Reflections from Laura Wild,
A Three-time Cruise Interpreting Academy Attendee:
When we become adults and enter the career force, we cannot let ourselves stagnate or we will be left to the wolves while everyone around us succeeds and prospers. This is especially true in the field of sign language interpreting. After all, language is forever changing. We must be willing and able to accept and adapt to these changes.
When I was a student in an Interpreter Training Program (ITP) my dream was to travel the world offering equal communication access to the Deaf community. What better way to do that than cruise interpreting? I began networking my way around until I found a cruise interpreting agency. I joined the agency quickly after graduating, not realizing that cruise interpreting was a completely different beast than freelance or video relay interpreting. We all know what they say about assuming, right? I began interpreting cruises with no guidance, no instruction, and no comprehension of what I was about to embark on.
I thought I had made it, that I was big stuff. Somehow my skills had gotten me to this point. I have absolutely NO IDEA where I got that idea. My skills were never put to the test. I never had to take an assessment. I wasn’t even required to prove I had graduated from an ITP! I simply said ‘hey I’m an interpreter’ and started cruising. I mean, I didn’t even know how to arrange travel to the port (I had never been on a cruise ship before.) I had no training, no tips of the trade, and worst of all, no mentor. When I say I was green, I mean I was so green I hadn’t even sprouted out of the dirt yet.
I worked like this for a year, bringing colleagues along with me, telling them I knew how to do this, thinking I knew how to do this. One random day while networking on social media I came across a flyer for the Cruise Interpreter Academy, a workshop that would teach the intricacies of cruise interpreting. Bonus, it was going to be held on a cruise ship! I couldn’t pass up an opportunity like that. Of course, I didn’t really need the workshop, or so I thought, but a tax write off “vacation” was a no brainer. I have never been so wrong in my life!
After the first five minutes of day one I realized how truly clueless I was. I knew NOTHING about cruise interpreting! It was embarrassing that I had been doing such a disservice to Deaf clients for a year. I turned up my listening ears, stretched my note-taking hand, and prepared myself to dive in. I’m not going to go as far as to say everything I had been doing was wrong, but everything I was doing was from the perspective of a local freelance interpreter. You know the kind, the ones that go into an assignment, interpret the gig, get a signature, leave, and go back to normal life. No, this was more of a 24/7 kind of gig.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that you’re interpreting all day and all night for the duration of the cruise, or that there is no “off” time (we have to be able to at least eat and sleep). No, it’s more like being on your best professional behavior 24/7 and making yourself available. Everything we are seen doing from the moment we arrive at port until the time we leave port to return home leaves an impact on all of our constituents (a fancy term that is studied in depth during the workshop.) It can either positively or negatively affect your future employment as a cruise interpreter.
I learned so much more than I could ever have been prepared for in that first CIA workshop, and I left with a new excitement for cruise interpreting. Up to that point I had only taken cruise assignments where I was able to handpick my team, someone I had experience working with and knew we would be great roommates as well, friends. After the workshop I started trying my hand at group cruises (another topic covered in the workshop). The nerves I had were immense that first group cruise, but were quickly expelled under superb leadership.
Needless to say, I was hooked, hooked on cruise interpreting, and hooked on studying everything I could about it. When I saw the second CIA workshop announced I called that day to reserve my place. The first workshop was amazing! No way could anything ever top that workshop and the friendships that were forged. Readers, a little advice, never underestimate possibilities. Be open to new experiences or you may just miss something beautiful! This second workshop was just that, beautiful! Yes, we learned the ins and outs of cruise interpreting, of course. That’s what we paid for. What we didn’t pay for, or expect, was the spiritual cleansing that would take us all by surprise on day two.
As interpreters we are our own worst critic. We all have that little devil on our shoulders whispering, “why are you trying? You can’t voice. You’ll make the Deaf person sound stupid!”, or “what did you just sign? It didn’t make sense at all. Do you even KNOW sign language?”, or “that Deaf person is looking confused. That’s your fault” and the list goes on. When I tell you that Lanette Pinkard has a gift, I mean she has the ability to stare into your soul, find the broken, help you recognize it, face it, and start the healing process. She touched every single person in that workshop so deeply there wasn’t a dry eye in the room, including hers. We didn’t just leave as better cruise interpreters, we left as better people.
In the field of interpreting, it is common for interpreters to tear each other down while climbing their way to the top. I am telling you to expect the exact opposite in these workshops. Never in my interpreting career have I felt more supported and loved amongst a group of colleagues than I have in the CIA workshops. For that reason alone, I will continue attending them as much as I can, but I also glean something new in each one. This CIA will be even more packed with information to absorb with three extra days on the itinerary. I can’t wait! In fact, I’m packing my bags right now! See you there!
Scott Merk's Cruise Interpreter Academy Experience!
