assistant professor of American Sign Language Interpreting,
By Rachel Lapp
The evolution of Myron Yoders vocation came not from an opportunity
for a new job or a promotion. It came in the form of signs
the American Sign Language he now teaches when it became
clear to him that the church and the world desperately needed skilled
After becoming a certified interpreter in 1978, Yoder found that
many people had misperceptions about ASL, deaf people and the interpreting
profession. He was constantly teaching informally about the language,
culture and profession. In addition, he saw unskilled, under-qualified
interpreters, particularly in church and religious settings.
While Yoder says he didnt hear a clear, immediate call, the
decision to teach came through a series of events and open doors
opportunities to make choices toward building a strong undergraduate
ASL program to serve communities, the church and beyond.
In 1977, Mennonite Board of Missions invited Yoder to interpret
at the Mennonite Church assembly in Estes Park, Colo. At the conference,
Eli Savanick 71, the denominations director of church
ministries, encouraged him to use his skills in the church.
It seemed as though education was a primary need in the church,
so I was called to teach, Yoder said, first in workshops,
continuing education and eventually, after receiving a masters
degree in linguistics, at the college level.
Church interpreters and hearing people wishing to work in the deaf
community unfortunately have a negative reputation, Yoder said.
The errors of these persons are similar to early missionaries
who misunderstood the native culture of those to whom
they witnessed approaching the ministry with a paternalistic
attitude and negating the importance of learning the native
language, which in this case is American Sign Language. My hope
is that Goshen Colleges ASL Interpreting program graduates
will change the reputation of religious interpreters and other Christian
professionals in the deaf community, said Yoder, who feels
that Goshens emphasis on multicultural dialogue and respect
for differences is fertile for achieving his goal. What better
place for an interpreter training program which teaches that an
interpreter is a cross-cultural mediator?
While focusing on educating a new generation of ASL interpreters,
he also continues to accept interpreting assignments and to be actively
involved in the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. That work
keeps abreast of issues in the field and the wide range of experiences
within the deaf community. He has worked for major corporations,
interpreted at government and even star-studded events in the name
of providing excellence in communication to bridge the deaf and
The old saying, If you dont use it, you lose it,
is true, Yoder said. I must keep interpreting in order
to keep my skill.
Yoder has appreciated the opportunity to watch former students along
their interpretation journey, some with advanced degrees and others
who teach children or interpret locally.
Naturally I am proud of their accomplishments, but I am also
pleased when I hear of former students who are now physicians, social
workers, nurses, etc., who use their knowledge about the deaf community
at work, in Sunday school class or in public schools, said
Yoder. Success doesnt only mean those who
have majored in specific fields related to deafness; success
is also the student who takes one or two sign language classes and
gains a broader understanding of, and respect for, the deaf community
and the language of its members.