What is an interpreter?

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..."