. I still remember trying to watch our history lesson but being mesmerized by the ASL interpreter.
Fast forward to 2014; it was the last year of my Associate ‘s program for an AA in English. I had gone through the program wanting to become a journalist, but I came to discover that it wasn’t my passion. On a whim, my mom suggested, “Maybe you could take a sign language class. It might be fun.” It seemed like a good idea, so I enrolled for ASL 101 in the Fall. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I fell in love with sign language on day 1. My professor was Deaf and her signing captivated me. Deaf culture, Deaf history, the grammar and syntax of ASL was riveting. That was when I knew that I wanted to become an interpreter.
4. What is the process you go through to get a certification?
State certification depends on your state and what field of interpreting you wish to pursue (education, legal, medical, community interpreting) . I feel called to educational interpreting, but am open to the possibility of either legal or something called VRS (Video Relay Service). Basically, it’s like a call center for Deaf people. An interpreter sits in a cubicle and has a headset. They answer calls from Deaf clients who may need to set up a medical appointment, speak with a bank teller, and so on. I would interpret between the hearing business owner and the Deaf client. That said, I have always had a heart for education. I was a teacher for five years and I feel passionate about teaching and making a complex subject clear and less intimidating.
5. Who is your favorite biblical figure besides Jesus?
I have too many to count, so I’ll narrow it down to two people: John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene. John the Baptist is underappreciated in my opinion, which is why I love him. He never boasts about himself or takes any credit; he only points to Jesus.
Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene is a recent favorite of mine. I was hesitant towards her because I did grow up in purity culture and the story of her being a prostitute did make me uncomfortable. I have since come to love her. If she was a prostitute, then she was a repentant woman who followed Jesus. If she wasn’t a prostitute, then she was a woman who followed Jesus.
6. What is your favorite biblical passage and why?
Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I anointed you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”
As a child, what drew me to Christianity was the idea that every life is born with a unique purpose. I’m sure all religions have some variation of this, but Christianity places a special emphasis on the special calling of every human person. Jeremiah 1:5 brings to mind this principle for me and it brings me peace and strength whenever I see it.