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The first sign language interpreters were hearing family members, friends, and coworkers.  They were not formally trained. Their qualifications included knowledge of English, some sign language, and a willingness to step in.  Many such "unofficial" interpreters are children of deaf adults (CoDA), conscripted into the role from childhood.  Many of today's professionals began in the role of unofficial interpreter.

American Sign Language was recognized as a bona fide language in the 1960s. Linguist, William Stokoe published the first linguistic study of ASL in 1960. 

The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID)—the national professional organization for American Sign Language interpreters in the United States--was established in 1964 and incorporated in 1974.  RID established interpreter certification standards and put into place a code of ethics for practitioner members.

In the early 1970’s, interpreter training programs (ITP) were established that were generally six to eight weeks in duration. These programs focused primarily on settings in which interpreters might expect to work (religious, telephone, courtroom, medical). The linguistic component these early programs was on vocabulary-building. There was limited discussion concerning emotional, physical, and mental processes involved because there was limited scholarly material available for such use.  Early ITPs were not yet equipped to support the skills, knowledge, and abilities that enable interpreters to perform at peak effectiveness; but, they were better than having no program at all, and it was a start.  During the 1970s, educators did not yet understand the complexity of what from the outside appears to be a simple task.

Interpreters, then and now, recognized the need for continued professional development, seeking support through professional organizations, and from mentoring relationships, workshops, conferences, and materials available online.

Presently, ITPs are from two-to-four years in length, and may award a certificate or degree at completion.  Several programs at the post-graduate level are also in place throughout the country.

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This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 02, 2009.
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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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