I had the privilege of working under Lanette’s leadership on two different group cruises in the summer/fall of 2019 and was immediately impressed by her approach - her heart for the deaf clients, her passion for customer service, and her ability to foster a sense of unity among a large and diverse team of interpreters. During one of these assignments, I learned about the Cruise Interpreter Academy, and being an experienced cruise interpreter myself, I thought it would be a fun way to earn CEU’s. Well, it was that and so much more. The workshop explains the intricacies of cruise interpreting from start to finish and includes a presentation from the Deaf owner of a travel agency, opportunities for various role-playing scenarios that may come up during a cruise, and a focus on self-reflection and personal development. I also experienced that same feeling of unity with my fellow workshop participants, who are now colleagues and dear friends. To anyone interested in cruise interpreting, I cannot overstate the benefits of attending the Cruise Interpreter Academy – Come! Join us on the high seas!
Christina King’s Cruise Interpreting Academy Testimony…
I first heard about Lanette Pinkard through stories and after attending her Cruise Interpreting Academy (CIA), I am a witness! I can firmly say that Ms. P Lanette Pinkard handles her power in such a manner as to avoid or pressing those around her and exercises her authority in a manner that uplifts those she touches. She is quick at advocating strongly for the needs of her deaf clients. Witnessing her Black Deaf Grandparents during her upbringing made her keenly aware of oppression.
Ms. Pinkard also recognizes deftly how to lead with love the many different personalities within her organization. It has been my experience through this exclusive Cruise Interpreting Academy, when engaging with and learning from Ms. Lanette that one of her life missions is to empower each person that she encounters to have a legally, ethically, holistically better experience accessing communication than her grandparents did so long ago. She is a true role model and inspiration. A woman I look up to and I’m proud to know and work with. I pray a lifelong mentor… Whether or not she knows it.
Michelle Keeble Cruise Interpreting Academy Testimony…
I had the pleasure of going to the Cruise Interpreting Academy (CIA) workshop in January of 2020. The event was a great pleasure with hands-on work as well as sharing fellowship with wonderful interpreters. The workshop made me more confident because the information was in-depth. Policy and procedures were well explained so everyone participating could clearly understand. We also had a Deaf guest present who gave us feedback regarding our work. I love receiving support from the Deaf Community.
After attending the CIA, I was able to understand the dos and don’ts of working as a cruise interpreter. I also understood the importance of supporting my colleagues that I will be working with on future cruises.
At the end of the workshop, I was amazed to be offered a cruise interpreting assignment with 80 interpreters serving a large group of Deaf guests! Not only was the support staff on the ship but also the CEO of the agency as well as the administrative staff. I received positive feedback on the first day from the Cruise Line staff that was given to the agency about my customer service skills as well as my professionalism I gained from attending the Cruise Interpreting Academy!
Joy Caldarella Cruise Interpreting Academy Testimony…
It is my pleasure to share my experience with Lanette Pinkard as an Interpreter, as a Cruise Lead Interpreter, and Teacher.
I first met Lanette in 2015. I had been a certified interpreter for 22 years and never had a desire to interpret on cruise ships until I was offered a 10-day Alaska Land and Sea tour. Lanette was the “Lead Interpreter”; we were 12 interpreters and about 30 Deaf guests.
I had no prior cruise experience and really didn’t know what to expect.
From Day One, I was impressed with Lanette’s warmth, leadership style, organizational and problem-solving skills. As a ‘newbie’ I was relieved to know where I was to be and what was expected of me at all times. It was a wonderful and memorable trip; I’ve now cruised with Lanette as Lead Interpreter six times.
In January 2020, right before the world was put on pause, I attended a two-day Cruise Interpreter Academy (CIA). Lanette has so much cruise experience, she is able to give an excellent overview of the entire process including initial steps embarking, assisting Deaf guests with checking in, muster drill, cabin assignments, dining room, evening meetings, daily agenda, events, shows, casino, comedy, shore excursions, how to handle potential problems and disembarking.
As we know, every group or class has its own unique dynamics, related to the personality of the instructor and the participants. Lanette brings her dynamic, positive, supportive, and encouraging personality and creates a “safe” space which allows for optimal personal and professional growth. The sharing, bonding and insights gained at CIA 2020 was truly a unique and extraordinary experience for which I am very grateful.
Andrea Lochan’s Cruise Interpreting Academy Testimony…
Cruise Interpreting is something that I always wanted to do but could never see myself actually doing it. I allowed myself to believe, "I can't do that." The Cruise Interpreting Academy (CIA) helped me to realize that I was limiting myself, that I CAN be an amazing cruise interpreter, AND provided me with the tools to do it!
Lanette truly has a heart for teaching, encouraging, and building people up. She provided practical scenarios so we could immediately apply the skills we learned. She imparted a wealth of wisdom and knowledge that not only applies to cruise interpreting, but every area of life. I've already attended the academy twice and I can't wait to go again. Each time, I've learned something new. It just keeps getting better and better!