North Central professor awarded with rare honor

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Professor Pauline Ballentine looks forward to new opportunities after earning her CDI

In addition to her new title as CDI, Professor Pauline Ballentine is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God. Photo by Anna Nielsen.

Professor Pauline Ballentine was recently recognized as a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). She is now one of only four CDIs in the state of Minnesota.  Ballentine is a professor at North Central and chair of the American Sign Language Interpreting Department and is now a certified interpreter. Ballentine believes that her recently earned certification will greatly benefit the North Central ASL interpreting community.

The process to becoming a CDI is difficult, which is evident through Ballentine’s journey to getting certified.  A total of 16 hours of training are required. Eight hours are related to the deaf role in interpreting and the other eight hours are in ethics training. Once the 16 hours of training have been completed, individuals are then eligible to take the written test. Within five years of taking the written test, the potential CDI must take a performance test. Ballentine was able to pass the written test but the performance test was where she encountered difficulties. She failed the test twice before finally passing it. When she speaks of the time it took to be able to pass the test, Ballentine does not say it as one would expect to talk about failing. Rather, she is proud of it. When she was attempting to take the test, there were only three CDIs in the state and that made it difficult for her to find a mentor. She did find one individual who was willing to help her and she spent time preparing for her third attempt to take the test. She took the test a third time in June and found out last week that she passed.

However, it is not only the certification that Ballentine feels will be valuable to her students. She is proud of the fact that she took the test twice and failed and continued to learn and seek mentors and finally pass the test. That is what she believes will impact her students the most. She views those failed attempts as something that will help her connect with her students.

“It’s good for them because they can see their teacher took the test and failed … it’s a good motivation for the students to continue through frustrations. It’s good for building rapport with the students and I can say ‘I truly understand where you’re at.’ Sometimes you say, oh yeah, I understand what you’re going through and you haven’t really been there but I can say that I do understand where they’re at,” Ballentine said.

When Ballentine was asked to be the chair of the ASL interpreting department, she didn’t feel completely qualified. Despite that, she still knows she can have a huge impact on the students and the department. Her newly earned certification only confirms that. It not only allows her to better mentor her students as they move into the work force, but it also provides a stamp of approval for the ASL department and gives her more opportunities to serve the deaf community.

A CDI gives many opportunities for this.  Often, a CDI is used as an interpreter between a hearing person and a deaf person whose first language is not English. Because the native or first language of a CDI is sign language rather than just the fluency that is required for an interpreter, they are better able to interpret not only the words that are being signed but also the nuances of the situation to better communicate them to individuals. Often, a CDI is used to communicate with a deaf blind individual, whether signing very close to the person or signing in their hand through a very tactile process.

“So you would have them [the interpreter] interpret it first and then you would have the CDI completely interpret it into ASL and it becomes an easier experience for the deaf observer because it’s completely in their native language. Because you’ll see deaf people watching the interpreter and you’ll notice that they’re having to work out the meaning themselves, they’re having to interpret in their mind what the interpreter is. Using a CDI can make that a smoother process,” Ballentine said.

Just as different countries have different languages, different languages have different sign languages. It is not a universal language. A CDI can make the process from interpreting from English to another language, like Spanish, and from that language into its sign language. There is a lot of nuance and cultural vocabulary that can be lost through that process and a CDI helps to prevent that.

Because Ballentine holds this certification, she will be able to be present in those situations and help immigrants and other deaf individuals feel more comfortable and welcome, whether it is in a job or just in the Deaf community.

Ballentine is excited for the opportunities her ASL interpreting students will have because she holds this certification. Ballentine said that her students will encounter CDIs in their workplaces when they graduate and having the knowledge of how to work well with a CDI and communicate effectively will be extremely beneficial to the ASL interpreting students and the deaf community they will serve.

Because she is one of only four CDIs in the state of Minnesota, Ballentine’s skills are becoming more essential. She is looking forward to helping those in the Deaf community and helping her students become effective interpreters.