Lives in: Charlotte
Family: husband, Jim; children, Josh, 24,
Cheryl Pfeiffer is a bridge.
Pfeiffer, owner of Fluent Language Solutions, was an interpreter in American Sign Language when she decided to open her own language company to help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to communicate because of language barriers.
Although she started as a biology major, “during the course of my study, I took a sign language class as an elective and realized this was the path for me,” she said.
Each day brings something new and interesting as she becomes an important part of the lives of others, she said.
“In the morning I may go interpret for a patient who is getting an MRI, and in the afternoon I may interpret for a family who is adopting a child,” she said.
But it isn’t always easy.
Starting her business was as simple as doing just that. She surrounded herself with people who knew things she and business partner Richard Haffner didn’t and had faith that it was going to work out.
The human part of the job, on the other hand, is where the challenges come in.
“We walk in and out of the most intimate and most private parts of people’s lives,” she said. “It’s an awesome responsibility. It comes with a great weight of ethical responsibility.”
She said there are times when she has to deliver news that someone is going to die, someone has lost a job, someone has cancer. The list goes on.
That’s why, long ago, she and Haffner realized they had to “work for the message.”
“I don’t care if you’re 11 or you’re 43,” she said. “No one wants to tell their dad ‘You’re going to die.’”
So she works as a separate party, unbiased in any way, delivering the message that needs to be delivered, as painful as it might be.
Of course, things are not always so bleak. She said it often is incredibly rewarding and interesting work.
“I think that (I’m rewarded) on a personal note as an interpreter,” she said, “getting to watch individuals successfully come together in whatever it is that they’re doing because they were able to understand each other.”