Reiko Ileleji – Japanese Interpreter
Reiko Ileleji is a Japanese Medical Interpreter and has worked with LUNA since July 2017. She was born and raised in Japan. When in high school, Reiko had the opportunity to live on a dairy farm for one year in Bainbridge, Ohio as a high school exchange student. During this time, her English language improved dramatically and further deepened her passion for English language learning.
How and why did you become an interpreter?
I am a language educator (Japanese and English as a Second Language) by training and still have not given up being a full-time educator in the classroom. However, while I have been taking a long break from my educational career raising four children of my own, I have received opportunities to support some international children and their families at schools and in the community. While our family sojourned in China for one academic year, I was blessed with a supportive Japanese community to survive in unfamiliar cultures and language. It was then that I appreciated how they have helped me just because I was Japanese. I decided to “pay it forward” by serving those people who are new to our community.
How/why/when did you learn English?
I always loved learning English, but I learned English the most after the one-year homestay in high school. I majored in English language and literature in college and received a teaching license to be a junior/senior high school English teacher in Japan. My dream of being an English teacher did not come true, but I was fortunate to be a Japanese assistant in a public high school in Indiana for a couple of years.
What is your education level and field of study (why did you study this field)?
I have a Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education from Purdue University. While I was teaching Japanese in Lafayette, it was natural for me to pursue further education and the area became “home” to me. I loved graduate courses, especially related to multicultural education. I am passionate about looking into the relationship between students’ language learning and their identity development. I am currently interested in heritage language learning and how children’s identity is impacted by acquiring the language of their ancestors.
What did you want to be when you were young?
I always wanted to be a flight attendant when I was a child because I thought that it’s one of the jobs that you can travel to see different cultures all around the world.
What’s your favorite thing about interpreting?
What I like about interpreting is that you get to advocate for people who may not be familiar with what you are accustomed to do. It is as simple as me having lived in Indiana for almost twenty years now and it seems natural for me to smile and interact with strangers, but some Japanese may have been misunderstood as unfriendly and unkind because they don’t smile and interact with strangers. Building better cross-cultural understanding and healthier relationships for clients by interpreting my interactions and involving them in our conversation, for example, is something I have learned to be helpful.
How long have you been working as an interpreter in general, and how long have you been an interpreter with LUNA?
I have occasionally volunteered at local schools for more than a decade, but I have worked with LUNA since July 2017. I have enjoyed the spirit of servanthood for the communities at LUNA as well as the friendly staff in the office. I enjoyed the Bridging The Gap course I completed in October and am still in touch with many of my fellow interpreters in different languages. I love making friends from all different cultures!