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Basic human need

August 18, 2012
By Jill Gosche - Staff Writer ( , The Advertiser-Tribune

Communication is a basic need of every human being, a local sign language interpreter says.

Sue Fuller, a Tiffin resident, said there is so much joy watching a person understand something and know in some way, she had a small hand in helping with his or her understanding.

"Communication makes you feel a part of something," she said. "It connects you with mankind, connects you with life in general."

Article Photos

Interpreter Sue Fuller interprets during Columbian High School’s commencement ceremony earlier this year.

Fuller learned basic signs when she was in elementary school and opted to pursue it after a frustrating encounter with a person who was deaf in January 1987.

She said she obtained a degree in American Sign Language interpreting through Terra State Community College in 1995. She obtained her Signing Exact English certification and educational interpreting license. She did an internship in Cleveland and worked for Cleveland Hearing & Speech Center.

The center's mission is "to serve, advocate for, and empower individuals with diverse communication abilities and to increase public awareness and sensitivity about hearing loss, deafness, speech-language and related literacy issues," according to its website.

Fuller said she has been interpreting professionally for 17 years and has worked all over Ohio. She has interpreted at weddings, funerals, medical and counseling appointments, situations through police and court groups, and at Columbian High School.

"I have met so many people from all walks of life," she said.

Fuller was an interpreter for then-President Bill Clinton during a re-election campaign visit to the Arlington area in August 1996. She said it was a memorable experience, which included thousands of people, television cameras and snipers.

"(It was) intimidating to say the least. ... I was on stage with him, about eight feet away," she said.

Fuller, who uses SEE and ASL, said there is a misconception that all sign language is the same.

"That's not necessarily true," she said.

SEE is a representation of the English language and primarily is used in the educational setting. ASL is a conceptual language.

"You don't interpret word for word. You provide the concept of the meaning. ... It's very expressive," she said.

Fuller said as an interpreter, a person needs to be able to understand the client and his or her vocabulary and adjust accordingly. The words and signs an interpreter chooses need to be able to be understood by the consumer, and just because a person is deaf or hearing impaired does not mean he or she automatically knows sign language, she said.

She said people think those who are deaf automatically know sign language. To learn the language, she said, deaf children need to be taught the language. The teaching occurs in the school setting, at home and by friends. Whatever they are exposed to in their surroundings and environment helps create their language base, she said.

An interpreter needs to be able to understand his or her client and where his or her language base is established, Fuller said.

"Sign language is different regionally. ... It has to be an individual decision to learn (sign

language)," she said.

People cannot get hung up on whether they signed something perfectly, she said."It's about making that connection," she said.

Fuller said educational interpreting is different than community-based interpreting.

In an educational setting, the interpreter tends to fall into a routine, while an interpreter in a community-based setting may be called in to sign for clients they may never see again, she said.

When interpreting in medical or legal situations, the interpreter doesn't get a lot of time to create a meet-and-greet opportunity or get to know the person, she said.

Fuller said interpreters get physically and mentally exhausted.

"Your arms become tired," she said.

Also, there is a four- to five-second delay between the speaker and the sign.

"Interpreting's not done in real time," she said.

Fuller said deafness is not a disability people can see. Deafness is the only difference between a person who can't hear and a person who can, and she said a person who is deaf wants to experience life, just like everyone else.

"They're no different," she said. "They just can't hear."

Fuller said there are deaf clubs, which are found more in larger cities and are a way to connect people. While at Columbian, she had a deaf club, and students wanted to learn sign language because they had classmates who were hearing impaired. They loved it, she said.

Fuller has taught sign language classes in business settings and schools.

"There's so much to learn, and it's not a one-size-fits-all concept," she said.

The last class Fuller taught was in 2008, and she said she is looking to start her custom-designed classes again in January, February and March.

"I enjoy teaching. ... There's never a problem getting people to take the classes," she said.

Fuller said the industry is in desperate need of good, quality interpreters. There is a difference between being a signer and being an interpreter, she said.

"Knowing the language doesn't make you an interpreter of that language," she said.



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