What it Takes to Be an American Sign Language Interpreter: Guest Post
This post was brought to you by Affordable Language Services, the nation’s most experienced translation, transcription and interpreting service provider of over 150 languages, including American Sign Language.
If you’re interested in becoming a certified American Sign Language interpreter, there is good news. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for interpreters is on the rise at a rate that’s faster than the average career. Certified sign language interpreters convert information from a spoken language into sign language. Alternatively, they may interpret what an individual is signing into a spoken language. The greatest demand for this profession exists primarily within medium and large cities, but small and rural communities also benefit from the services an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter provides.
ASL incorporates the use of one’s hands, arms, head, body language and facial expressions to communicate without the use of sound. The language is used throughout North America and is completely different from British Sign Language. In fact, ASL evolved from French Standardized Sign Language (SSL) because this is where the language has its origins. The Italians and French began to standardize sign language as early as the 1700s.
In the 18th century, the birth rate of deaf people on Martha’s Vineyard was abnormally high and ranged from one in every 25 births to one in 155 births. This “founder effect” led to the creation of Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language. Public sign language interpreting later began to grow with the help of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, an individual who wanted all churchgoers to receive the messages preached. Gallaudet traveled to France to learn more about SSL and convinced one of his teachers to come back to the United States to help teach at the American School for the Deaf, where ASL was born. It wasn’t until 1955 that ASL became a recognized independent language.
Sign language interpreting has grown from communicating at home, church and school to providing educational, vocational, medical, social and other essential services to those in deaf communities. There is no limit to the application of ASL.
How to Learn American Sign Language
There are a variety of ways to learn ASL, including:
- Online resources
- Classes at community centers
- Classes taught at schools that serve deaf communities
- Learning from friends or family members who know ASL
- College classes
When you learn ASL, it’s important to remember that classes or programs may be designed specifically for children, teens or adults. A great way to enhance your ASL skills is to practice with those who actively use it to communicate.
How to Become a Certified American Sign Language Interpreter
Simply knowing how to sign doesn’t qualify you to be a sign language interpreter, but it goes a long way toward earning a certification. After you graduate from high school, the following path will help you become a certified interpreter:
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. While a degree in any field is acceptable in order to obtain a professional certification, it’s a good idea to consider a degree in ASL interpreting.
2. Complete an ASL interpreter training program. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf provides a list of programs. Such programs will help advance your ASL skills as well as the skills needed to be an effective interpreter, such as understanding inflections, simultaneous speakers, cultural differences, slang and more. You’ll also learn how to advance your own cognitive and technical skills.
3. Obtain a National Interpreter Certification (NIC). The essential certification to seek is the one provided jointly by the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. In order to earn this certification, you must pass a test that consists of performance, written and interview components. Advanced and master certifications are also available.
Note: Your respective state may require you to also obtain a state-issued certification in addition to a National Interpreter Certification if you wish to work as an interpreter.
American Sign Language interpreters make communication possible. There are a variety of situations in which ASL interpreting is necessary, and you can help become an invaluable asset in bridging communication gaps.