A look into the life and career of a sign-language interpreter

Beata Matasane
Beata Matasane

What does it take to make the world a better place? Turning emotion into motion. Beata Matasane exemplifies that. Sign language interpretation began as a passion and was her second dream career.

After graduating from NUL in 2015 as a teacher, she wasted no time and enrolled for a 6 months’ program in sign language interpretation. It’s been 4 years and she has been serving LTV, NUL, her church, a high school, and a college in Leribe with her skills.

Most importantly, her experience in the field of interpreting led her to open a YouTube channel to bridge a gap between the deaf and us.

We had a conversation with her about her career and she opened up. The transcript of our chat follows below.

Do you consider yourself part of the “hearing world” or “deaf world”? Both or neither? Why?

I consider myself as part of the hearing world because I was born and still is a hearing person.

How connected do you feel to the Deaf Community? How has the connection changed your perception?

It has changed a lot about how I perceive the world. Being with the deaf has taught me that honesty is very much vital in life. They are a kind of people who call a spade a spade regardless of how brutal the truth may be. I’ve also learned that anything can happen at any time, all we need is to be alert. As much as we may be born hearing, illnesses can strike and we may be deaf.

Who is your role model and why?

I have a lot of them but I will say Mme ‘Makabelo Mosothoane. She used to be my school principal. I loved the way she run the school and she is the reason I studied education at NUL.

Share in detail about your YouTube channel and what you hope to achieve.

It’s a YouTube channel that is categorized in 3 sections (health, hair and education). I started it because I saw that most people are not knowledgeable about sign language and the deaf community. I chose those 3 categories because that is where they meet most challenges.

We talk about education. It entails everything that is informative, not just academic. The health category is about issues related to health. The hair category is about hair and beauty. In all these categories, I am planning to co-host knowledgeable people like doctors and nurses to talk about any issues where I feel that the community (hearing and deaf) need to know.

A video from Beata Emily Matasane channel

The YouTube channel has a motto “education with inclusion” where we also include both the deaf and hearing because I do not just interpret in the videos but also talk to inform people. I hope that the channel grows bigger and gets a wide reach in order to inform all individuals.

How large of a community do we have of sign language interpreters in Lesotho?

A very small community. Estimated to be around 19 or less of sign language interpreters in Lesotho.

What sacrifices have you had to make in your career and your initiatives?

I have been volunteering for as long as I can remember, and in some cases being underpaid so I think it explains the sacrifices. To be where I am, it was not easy at all but I had to push. There were so many challenges. People would even oppose decisions where I was called in for a job.

Can you estimate future job openings for sign language interpreters?

As long as we operate the way we do in this country, I do not want to lie, I do not see any openings in the future. There are many campaigns even for the deaf and impaired, but there is no implementation.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in becoming a sign language interpreter?

Patience and believing in oneself. Some people study sign language and think for them to work at television or anywhere happens within a blink of an eye whereas it’s not like that. They have to be dedicated, work hard, and stay calm and humble but above all, know that they can make it.

What challenges are deaf people facing in Lesotho?

There are very few inclusive schools in Lesotho. Only one high school and only 3 primary schools. So they are forced to move from their homes not by choice. They do not have full or better access to services.

At hospitals, banks and some other institutions, there are no sign language interpreters to help them to be at par with us. In most cases, they are forced to enrol with vocational schools. This leads to low literacy among the deaf.

For those who make it to tertiary institutions, it’s only because they have a difficulty hearing and are not fully deaf. It’s even worse for deaf-blind because there are no people who are professionally trained to work with them.

One thing to mention are the challenges they encounter in their families. Most family members still do not know how to communicate with them. The only safer place to be according to them is at school. And I hope we can see that they are as capable as we all are.

Is there anything you want to add?

I would like all people to note that sign language is very vital to everyone. Also I wish sign language can be one of the official languages because we have the deaf people in Lesotho as part of us and they pay tax just like anyone.

You can subscribe to Beata Emily Matasane on YouTube.