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HOW TO BECOME
A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER

The profession of sign language interpreting is relatively new and there is a serious shortage of qualified interpreters.

Sign language interpreting can be a very rewarding career.  Interpreters facilitate communication between people who hear and people who do not hear or do not hear well and use sign language.

Interpreters have opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and experience a vast array of work settings, including schools, medical care facilities, corporate board rooms and offices, theaters, and places of worship.

Interpreters might be self-employed or might be employed by a business or public agency, and so on.

Interpreters might be generalists - working in a variety of settings on a regular basis, or might be specialists - working in a single type of setting, such as education, the courts (judicial), or might work exclusively with one deaf professional (actor or business executive, perhaps), or group limited to a few specific professionals (attorney's or doctor's office, perhaps) - such interpreters are called designated interpreters (DI).

A career in interpreting is not for everyone.  It requires a great deal of knowledge, an appreciation of cultural and other diversity, and tremendous language abilities.  Interpreters must have excellent decision-making skills, in addition to well developed interpersonal skills and the ability to focus and maintain concentration.  Perhaps one of the most important qualities of successful interpreters is the ability to adapt to change quickly, easily, and without a great deal of ado - practitioners must be flexible.

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Check the resources at the bottom of this page, and throughout this site, for more information.
Be especially sure to check BOOKS, DVDs, MOVIES, and VOCABULARY.

 

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KNOW AT LEAST TWO LANGUAGES

ASL/English interpreters must be fluent in both languages.  Fluency in a third language, such as Spanish, is especially marketable, but the minimum is two languages.  Interpreters must have a very good vocabulary (including idiomatic expressions) with high-level language facility that encompasses the five registers of speech.  Knowledge and use of correct grammar for both languages is essential, as is knowledge of various colloquialisms.

BE A GOOD FIT

Prejudice, particularly audism, is not amenable to successful and satisfying relationships.  Pity has no place in an interpreter's approach to the job.  If you feel that you are better than, more capable than, or in any way to be preferred over someone who happens to be deaf, please look elsewhere for career.

LEARN ABOUT DEAF CULTURE

To become a sign language interpreter is to become part of the deaf community.  Obviously, interpreters are not deaf* and are not welcomed as Deaf into the community; however, as a frequently appearing fixture in deaf life, the interpreter's role within the community includes those of ally, advocate, and service provider.  Interpreters must have a broad knowledge of deaf history and Deaf culture, including the history of American Sign Language.

CAREER PATHWAYS

There is a shortage of secondary schools offering certificates or degrees in sign language interpreting.  Pathways to the profession are generally flexible.  Here are some of the options:

Interpreter Training Program (ITP)
An ITP is a formal program of study ending with a certificate or a degree in interpreting.

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RESOURCES

 

Designated Interpreters So You Want To Become An Interpreter?

Current Interpreter Job Openings
Check out
current
job postings.

Reading Between The Signs Interpreter's Resource Book
Designated Interpreters So You Want To Be An Interpreter? Deaf Culture for Interpreters Interpreter's Resource Book
 
 
 
More
Books:
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Videos:
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About
Deafness:
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About
ASL:
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* The exception to this is the Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI).  For information about deaf interpreters, click here.

 

This page was edited: 09/23/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: July 17, 2008.
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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