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Find sign language interpreter agencies listed by U.S. state here.

Agencies receive interpreter service requests from businesses, medical care providers, judiciary systems, colleges, you name it.  If you are reliable, flexible, and a skilled interpreter, your chances of being asked to do the work are good. ... to be continued.


Inconspicuous, inconspicuous, inconspicuous.  And, did we mention inconspicuous?

The interpreter's appearance should be appropriate to the setting and situation.  If you will interpret for a deaf player and team during a middle school soccer game, formal attire would be a bad choice, as would be beach attire, or Mardi Gras beads.

If you cannot resist wearing fire engine red, neon blue, or black fingernail polish, maybe interpreting is not for you.  

Think you're all that and have the right to show it off?  Oh, sure, you have the right; but, not while providing sign language interpreting services.

To make your signed interpretation as clear and easy as possible to watch, wear a plain shirt.  The color should contrast with your skin tone.  No stripes, vivid eye-piercing colors, or words, messages or logos.


Working conditions can vary widely, depending on where and when the interpreting takes place, and on the scope of the interpreter's role.  However, for an interpreter, the job begins well before workplace arrival.


Interpreters are expected to be as prepared as possible.  Before interpreting can begin, the interpreter must have a good understanding of the subject, and know how to discuss it both languages.  The time and effort required to prepare to interpret at a professional conference of biomedical physicists is obviously more demanding than to interpret during a meeting of the neighborhood homeowners association, yet it is no less essential to the job.


About 70 percent of sign language interpreters are independent contractors (i.e. self-employed).  Most contract work is performed on behalf of service agencies.


Sign language interpreter earnings, like that of many professions, can vary a great deal.  A terp's credentials, experience, specialty, skill level, as well as setting and geographic location, play a part in determining income.  

To give you a sense: If you are an educational terp, you might earn between $15 and $35 an hour.  A contract terp (e.g. working through an agency) might earn $30 to $100 or more per hour; and legal terps might earn $50 to $150 or more an hour.  

Many interpreters work a "day job" (say, at a school or vocational center) and contract with one or more agencies for evening or weekend assignments.


The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics is a wonderful source of information related to various occupations, including interpreting.  The Occupational Outlook Handbook includes information about income, working conditions, training, job growth predictions, and industry trends and influences.



HEALTH - also see HEALTH

The most frequently occurring health problem for sign language interpreters is repetitive motion injury.  Carpal tunnel and golf elbow are two of the most common problems resulting from repetitive motion.  Many signers end up having surgery in the hope of relieving carpal tunnel symptoms.  Interpreters are also at risk for developing other disorders associated with sustained use.

Risk of injury is one of the reasons that, when an interpreting assignment is expected to be lengthy, more than one interpreter is advised.  When more than one interpreter is assigned, they are working as a team and will agree to take turns every 20 minutes or so, allowing each interpreter the physical rest needed to help in avoiding this type of injury.  This working together arrangement is called "teaming."  For an informative article online about the risk of injury to sign language interpreters, see: Sign Language Interpreters at High Ergonomic Risk, an April 2008 piece published by Science Daily.

Emotional or psychological risks include post traumatic stress disorder (i.e. interpreting for victims of heinous crimes or interpreting a situation that triggers your own issues) and codependence, as well as mental and cognitive stress. 


Interpreters who accept assignments for which they are not qualified, or who exercise gross negligence or cause harm, may be held criminally or civilly libel, and will suffer the consequences.


Interpreters who do not uphold the RID Code of Professional Conduct are working unethically.  Unethical interpreters run the risk of losing their credentials, and certainly lose the respect of colleagues, consumers, and the signing community.


Contact Marsh Affinity for information about professional liability coverage.  

Check out the benefits of membership in NASE (National Association for the Self-Employed).




Books, Videos, and CDs


Designated Interpreters: A New Paradigm

Deaf Professionals and Designated Interpreters (2008)

Defines a new model that depends upon strong partnerships between the growing number of deaf experts and their interpreters. 

Divided into two parts, this volume first delineates Designated Interpreting, in which interpreters team with deaf professionals to advance a shared point of view. Chapters in this section include the linguistics of the partnership (Look-Pause-Nod); the varying attitudes and behavior of deaf professionals and their interpreters; interaction in the work-related social setting to ensure equal participation; interpreting as affected by conversational style and gender factors; academic and educational interpreting for deaf academics; and adjusting company policies with professional interpreter guidelines. 

