A connected community without language barriers

Practitioner Spotlight: Stacie Van Hulst

Dear Language Enthusiasts,

I am writing to you all today in the hopes of igniting some self-belief after sharing my experience of the updated CI test.

I am a Certified Auslan Interpreter from Melbourne, and I have been interpreting for about 12 years now. I initially studied Auslan out of interest and did not consider interpreting as a job until a few years later when I learned that the Deaf community was in desperate need of more Auslan Interpreters.

I studied for my Diploma of Auslan Interpreting at RMIT, and began my career as an Educational Interpreter working in Primary, Secondary and Tertiary settings. I was incredibly fortunate to participate in mentoring programs during this time that really pushed me and helped me to grow. Since we have no access to an apprenticeship, having more experienced Interpreters take you under their wing to pass on their knowledge was a blessing. 

After 10 long years in the Education system, I decided to branch out and have now been doing predominantly community based freelance work over the past 2 years. I feel so honoured and grateful to work with the Deaf community; I get to meet such interesting and wonderful people and every day brings different challenges. I recently studied for my Post Graduate Diploma of Auslan to English Interpreting at Macquarie University in Sydney, which helped to prepare me for the Certified Interpreter test that I passed just last year in August. 

The CPI testing experience left me feeling defeated; I failed the first attempt, and despite passing the second time, I felt as though I’d never be brave enough to attempt the CI test. The intimidating process caused a lot of mental anguish and stress. Sometimes we never know if our feedback is taken on board, but I am excited to inform you that this time, the experience was much more welcoming, encouraging and refreshingly comfortable. 

There has been a remarkable transformation in the testing experience, one of the most noticeable improvements was the atmosphere of support. The test candidates were permitted to sit together in the waiting room where we could unpack our nerves together, keep each other calm and feeling supported. Previously, we were not allowed to speak to other candidates. 

The staff were lovely and accommodating, I could hardly believe this was the same testing authority. Another positive change in the testing system is that now, should you pass 3 out of 5 tasks*, you will get another opportunity to polish up and resit the 2 tasks you fell short on. There are also no more limit on ‘repeats’, provided they are justified.

I walked into that testing room still feeling nervous, but also feeling incredibly proud of myself for showing up that day, and confident in my ability. I pleasantly surprised myself and passed all 5 tasks of the dreaded CI exam. You might surprise yourself too. In light of the recent improvements, I wholeheartedly encourage those aspiring to become Certified Interpreters to consider attempting the test. It is okay to fail – it does not mean you are a bad interpreter. Give yourself that flexibility; a test is hardly reflective of real life interpreting, you just need to ‘tick those boxes!’

One more thought to leave you with: it is okay to make mistakes in the test – it’s all about ‘getting back on that horse’ and fixing your error, exactly like how you would do it on the job in real life. Good luck, you’ve got this!

Wishing you all the best on your linguistic endeavours.

Stacie Van Hulst.

*Number of tasks may be different depending on the test you are taking, you can check the rubric on the NAATI website.

(Below are some recommendations for exam preparation)

  • Find colleagues who are also interested in testing soon; practice together and mentor each other. Film yourself and review! Identify 3 good things you did, and 1 area for improvement.
  • Build your support network! Come to PD workshops, make new friends, reach out to old ones. Ask more experienced colleagues for feedback, tips and areas to work on. Your colleagues are invested in nurturing every interpreter so that our community has access to capable and dedicated interpreters. They want you to succeed and they are here for you, don’t be scared to ask for support. You don’t have to walk this journey alone.

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