HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jan Fried has been teaching sign-language interpretation at Kapiolani Community College for 16 years. Above, Fried, at left, last week had a short meeting with Dale Peterson-London, a project assistant with the school's Educational Interpreters and Assistants Project.
Tell me, what’d I say
Jan Fried helps bridge the communication gap for deaf and hard-of-hearing people
Title: Associate professor, Kapiolani Community College
Job: Teaches sign-language interpreting
Jan Fried thought she was going to work with developmentally disabled children after graduating from college, but instead she became a sign-language interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing.
A resident of Hawaii since 1991, Fried frequently uses her skills at public occasions such as political meetings, court hearings and college graduation ceremonies, and at private events ranging from births and weddings to somber death-bed gatherings and funerals.
Fried also teaches people how to sign-language interpret, as an associate professor at Kapiolani Community College, which hired her while she was completing her master's degree in teaching interpretation from Western Maryland College (now called McDaniel College) in Westminster, Md.
Fried joined KCC as an instructor/coordinator, became an assistant professor in 1996, then was named an associate professor in 2002. She is tenured and on track to become a full professor.
Working with 10 other faculty members, Fried coordinates the college's American Sign Language/Interpreter Education Program, and directs its Educational Interpreters and Assistants Project, which together graduate about 15 to 20 sign-language interpreters and educational assistants a year.
Fried is a graduate of El Modena High School in Orange, Calif., and earned a bachelor's degree in both psychology and aesthetics studies from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She also obtained a certificate in sign-language interpreting from Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif., before heading off to graduate school in Maryland.
Fried is 51 and married to Woody Woodward, with whom she lives in Kaimuki, along with their daughter, age 11. Woodward also has a son, by a previous marriage, age 25, who lives in California.
Mark Coleman: What are you an associate professor of?
Jan Fried: Well ... (Laughter) Actually, I coordinate the American Sign Language /Interpreter Education Program.
This program initially was a noncredit or continuing-education program started by Jane Kelleher Fernandes. She's in Washington, D.C., now. She had lived in Hawaii for awhile and she set up this program, in 1988, and I took it over. I was hired in late '91 after she had moved on to be the administrator for the deaf school (the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and the Blind).
Q: What inspired you to get into this field?
A: I had actually planned on working with developmentally disabled children. I was in California at the time, and I found out that Spanish-speaking kids were often inappropriately placed in special-education classrooms, because it was really just a communications issue. Then I found out the same thing was happening to deaf and hard-of-hearing children. They were in special-education classrooms. But there was nothing wrong cognitively. Again, it was just a communication issue.
So I took my first sign-language course after I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. The instructor I had was a deaf man who was teaching the course, who talked a lot about deaf rights, advocacy and the need for interpreters. And at that moment I was really struck with the notion of becoming an interpreter. The notion of working between two languages and two cultures really appealed to me. So I actually at that point switched gears.
Fortunately, being in Santa Cruz, I was in close proximity to Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif. They had a very strong school for the deaf. Ohlone College had one of the top interpreter-education programs.
Q: So you got a master's degree there?
A: No that was a community college. But my career has really been a great example of being at the right place at the right time. Ohlone at the time had -- and it still has -- amazing people teaching there, and it was attracting lots of prominent educators. It was an amazing time to be there.
Q: So now you're teaching other people how to do this?
A: Right. Another bit of nice timing was I got to be in the first master's-level program that prepared people to teach interpretation -- at Western Maryland College, which is now called McDaniel College, in Westminster, Md. -- and I was hired right out of that program.
Q: Where did you get hired?
A: Here! (Laughter). So I was literally heading into my last summer in my graduate program, and I was hired here at KCC with the notion that, as soon as I graduated, I would come here. Jane Kelleher Fernandes knew about the program and recommended that they recruit from it.
Q: What is your typical day like?