Part II, Deaf Professional and Designated Interpreter Partnerships, offers relevant examples of interpreting for deaf professionals in real estate, contemporary art, medicine, business administration, education, mental health, film-making, and information technology. 

Demonstrates the critical complexity of the relationships between professionals and interpreters, a revolutionary transformation that will be appreciated by interpreter preparation programs, instructors, interpreters, and their clients alike.










 "What is a Conference Interpreter?" (brief article online at aiic.net)


 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of conference interpreter coordination.




 For a wealth of info on this topic, click here to visit the "home" of the EIPA.

 Interesting survey and perspective by an educational interpreter. The topic is "empowering the student."

 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of K-12 settings.




Court Interpreter Training ResourcesSign Language Interpreters In Court: Understanding Best Practices

- Carla M. Mathers, Esquire, CSC, SC:L serves as General Counsel to Viable Inc.
- In 2006, Ms. Mathers published Sign Language Interpreters in Court: Understanding Best Practices, a text for interpreters, attorneys and courts to understand the principles underlying ASL court interpreting.
- Ms. Mathers' site has a links page.

 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of legal settings.


 National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT)


SPRING 2009: RID partners with NCIEC on the future of medical certification of interpreters.  ... more


Online dictionaries and videos: click here;

National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC): click here;

Books and DVDs;

Collaborative for the Advancement of Teaching Interpreting Excellence (CATIE): click here;

 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of health care settings.






 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of mental health settings.




 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of multiple roles.












Worship links, books, resources: click here;


 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of religious settings.




 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of VRS interpreting.

  Read the FCC's info for consumers here.







 Here's a link to RID's Standard Practice Paper (SPP) on the topic of VRS interpreting.


Books, Videos, and CDs


Deaf Patients, Hearing Medical Personnel: Interpreting

Deaf Patients, Hearing Medical Personnel: Interpreting (2005)

This book traces issues facing deaf patients, their families, and their interpreters as they move through the medical system. This groundbreaking handbook describes a variety of issues including interpreting in various medical situations, applying the code of ethics, and interpreter's health and safety. This is certain to become a "must-have" among interpreters who work in the medical field.

Interpreter's Guide to the Vehicular Accident Lawsuits (2005)

This book familiarizes the judicial interpreter with the vehicular accident lawsuit in the USA. 

The entire process which an interpreter may encounter is explained from the time of the accident through the final trial. 

The book provides a comprehensive presentation of the participants, terminology, procedures, documents and regulations to this prevalent area of law.

Interpreter's Guide to Vehicular Accident Lawsuits

Telephone Interpreting

Telephone Interpreting (2008)

This book provides readers with a fascinating in-depth view into the world of remote interpretation via telephone. The first publication devoted exclusively to the topic, this book offers a wealth of information for interpreters, educators, training professionals and consumers of interpreting services within the realms of health care, legal services, public safety, finance, social services, insurance and numerous other industries where telephone interpreting services are used. Through the model code of ethics and standards of practice included in the book, readers can gain a better understanding of the levels of quality that can be obtained through telephone interpretation. Numerous role-play scenarios are also included to facilitate telephone interpreting practice.

From Topic Boundaries To Omission by Melanie Metzger, Steven Collins, Gallaudet University, Valerie Dively, Risa Shaw

This new collection examines several facets of signed language interpreting. Claudia Angelelli's study confirms that conference, courtroom, and medical interpretation can no longer be seen as a two-party conversation with an "invisible" interpreter, but as a three-party conversation in which the interpreter plays an active role. Laura M. Sanheim defines different turn-taking elements in a medical setting as two overlapping conversations, one between the patient and the interpreter and the other between the interpreter and the medical professional.

From Topic Boundaries To Omission

Working with Interpreters in Mental Health

Interpreters in Mental Health (2003)

Informed by theoretical, research and practice considerations, Working with Interpreters in Mental Health helps practitioners develop better ways of helping clients who need an interpreter. 

Combining contributions from a number of different disciplines, this book discusses interpreters in medical consultations; issues of language provision in health care services; the application of theoretical frameworks to the work with interpreters; and the work of interpreters in a variety of practical settings.

Interpreters In Court: Best Practices

This is the first comprehensive text that examines the role and function of sign language interpreters working the legal field. Designed for interpreters looking for a principled basis to justify best and emerging practices, the book presents a critical analysis of the constitutional, statutory and ethical foundations underpinning the work of court interpreters. 

