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Lucy Lim, A BIM Sign Language Interpreter and An Advocate for Deaf Community

Lucy Lim, A BIM Sign Language Interpreter and An Advocate for Deaf Community

Highlighting the true representation of her life journey as a Deaf person, her daily struggles, and how she navigates through itRead on as they share a bit about themselves through our Q&A lightning-round.


Tell us about yourself and your interests?

Hi, my name is Lucy Lim. I’m a freelance sign language interpreter. I’ve been involved with my work with the deaf and sign language interpreting, or BIM (Bahasa Isyarat Malaysia) for the last 34 years. I really enjoyed myself. I have two godchildren who are deaf and both are them are married.

What inspired you to become a sign language interpreter?

I would say by chance. At that time after my SPM exams, my sister encouraged me to volunteer at the Deaf Society. So that in a way started my journey. My first encounter with the deaf people was with a group of illiterate students so it was basic 3R. That inspired me to work harder and bring a difference in their life when they grow up.

How would you describe the Sign Language Interpreting situation in Malaysia?

The Malaysian sign language interpreting services have much to ask for. Many organisations and institutions do not realise the impact an interpreter could do to provide the service for the deaf community. There is a lack of awareness and also the avoidance, reluctance to pay or hire the services of an interpreter. We are often looked as a charity or a person to provide these intricate services at no cost, rather than a professional profession in this area.

I enjoy being a mentor to train our junior interpreters because it cultivates talent among the youth as the group that I’m in comprises people in their 50s. Whenever there’s an opportunity, I enjoy guiding them in this journey of being an interpreter. 

What is the most memorable moment in your career?

There are many! I always provide this advice to students interested in taking up sign language and pursue interpreting after. Your journey as an interpreter is not like any other 9 to 5 job where you wake up at 5:30 am and come back home in the evening. When I’m at work, I would often get unexpected calls from the police asking for my services for deaf people that come in. 

I even get to interpret for ministers officiating for an event, or at one point there was Sultan of Selangor who was launching the Sports for the Deaf ceremony. At any point in time, there will always be something remarkable and a great memory to remember. 

The highlight of my career was to interpret for the Deaf Olympics. That was based in Taipei and I was on the assignment for 2 weeks. We worked a lot with the technical director, judges and players themselves in all spheres. During the 15 days, I was placed at a football field and bowling spaces. That was really nice to be in that atmosphere with thousands over deaf people. Everywhere you turn, everybody is signing.


What is the main dress code, the ‘Do’s and Don’ts” for sign language interpreters?

I always tell my young men to marry sign language interpreters because they don’t ask for much as their line of work requires them wearing solid, simple colours. It could be black, white, dark green to suit your skin colour and your assignment as to not distract when deaf people receive your signing skills. Maintain a simple appearance. You don’t even need a pedicure or manicure to make your hands pretty. We try to steer away from wearing glasses and resort to contact lenses if needed.

What do you love to do outside of language interpreting?

I enjoy cooking! I’m of Peranakan descent so I love cooking and giving them out to friends. I like to travel and I’d always make time to visit a deaf school or deaf association to connect and network. Sometimes, I would even make groups to climb or hike. As an interpreter, we have to be in the know and participate actively in the deaf community. My only exception is diving, I would sign and send them off. I am too scared of the deep waters.


What can we do as a society to be more inclusive of the Deaf community?

The main thing is communication. We have this saying within the community that it feels like there is a white cloth in front of a deaf person – there are two people facing each other but no connection from no communication. As much as possible, pick up sign language so you can communicate with them. No matter what line of work you do, always thinks of how to make things more accessible to deaf people and ensure accessibility for the deaf people to enjoy and can take part as well.

What is your one hope for the world?

Equal opportunities for all. My wish is to live in a fully accessible world and equal opportunities for all of us.

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