Sign language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Schools, government agencies, hospitals, court systems, and private businesses employ interpreters. Interpreters work in a variety of settings including medical, legal, religious, mental health, rehabilitation, performing arts and business.

As you begin your journey of discovery into the profession, we hope that you will utilize RID as the go-to resource and consider how RID membership would benefit you at this stage of your development.

The Field of Interpreting – Opportunities and Growth

The field of interpretation is currently in an exciting period of growth as a career profession. As we work to eliminate the perception of interpretation as just a “job” that any individual with an interest can undertake, we are seeing the field gain a momentum in reputation that encompasses quality and respect. With supply not meeting the current demand, interpreters have become an invaluable tool in communication access between Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.

Interpreting is a human service related field that is utilized in a myriad of different life situations, such as medical, mental health, law, education, etc. An interpreter, who must uphold  the Code of Professional Conduct, is a bilingual and bicultural professional working in a true profession and should be regarded as such.

Because interpreters are key to communication access, RID strives to maintain high standards for members in various ways, including credentials, continuing education and standard practice papers.

If you are thinking of interpreting as a career, we hope that this information will be helpful in your decision-making process. If you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact RID Headquarters at 703-838-0030. Learn more about interpreting as a career.

The Art of Interpreting….

  • Is the process of transmitting spoken English into American Sign Language (ASL) and/or gestures for communication between Deaf and hearing individuals;
  •  Enhances the quality of interaction between the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities;
  • Serves as a tool in bridging communication gaps;
  • Is a profession that is highly dynamic and sophisticated;
  • Offers a career that allows one to grow with each knowledge building experience.

What It Takes

  • A committed individual to not only achieve certification but to also maintain and grow the skills needed
  • Physical stamina, endurance and the ability to emotionally handle an assignment and adhere to confidentiality
  • A great knowledge of the English language and the ability to speak clearly, be audibly heard and to portray the feelings and emotion of the speaker, whether voice or sign interpreting
  • An understanding that interpreting is a complex process that requires linguistic, cognitive and technical skills

Practice of Interpreting

Sign language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Schools, government agencies, hospitals, court systems and private businesses employ interpreters.  Interpreters work in a variety of settings including medical, legal, religious, mental health, rehabilitation, performing arts and business.

The interpreting field is experiencing an increase in demand for qualified interpreters. This is due, in part, with the advent of Video Relay Service (VRS) and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). These services offer consumers access to real-time visual communication with the hearing community. As the methods of communication increase between the Deaf and hearing communities through technological advancements, we will also experience an increase in demand for the number of qualified interpreters to be utilized through these techniques.

Interpreters Make Communication Possible

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.

More Than Fluency

Interpreting requires specialized expertise. While proficiency in English and in sign language is necessary, language skills alone are not sufficient for an individual to work as a professional interpreter. Becoming an interpreter

  • Is a complex process that requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills;
  • Takes a committed individual to not only achieve certification but to also maintain and grow the skills needed;
  • Requires physical stamina, endurance and the ability to emotionally handle an assignment and adhere to confidentiality;
  • Necessitates a great knowledge of the English language and the ability to speak clearly, be audibly heard and to portray the feelings and emotion of the speaker, whether they are voice or sign interpreting.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the provision of qualified interpreters in a variety of settings. It states that “To satisfy this requirement, the interpreter must have the proven ability to effectively communicate…”
One important measure of an interpreter’s proven ability is professional credentials. Credentials are obtained by taking and passing an assessment of your skills. RID provides testing for national certification.

All Types of 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.

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Whether you are a beginner, an advanced signer or a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA), RID is here to help you understand what it takes to become a professional and qualified interpreter. Fascination with sign language and/or the desire to “help” are admirable, but these alone are not qualifications to be interpreting for persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Patience, persistence, dedication and professional training are just some of the few key elements that are crucial to becoming a successful interpreter.