63. A Life of Action in Two Languages
As a bilingual court interpreter based in her hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, Helen Duffy uses the fluency in Spanish which she developed in Managua, Nicaragua while teaching English to university students in the war-torn country. Born to activist parents, she learned early how to navigate controversy and dissent.
How Did You Start Using Your Talents?
Armed with only a B.S. degree in English, Helen plunged herself into learning Spanish on the job in Nicaragua. The nation was engaged in a major literacy campaign, and there was also a thirst among college students for learning English. She spent 20 years teaching English as a second language.
The Most Impactful Turning Point?
Back in the U.S. after years teaching in Nicaragua, Helen began work toward a master’s degree in education. To earn money, she took a community college class in court interpreting. Around that time, 10 years ago, Helen was hired by the newly-created office of court interpreters; and she’s still there.
The Most Powerful Lessons Learned?
“My feeling is, live now, don’t wait until you retire to do what you really want to do,” Helen asserts. The future is not guaranteed, “so don’t wait until all your ducks are in a row. If it’s at all possible, throw caution to the wind.”
On Her Bookshelf
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Helen thinks this novel probably did more for civil rights that any political leader.
Connecting With Helen Duffy
During her years in Nicaragua, Helen estimates she fell 10 years behind the technology revolution. Since returning, she has chosen not to plug into social media as many others have.
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