A: I coordinate the classes. I coordinate the faculty that are part of the programs. So here at KCC, I coordinate the American Sign Language program and the Interpreter Education Project. I coordinate the credit-side classes and the non-credit continuing-education classes that we make available to the public. We also do customized contract training, and then we also do professional development activities for working interpreters and aspiring interpreters.
Right now, I'm in the last year of a five-year, federally funded grant program that enabled us to establish two degree programs that prepare personnel to work with deaf and hard-of-hearing children in K-through-12 settings. So that means one of the degree programs is creating educational paraprofessionals -- assistants, basically. Then the other degree prepares educational interpreters. I also teach.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sign-language instructor and KCC Associate Professor Jan Fried says about 1 percent of Hawaii's population is deaf or hard of hearing, and about half of them rely on American Sign Language to communicate. Fried, on the left, last week had an animated conversation with Crissy Holmes, an American Sign Language instructor, and someone outside the room.
What is it you're teaching?
A: Interpreting. I teach the folks who are aspiring to be sign-language interpreters, for their first-year. Then I have amazing faculty who teach the second year. Those two people are working interpreters also.
Q: Who are they?
A: Susan Kroe-Unabia and Regina Sapko.
Q: How many graduates does your program produce each year?
A: We graduate an average of about 10 a year in the interpreter-education program.
Q: Sounds like you have a full schedule.
A: Yeah. I'm teaching, interpreting, mentoring. Then there's committee work -- campus committees, community and statewide committees, sometimes national committees. I also interpret the UH graduation ceremonies every three months. I interpret in court, in hospitals, job interviews --whatever it takes.
Part of the demand for interpreters goes back to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The need for interpreters throughout the United States jumped dramatically, and very much so in Hawaii as well.
Q: What percentage of the population in Hawaii do you think is deaf or significantly hearing-impaired?
A: The standard number is 1 percent, but we're still trying to get good numbers. It's always been about 9,600 people. Out of that total, the number of people who rely solely on American Sign Language (ASL) is maybe half.
Q: Are there any full-time sign-language interpreter jobs in the islands?
A: Oh yes. But the full-time interpreter positions are really not so much a position as a profession. We primarily work as independent contractors.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Fried learned from project assistant Dale Peterson-London that a student had withdrawn from a class.
Who would hire a sign-language interpreter?
A: Wherever deaf and hard-of-hearing people want to communicate and they want to do it directly. I have interpreted everything from births to deaths.
Q: How did you do that?
A: Well, as regarding the person's last words, or the surviving member's comments to the person dying. Or the hospital personnel, the things that they're saying to the family as the person is dying. I've interpreted funerals, weddings. You pretty much name it. Political speeches. I've interpreted for the Clintons when they were here, for Al Gore. I've interpreted for several presidential candidates, here and in California.
Q: What's the chance of misinterpreting?
A: (Laughter) There's always a chance. Whenever two people are not sharing the same language and culture, you bring in an interpreter to try to level the playing field. But we occasionally make mistakes. We mishear something. A door slams and we don't hear something. But as interpreters, we've developed strategies to make sure that we understand the message in context. So we really work on what happens cognitively while we interpret. What's most important is we're not doing a word-for-word (translation), but meaning-to-meaning.
Q: Is there an average age of people who do this?
A: Our average age is about 30. But I have to say that we have an interesting profile for our students at KCC. They tend to be a little bit older, and I like that, because to be a successful interpreter, you have to understand life, have a broad base of knowledge and a pretty extensive frame of reference in the way life works, with pretty competent people skills.
Interpreting is more than just manipulating language. It's constant decision-making, and requires life skills
Also, this profession is peopled primarily by women. There's a whole historical background to that, but we don't have to go into that right now.
Q: No, that would be all right. What's that about?
A: Well, historically, the first interpreters were usually family members, or it was people from the church. So who were the people who had time to do those good works for the church? They were women. Then, socio-economically, this is considered to be a social-service profession, and those tend to be lower-paying, and lower-paying positions tend to be peopled by women. So there is a historical precedent. But that's changing. As it evolves into a profession, things are changing.