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Sunday, September 26, 2010

The NIC and what it means to me...

I decided to post this because I know I will never have this exact feeling again and it is crucial that I document what it feels like because one day in the future I might not remember, it is important to never forget.

The NIC test is the basic holy grail of the last 4 years of my life. It is everything I have worked for and toward and will open up paths to me that I don’t even know exist yet. I might be seemingly over-dramatizing this but if you consider what being an interpreter means to me, then maybe you can get the idea. Nearly every step I have taken and every decision I have made since choosing to be a sign language interpreter has led me to this very moment. Granted, I am human and have made mistakes, that is why that sentence began with NEARLY instead of EVERY. I worried about the little things in life for much of my college experience because I forgot the main outcome, the end result. Now, with it sitting in front of my face almost mockingly I have a hard time ignoring it. It is impossible.

The National Interpreter Certification Test was created by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and National Association for the Deaf. It is supposed to be a gauge of an interpreter’s ability not only in the skill of interpreting but also in their knowledge and practicality when presented with ethical dilemmas. The first portion of the test was the written examination which I passed in January. It was a hard test, yes but it was based merely on book knowledge meaning even a person with no interest in becoming an interpreter, if they studied hard enough, could pass it. Now it is almost exactly 9 months later (I passed 1/28/2010) and I am awaiting the results of the second portion of the test.

The second portion is known as the Performance Exam which is broken down into two parts. Performance-one’s ability to actually interpret (video scenarios) using some back ground information and a bit of knowledge of clientele. Raters take into account one’s ability to match the affect of both the consumers and to balance the weight of the situation as if it were a standard assignment. There are 5 scenarios in which this occurs. The second part is the ethical/interview portion in which the interpreter chooses a deaf person from a group and that person signs 5 ethical situations. The interpreter is expected to use resources to respond to these scenarios (as outlined by the RID/NAD matrix) and respond (using sign language but not necessarily ASL) within the given 5 minute period of time. This portion of the test-cannot be taken and passed by just anyone.

The test video is then sent to RID where they make 3 copies and send them to 3 different raters: one Deaf, one interpreter, and one hearing (with no sign language skills). These raters then take (up to 180 days) their time to rate the interpreter in several categories (which I can’t recall at the moment entirely) including affect, production, reception and ethical things. They send their results back to RID who compiles the results and sends them to the test taker via email.

The levels of certification are: Not certified (not having passed the test), NIC-Certified (a great feat), NIC-Advanced (even greater), and NIC-Master (the greatest of all). There are some interpreters (typically ones who struggle with jealousy and competitive issues) who believe that this testing is not entirely fair and that some people are given the wrong certification. I can’t entirely disagree, I think that because everyone is being rated by different raters there is some form of variation, but this is the closest we have come to a standardized certification test and I am grateful for that much.

I took my test on July 31, 2010 at 1230pm CST. The night before my test I had the funniest nightmare known to man:

In my dream I woke up and got ready to go (in all black of course) and went to take the test. I got there and went in to the bathroom before the test and saw that I had mistakenly put on a tie dye t shirt and plaid pants… I asked the test giver if I could go home and change but she said no. She sent me to the thrift store (in the basement-which doesn’t exist). I went down and it was a rock-t-shirt thrift store and I purchased an Iron Maiden T shirt which I flipped inside out for my test. It was 5 dollars. I was told I would get my results on the 5th.

That was my night mare LOL

I was doing fine, waiting. I am a very patient person by nature and can typically endure waiting for long periods of time. But then my boss came to me and informed me that someone else had gotten their results already and they took the test after me… I was shocked and anxious. Then a week later, after I called to see where my results were, two of my co-workers who took the test WEEKS after me got their results as well. (One passed, one didn’t) I am no incapable of waiting any longer. I contacted RID several times to no avail so finally I emailed them. I was told through email that my final rater still hadn’t sent in my results but was planning to do my rating this weekend so I should have my results Monday, if I don’t have them by Monday evening to contact them again and they will expedite the process more.

My stomach is turning constantly. I barely slept a wink last week which put me in an odd mood all together. I am now trying to find new and interesting ways to distract myself.

I have several people-hearing and deaf alike-telling me they are sure I passed. Interpreters are a bit less sure they try to stay positive but they understand the frustration. I know I have the skills, but since taking the test I have improved. And since taking the test I have learned a new way to handle the important ethical part of the test.

I don’t know what the results will be. I would love to be more confident and be sure that I passed but I don’t think anyone is ever sure. I can only say that I want this more than I have ever wanted anything in my entire life. For me it is a matter of knowing who I am and where I am as an interpreter. I have worked so hard until now, and I want to continue forging new paths for myself. I love what I do with every fiber of my being. I don’t know anyone who is as passionate about anything as I am about interpreting, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just know that for some it is a job or even a career… for me it is everything.

When I lift my hands my eyes light up with a burning hunger and joy. With every assignment, long or short, good or bad, intense or mediocre I love every minute. Every time I lay my head down at night I am entirely satisfied with who I am and what I do… but there is that longing for my certification. The Legal Documentation that proves I am what I am. This is the last interpreter-related decision that is being made for me. I get to choose what specialty I want and if and when I go back to school. I get to choose where I live and for how long. I get to choose from here. But first I need my NIC. That validation. I can’t express to you how anxious and excited I am for tomorrow. Please think positive thoughts for me.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Wow Manda!

    What a true and open baring of your soul on this! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Having you describe in detail what the process is and what it means to you makes all that you have talked about make more sense.

    I truly hope that Monday will be the day in which you get that validation that you have been waiting for and that it s everything you hope for and then some as you definitely deserve it!

    Great job chica.... we are all very PROUD of you!

  2. I love the passion you have for what you are doing...I wish you a good night's sleep and a good news Monday!! You deserve it!