So You Want to be a Sign Language Interpreter?

Forwarding advice from “seasoned” interpreters can be a priceless gift to those just getting started.  Like so many occupations, you just don’t know what you don’t know.   As time goes by, we will be sharing tips, reflections, suggestions – – all offered by the interpreters who have been in the field long enough to serve as advisers. We will also provide direction regarding how to become a sign language interpreter. 

This advice comes from sign language interpreter Dan Parvaz. “There are particular sign language interpreting assignments that should be avoided by entry level interpreters. Medical, Legal, Job interviews and I would also add educational interpreting, particularly in the K-12 area. All too often, this is treated as a dumping ground for beginning interpreters, particularly because the pay is typically much lower than what freelance interpreters make. Also there is a perception that grade school = easier. To disabuse yourself of that notion, watch “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?”.  Better yet, pick up a junior high science or history textbook and see what the students have to absorb.

The material at the grade-school level is more advanced than the stereotype would have us believe and the need to provide good linguistic input is acute. Somehow, the prevailing practice — I won’t dignify it with the word “wisdom” — has been to put brand-new interpreters into that high-pressure situation where there is potential for real, permanent harm.

There are other freelance assignments and mentorship opportunities where the price of failure isn’t quite so high. Even better, if possible, is to find yourself a work or volunteer situation that puts you in contact with a large variety of Deaf people — a part-time (non-interpreting!) position at the school for the Deaf, receptionist at a Deaf organization, etc. In my experience, what new interpreters need more than anything else is more language… the basic instruction one gets at a typical two-year (or even four-year) college program is not sufficient.

More than anything, find good role models and learn from them. And stick to it! We need the next generation to be there to pick up the torch.”

Well said Dan.  Thanks for your input!  Over the years, at The Sign Language Company, we have found it extremely helpful to meet with potential interpreters wishing to affiliate with our agency. Face to face, we are able to evaluate beyond the degree and certifications. Professional?  Proficient?  Flexible?  able to establish trust and rapport?  Reliable?  If you happen to be reading this as a potential sign language interpreter – – and you wish to get the agency perspective on what is deemed ‘the ideal interpreter’ , please contact us at The Sign Language Company for additional information.  Particular Sign Language Interpreters are very busy and ‘in demand’. Find out why.

, , , , ,

About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

View all posts by Evelyn

Connect with Us

Subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to receive updates.

One Response to “So You Want to be a Sign Language Interpreter?”

  1. perez de vargas estepona Says:

    Truly good site thank you so much for your time in writing the posts for all of us to learn about.


Leave a Reply