March 30, 2007
is a very important part of our daily lives. It is
natural to want to understand and be understood by
others. For people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf,
communication with those unfamiliar with American Sign
Language (ASL) can be difficult. A sign language
interpreter helps bridge the communication gap by making
sure people understand each other. This is not an easy
task because there is so much to consider: attitude,
facial expressions, nuances, choice of words, etc. which
can represent so many different meanings.
interpreters to be successful, they must have a thorough
knowledge, understanding, and command of both English
and American Sign Language (ASL). For example, in a
classroom setting, it is important for the interpreter
to thoroughly understand the main points outlined by the
instructor in order to convey this information to the
Deaf student. An interpreter should be able to convey
the purpose of the lesson – its importance and when the
content will need to be remembered or when the
information is review. According to information on the
Sacramento Valley Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
(SaVRID ) website, it is also important for interpreters
to understand the cultures in which they work and apply
that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural
many opportunities for those interested in a career as
an interpreter to become fluent in ASL. There are now
numerous universities, community colleges, adult
education courses, clubs, and various local agencies
that offer ASL classes, instruction, or exposure to
ASL. There are also those who are exposed to ASL from
an early age because of close contact with Deaf
relatives and friends. This early exposure and
acquisition of ASL is extremely helpful in obtaining ASL
to ASL fluency, it is highly recommended that an
interpreter complete an associate, bachelors, or
master’s degree from an interpreter training program (Info.com).
Also, interpreters need to obtain certification by the
Registry of Interpreter for the Deaf (RID).
information found on the Gallaudet website (infotogo.gallaudet.edu),
following these preparatory steps enables interpreters
to learn specialized techniques and ethical
considerations for interpreting in a variety of settings
with people of various ages.
found on the website, infotogo.com, explains that an
aspiring interpreter should have a great deal of
interaction within the Deaf community, attend
Deaf/interpreting related events, and mentor as much as
possible with qualified and nationally certified
interpreters. There are several CD-ROMs, video tapes,
ASL dictionaries, and books on interpreting available.
educational interpreter works in the classroom and
provides a common link between Deaf students and
teachers, peers, and school personnel. One challenging
aspect of interpreting in a classroom setting is the
fact that teachers often communicate at a language or
cognitive level of the hearing students only. As stated
in “Classroom Interpreters – Interpreters and Children –
Interpreting and Language”, an article found on the
“There are many deaf or hard of hearing children who
have language and vocabulary skills equal to those of
their hearing peers. There are also many deaf or hard
of hearing students who enter school with language that
According to this article, these children need
many useful techniques an educational interpreter might
use in the classroom. One technique is called
scaffolding- when an interpreter provides necessary
vocabulary, definitions, and background information to
expand on previously learned concepts and clarify new
concepts and terminology
. According to
the article entitled “Useful Tips for Education –Working
with an Interpreter – Elementary, Middle, and High
School,” it is important to have the Deaf student feel
comfortable with his/her hearing classmates. One idea
might be to have the Deaf student introduce him or
herself to the class and introduce some signs, if he or
she feels comfortable doing so.
It is also
important for the interpreter to identify all speakers
in the classroom by using name signs or fingerspell the
name of the person commenting rather then pointing
(“Classroom Interpreting–“Facilitate and Support
Participation and Social Communication”).
for the educational interpreter, found in the same
article, is to instruct the class to take turns when
speaking so the interpreter can accurately convey the
message to the Deaf student. This might mean raising
hands instead of many people speaking at once. Also,
students should be prepared to speak clearly and
sometimes be requested to repeat themselves.
important tip is for interpreters to require that
hearing students speak directly to the Deaf student and
not to the interpreter. It is very important for the
Deaf student to feel involved and have direct
interaction with his/her peers (Info.com).
many skills that Deaf students need to learn for school
success. The article “Classroom Interpreter – What Does
an Educational Interpreter Do to Make Appropriate Use of
Fingerspelling,” finger spelling is a very important
skill for students who learn through an interpreter and
also is a helpful tool in English literacy. Students,
who are good finger spellers, have a larger reading
vocabulary. Educational interpreters should use finger
spelling while interacting with students and also
fingerspell all new vocabulary that the student will be
expected to recognize in print. According to this
article, research shows that this helps vocabulary
learning and helps create a cognitive link with print.
interpreter should monitor a student’s understanding of
the material or concepts being taught on a continual
basis. In the article, “Classroom Interpreters – What
Does an Educational Interpreter Do? Monitor Student
Comprehension”: one way to check a student’s progress is
during one-on-one time with the student. During this
time, an interpreter can clarify messages by altering
the interpretation to match the child’s language level.
educational interpreter is in a Deaf student’s life,
there can be problems when he/she serves as a child’s
only language model. One article, “Classroom
Interpreters - The Interpreter as a Language Model,”
lists some problems.
language role models– Deaf children need a variety
of language users in order to learn language.
level that has not been adjusted – teachers may not
adjust their speech and language level for the Deaf
or hard-of-hearing students.
who do not interact with students – experts do not
believe that watching interpreters of language
during a lecture leads to significant language
learning. Interaction is essential for language
interpreters are not fluent – this results in a
language model with numerous grammatical errors and
simple vocabulary. Major concepts can be distorted
this article, an excellent resource for a Deaf student,
in addition to a professional interpreter, is another
Deaf adult a student can converse with. It is important
that this adult understand the curriculum the student is
involved with and work with the student’s teacher.
to working in the classroom, legally qualified
educational interpreters also may interpret for
Individual Education Plans (IEP) for students, DARE or
other educational programs, parent-teacher conferences,
and mental health counseling sessions (“Classroom
Interpreting – The Interpreter as a Language Model”)
educational interpreter has a difficult job with many
responsibilities. The process of becoming fluent in ASL
and taking the required courses and tests to become
certified, applying specific techniques and practices in
the classroom, and, above all, being an advocate for the
Deaf student, is not an easy undertaking, nor should it
be taken lightly. While this type of career requires
hard work and profound dedication, it can also be a very
fulfilling occupation, as it clearly can make a
difference in a child’s life.
Interpreting. “Classroom Interpreters – What does an Educational Interpreter Do? Facilitate and
Support Participation and Social Communication.” 7 Mar. 2007. <http://www.classroominterperting.org/Interpreters/role/facilitate.asp>.
Interpreting. “Classroom Interpreters – What does an Educational Interpreter Do? Make Appropriate Use
of Fingerspelling”. 8 Mar. 2007.
Interpreting. “Classroom Interpreters – What does an Educational Interpreter Do? Monitor Student
Comprehension.” 7 Mar. 2007.
Interpreting. “Classroom Interpreters – Interpreters and Children –Interpreting And Language. The
Interpreter as a Language Model”. 7 Mar. 2007. <http://www.classroominterpreting.org/Interpreters/Children/Interpreting/languagemodel.asp>.
Laurent. National Deaf Education Center Gallaudet University. “Becoming a Sign Language Interpreter.”
9 Mar. 2007. http://infotogo.gallaudet.edu/357.html.
“Tips for Educators – Useful Tips for Educators Working with an Interpreter (Elementary, Middle, and
High School).” 6 Mar. 2007. http://www.aslinfo.com/terptips.cfm.
Association of the Deaf (NAD). “How do I Become a Sign Language Interpreter?” 21 Nov. 2002. <http://www.nad.org/site/pp.asp?c=folNKQMBF&B=180403%>.
Valley Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. “SaVRID Educational Interpreter Focus Group.” 7 Mar.