Interpreting is the process of receiving a message in one language and
transmitting an equal meaning into a second language. Interpreters for the
deaf help hearing individuals communicate with the deaf or hard of hearing.
They provide communication in both English and ASL (American sign language).
The role of the interpreter is similar to that of a foreign language translator
-- to bridge the communication gap between two parties.
Interpreters are highly skilled professionals. They must be able to listen
to another person's words, inflections and intent and -- at the same time
--translate them into the visual language of signs. The interpreter must also
understand the signs, inflections and intent of the deaf person, and simultaneously
speak them in clear, appropriate English.
They must understand the cultures in which they work, and be able to apply
that knowledge to promote effective communications.
"Interpreting involves competence in at least two languages; an understanding
of the dynamics of human interaction in two quite different [methods]; an
appreciation of social and cultural differences; the ability to concentrate
and maintain one's attention; a good deal of tact, judgment, and stamina;
and above all a sense of humor," says interpreter Monique Bozzer.
In sign language interpreting, the mode for each language is different:
one is visual (sight), the other audiological (sound).
Interpreting is relatively new, having been formally established in 1964.
Since then, the profession has developed specific codes of proper behavior,
sophisticated evaluation and certification systems, and advanced educational
It may be necessary to call in a deaf interpreter for a variety of situations.
Some deaf or hard of hearing people who rely on speech or lip-reading may
require the services of an interpreter who complements the verbally delivered
message with signs.
Team interpreting is required if the assignment is particularly long or
technical. Platform interpreting is performed near the speaker on a platform
or a stage, and in front of an audience. Such interpreters must use large,
clear signs. In contrast, one-on-one interpreting is done face to face with
Interpreters work in a variety of settings and situations -- private practice;
on staff at an agency, institution or corporation; and in educational settings.
They work in settings as intimate as a private therapy session, or as public
as a televised address at a national political convention.
Interpreters must possess certain talents. They need to have superior listening
skills, clear mouth movement and a good imagination. The best interpreters
are excellent mimics, with the ability to communicate effectively in verbal,
written and manual communication forms. A shrug of the shoulders or a tilt
of an eyebrow might be essential to impart to the client not only the message,
but its nuances as well.
Sign language interpretation also demands fortitude. The energy and concentration
necessary to listen to a speaker and provide a simultaneous translation to
the client are considerable.
The majority of positions are in medium-to-large cities. The more mobile
you are, the more likely you are to find an interpreting job.
Translators who are on salary usually work full time for 40 hours a week.
If an interpreter is a freelancer, it can difficult to find a job that provides
more than 30 hours a week.