Lesego Modutle is a South African Sign Language Interpreter for various organisations. She gave us a glimpse into her day-to-day life so we could learn more about her career in linguistics.
Lesego says she was interested in sign language from a young age. “I was amazed by the beauty of the language and became curious about how hands could form words, sentences, a structure, grammar and emotion,” she explains. Lesego was fortunate to enrol in a university that offered Sign Language as a subject.
During her studies, Lesego’s Sign Language Acquisition Lecturer urged her to become a Sign Language Interpreter. “He said I had a flair for the language and that my voice was a pleasure to listen to,” – an attribute she says is important for interpreting Sign Language into a spoken language. “At the time I did not think I would ever qualify as a Sign Language Interpreter because it seemed so difficult, especially in my first year. I didn’t know how to interact with my Deaf lecturer, as this was the first time I had contact with a Deaf person,” she explains.
Learn everything you need to know about becoming an Interpreter.
Although at first, Lesego felt overwhelmed by the experience, her confidence grew. This made Sign Language a lot more fun for her to learn. “I learnt to listen with my eyes and not my ears, and came to love the subject. This showed in my results as I passed both my Sign Language acquisition and my Sign Language practicals with distinctions,” Lesego says.
Lesego says she loves the exciting challenges that come with each day in her job. “I like figuring out how to interpret figurative speech into a language that is literal or how to interpret jokes from a spoken language into Sign Language.”
In addition, she loves the unpredictable nature of her job. “I can go from interpreting in a corporate meeting, to interpreting the news on TV, to interpreting in a classroom, to interpreting a concert – all in one month.
“I’ve even had the opportunity to interpret for Oprah Winfrey when she received her doctorate degree at the University of the Free State. There’s hardly a dull moment and I am forever on my toes.”
We asked Lesego what advice she has for people who would like to follow in her footsteps, and she offered the following advice: “Never stop learning! Sign language is just as rich as any other language. There are different dialects, there is slang and the language is forever evolving as new words make their way into the dictionary and our everyday lingo. Make sure you stay current.”
To end, Lesego stresses the importance of developing a thick skin. “There will be difficult days, difficult clients and co-workers. But stick to your passion and always strive to do your best.
“Keep pushing and your hard work will pay off.”