Meet Megan Brown, ASL and Interpreting

The Beginning of a Passion

I’m from a small town (Warsaw, Mo.), which has about 2,000 people, so Fulton is a little bigger for me. I knew I needed to go to college, and so I worked hard to get scholarships and to get the grades needed to be able to come to William Woods.

I actually didn’t know I wanted to do sign language until my junior year of high school. I knew a little bit about it as a kid, as my mom used to teach it to my brother, but that was about the extent of it. I originally wanted to be a Speech Language Pathologist. One of my friend’s parents was a Speech Language Pathologist for our elementary school, so she said that if I wanted to come job-shadow her my senior I was more than welcome to. So I started doing that, and they had a little girl about four years old who was deaf. She was able to teach her Sign Language along with Speech Pathology, and I fell in love with it. I met with the girl’s interpreter and that is how I learned about it and realized that there was a field out there.

My original plan was to do interpreting as my undergrad and then get a master’s in Speech Pathology. Whether I still do that or not kind of depends on where life takes me once I graduate, but that’s how that got started.

Once I came to school, I fell in love with traveling. So now my goal is to do government interpreting or work overseas for travel agencies and learn to speak additional languages, which is where my Spanish minor comes from. Hopefully, once I graduate, I’ll be able to pick up a few more languages, depending on where I go.

Even though I want to do government work and travel, my passion is kids and helping them grow in their language development skills and getting them a step up in life.

Drawn to The Woods

The variety of interpreting programs here in the U.S. is very slim, and I knew I wanted to stay in Missouri. I didn’t want to be too close to home, but I also didn’t want to go too far outside of the state. There are about three schools that offer interpreting in Missouri, and William Woods is the only one that is a university and offers it as a full-on bachelor’s degree, as opposed to just a minor or concentration. So I only applied to William Woods and thank goodness got accepted.

Memorable Assignments: Deaf for a Day

When I was a freshman, we had a project called Deaf Day. We had to wear earplugs and pretend to be deaf for the day. It was supposed to teach us the experience of what deaf people feel like and how they’re isolated in this world, which is very hearing-dominated.

It definitely gave me a different perspective on what I was doing and why I was doing it.

I ended up going to a kid’s museum in St. Louis, which was a lot of fun to see how interested kids were in it and realizing that I was signing and not speaking to them. But it was really hard to get my point across to adults whenever we would go shopping or go to eat. It took the adults longer to figure out what I was trying to say and to communicate, which I think caused them to panic a little more. So it was really cool to see that dynamic, and it really fueled my passion.

Recommending The Woods to Prospective ASL and Interpreting Students

Even if someone comes to William Woods and decides halfway through that they don’t want to be an interpreter, having that language skill and background will help out in a lot of different jobs and career fields. It’s a very broad field — you have to know a little bit of everything. Just by taking those classes and opening your mind up to different options, it will expose you to other fields and possibly something else you want to do. And it is very beneficial in life to just have that extra language, in case, for example, you were in a loud room and needed to use it to communicate, or if someone in your life or workplace is deaf and you were able to communicate using sign language. Even if you don’t follow through with the program, it’s still a great place to at least begin in college.

The program itself is phenomenal and I absolutely love the teachers. They are great at teaching me the language and the skillset that will hopefully advance my career. Their goal is not to give you an easy A or to get their numbers up for statistics; they are all about preparing you for the workplace, providing better options for deaf individuals, and bumping up the standards for interpreters. The William Woods staff is so dedicated to it because they are all interpreters or deaf individuals themselves, and have an obvious passion for it that they pass on to their students.

Being Okay at Everything

With ASL and interpreting, the hope is that if you get your master’s degree, you will be able to interpret for anything. So that can be government work, medicine, law, travel, school, even just going to the grocery store. Anything that you do that requires your voice, a deaf individual needs an interpreter for.

We have a saying: “you don’t have to be amazing at one thing, you just have to be okay at everything.”

And it’s because you have to know things about dinosaurs in case you’re interpreting in a classroom and you need to know about dinosaur lifecycle. You need to know about types of medicine and how to use them. You need to know about the government, how each of the branches is formed, and why they’re in place.

Everything that you learn as a child, everything you see on the news, you have to have a basic understanding of in order to use ASL and interpreting effectively. With an ASL Studies degree, if you know the language, any other job can be targeted towards deaf individuals, giving them an outlet and a resource to use so they don’t feel isolated and hidden from the world.

William Woods: Many Options to Find Your Passion

William Woods has a broad array of subjects that you can take, which is really nice. I’m currently taking a medical terminology class for the new nursing program that’s starting at WWU. We have great law and business programs. Even just taking basic courses in all of those topics is very helpful and beneficial to obtaining that kind of basic knowledge of everything. The university is doing a great job of having enough options for students to find whatever it is they’re passionate about.

Miscommunication and Memorable Classroom Experiences

In sign language, a lot of the signs are very similar. It is like when you are learning a foreign language, if you pronounce something wrong, then it means something different. There can be times where we think we’re signing something right as we are talking to one of our deaf mentors, and their face just goes white and they’re like “no, no, no, you can’t sign that.”

One example is that the signing for a green bean is very similar to that of a sexual act. We think we’re talking about green beans and what we’ve had for lunch, and our deaf mentors are like “no, no, no, you need to stop talking, don’t sign that.” That happens a lot and it’s very comical. It is one of those things that can get stuck in your mind forever.

Ten Years From Now

I am hoping to have my highest-level certificate in interpreting, and I would love to move to Washington D.C. or work in an embassy somewhere. I would like to start a business targeted towards deaf individuals that gives them the opportunity to be more culturally aware of other deaf individuals throughout the world. It could help them have different life experiences that they may miss out on because they don’t have information that we do.

Learn more about the William Woods ASL program