Interested in Becoming an Interpreter?
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions (FAQs) as provided by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID):
Photo courtesy of Dorothy Hodge
What is an interpreter?
Sign Language/spoken English interpreters are highly skilled professionals that facilitate communication between hearing individuals and the Deaf or hard-of-hearing. They are a crucial communication tool utilized by all people involved in a communication setting. Interpreters must be able to listen to another person’s words, inflections and intent and simultaneously render them into the visual language of signs using the mode of communication preferred by the deaf consumer. The interpreter must also be able to comprehend the signs, inflections and intent of the deaf consumer and simultaneously speak them in articulate, appropriate English. They must understand the cultures in which they work and apply that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural communications.
What is a Certified Deaf Interpreter?
A certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) is an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing and has been verified by the Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf as an interpreter. In addition to excellent general communication skills, and general interpreter training, the CDI may also have specialized training and/or experience in use of gesture, mime, props, drawings and other tools to enhance communication. The CDI has an extensive knowledge and understanding of deafness, the deaf community and/or Deaf culture which combined with excellent communication skills can bring added expertise into both routine and uniquely difficult interpreting situations.
What is American Sign Language?
Sign language is no more universal than spoken languages. American Sign Language (ASL) is the language used by a majority of people in the Deaf community in the United States, most of Canada (LSQ is used in Quebec), certain Caribbean countries and areas of Mexico. Other areas of the world use their own sign languages, such as England (British Sign Language) and Australia (Australian Sign Language). American Sign Language (ASL) is a distinct visual-gestural-kinesthetic language. While it borrows elements from spoken English and old French sign language, it has unique grammatical, lexical and linguistic features of its own. It is not English on the hands. Because ASL is not English, educators have developed a number of signed codes which use ASL vocabulary items, modify them to match English vocabulary, and put them together according to English grammatical rules. These codes have various names including Signed Exact English (SEE) and Manual Coded English (MCE). Additionally, when native speakers of English and native users of ASL try to communicate, the "language" that results is a mixture of both English and ASL vocabulary and grammar. This is referred to as PSE (Pidgin Signed English) or contact signing.
How long does it take to become fluent?
How long does it take to become fluent in Japanese, Russian or any other foreign language? Language fluency, be it spoken or visual, requires time, dedication, study, immersion in the language community, and constant practice. While you may have the potential to handle communication of simple concepts of daily life after just three classes, it will most likely take you years to be comfortably fluent in native conversations at normal rates discussing complex topics.
How do I get started?
Professional sign language interpreters develop interpreting skills through extensive training and practice over a long period of time. Before committing to this profession, it is imperative that you prepare yourself for the expectations, requirements and standards that will be asked of you. Below are a few resources that will help guide you along the process:
This site, funded by the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), provides all the tools needed to learn more about the interpreting profession and how to get started.
Professional Sign Language Interpreting
This RID standard practice paper provides a quick-glance and overview of the interpreting profession.
Interpreter Training and Preparation Programs
These programs provide you with the education and knowledge base to develop the skills to become an interpreter.
RID’s National Testing System (NTS)
RID’s NTS measures your knowledge and skill level and provides you with the appropriate level credentials for your testing skills.
NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct
The NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct sets the standards to which all certified members of RID are expected to adhere.
RID’s Standard Practice Papers
RID’s Standard Practice Papers (SPPs) articulate the consensus of the membership in outlining standard practices and positions on various interpreting roles and issues. These SPPs are excellent resources to educate all interpreters as well as hearing and deaf clients, the general public, business contacts, school personnel, doctors and nurses, etc.
RID Affiliate Chapters and Local Chapters
Your affiliate or local chapter can serve as an excellent source for guidance, mentorship and information.
Want to learn more?
For more information about the interpreting profession, go to www.rid.org and consider becoming a member. To get involved locally, consider joining your local chapter, RI RID!