Sign Language Interpreters in Court offers readers the tools for understanding, applying and articulating the various roles and functions undertaken by interpreters in court.

In Court: Best Practices

Crossing Borders In Community Interpreting: Definitions and Dilemmas

Crossing Borders in Community Interpreting: Definitions and Dilemmas
       (2008) by Carmen Valero Garcés, Anne Martin

At conferences and in the literature on community interpreting there is one burning issue that reappears constantly: the interpreter’s role. What are the norms by which the facilitators of communication shape their role? Is there indeed only one role for the community interpreter or are there several? Is community interpreting aimed at facilitating communication, empowering individuals by giving them a voice or, in wider terms, at redressing the power balance in society? In this volume scholars and practitioners from different countries address these questions, offering a representative sample of ongoing research into community interpreting in the Western world, of interest to all who have a stake in this form of interpreting. The opening chapter establishes the wider contextual and theoretical framework for the debate. It is followed by a section dealing with codes and standards and then moves on to explore the interpreter’s role in various different settings: courts and police, healthcare, schools, occupational settings and social services.

Medical Interpreting and Cross-Cultural Mediation

Claudia Angelelli explores the role of medical interpreters, drawing on data from over 300 medical encounters as well as interviews with the interpreters. Bringing together literature from social theory, social psychology, and linguistic anthropology, 

This book will appeal to anyone concerned with the intricacies of medical interpreting, particularly researchers, communication specialists, policy makers, and practitioners.

Medical Interpreting and Cross-Cultural Mediation

Interpreting At Church

Interpreting At Church  by Leo Yates, Jr. (2006)

A well-written and one-of-a-kind resource that discusses essential information for sign language interpreters who will provide professional services in a church or other Christian environment. 

The book covers a wide range of materials including certification, ethical and legal issues, standards, compensation, and skill development.

It also contains a religious sign dictionary and helpful suggestions from veteran interpreters.

Topics in Signed Language Interpreting:
Theory and Practice


(Chapt. 11: Case Studies in Education)

(2008) by Terry Janzen

Topics In Signed Language Interpreting: Theory And Practice

Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters and the Judicial Process

The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters

Drawing on more than one hundred hours of taped recordings of court proceedings in federal, state, and municipal courts—along with extensive psycholinguistic research using translated testimony and mock jurors—Susan Berk-Seligson's seminal book presents a systematic study of court interpreters, and raises some alarming, vitally important concerns: contrary to the assumption that interpreters do not affect the contents of court proceedings, they could potentially make the difference between a defendant being found guilty or innocent of a crime.

Bummy's Parliamentary Procedure

Written by a deaf author for a deaf audience, this book is a excellent guide on how to run meetings following parliamentary procedure. Includes illustrations of signs to use for concepts such as, "I move..." and "I second the motion".  Topics include procedures, definitions, orders of business, motions, recording minutes, nominations, and commonly made errors. Signs and Parliamentary dictionary are illustrated throughout the book.

Bummy's Parliamentary Procedure and Signs

Best Practices In Educational Interpreting (2nd edition)

Best Practices in Educational Interpreting by Mary C. Seal


Designed for all who work with the heterogeneous population of students with hearing loss, Best Practices in Educational Interpreting, Second Edition, offers state-of-the-art information for interpreters in primary through higher education settings. This text provides a comprehensive, developmentally organized overview of the process of interpreting in educational settings. Issues and methods are presented from a practical orientation, with representative cases that illustrate the topics. Readers learn about the changing needs of students are deaf and hard of hearing as they move from primary school through college. It is an ample resource as a stand-alone book and serves as a perfect supplement to a widely recognized "good books" library on deafness.

The Interpreter's Companion  by Holly Mikkelson

The glossaries included are:

Legal Terms
Traffic & Automotive Terms
Drug Terms
Weapons Terms
Medical Terms (including forensic serology and folk medicine terms)
Slang Terms.

Illustrations include extensive firearms and medical illustrations.

All six glossaries are bidirectional--you can look terms up in either English or Spanish. Both an English index and a Spanish index are provided, allowing you to look up unfamiliar terms even if you don't know which glossary to look in. 

The Interpreter's Companion by Holly Mikkelson












This page was edited: 09/23/2009
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TerpTopics is a trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

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