Most people know that an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter helps people who are either Deaf or hard of hearing to communicate with hearing individuals. However, this is a very simple way of explaining what ASL interpreters do.
Sign language interpreters work hard for people in the Deaf community to reduce barriers they might experience in education, the workforce, medicine, and more. Learn more about what an ASL interpreter does below.
Becoming an ASL Interpreter
Most people who decide that they want to become sign language interpreters have at least a post-secondary education in ASL. They may also have a degree in English or another subject matter to allow them to expand their vocabulary or specialize in a specific field.
Immersion within the Deaf community is also incredibly helpful for people working towards becoming interpreters. As with any language, the more that they know about the culture and the more they are exposed to, the stronger their vocabulary will become.
It is important to know that ASL is not simply a direct translation from English to hand signs. It is its own language with its own rules, grammar, and even its own culture. Becoming an ASL interpreter takes years of hard work and dedication as well as respect for the Deaf community.
Where ASL Interpreters Usually Work
ASL interpreters work in a variety of fields. Some of the most in-demand places for them include:
- Doctor’s offices and hospitals
- Schools and universities
- Federal agencies
- Entertainment venues (concerts, etc.)
It may surprise you to find out that ASL interpreters work at concerts. However, the Deaf population is still able to enjoy music – just in a different way than hearing people do. There have been many studies surrounding this over the years.
Between the vibrations of the music and the way that the brain changes to interpret sound, Deaf individuals are able to especially enjoy concerts.
ASL interpreters often also work at town halls, in-office meetings, and on webinars. Knowing the correct terminology for whatever industry that they are working in is critical for their success and for the people participating in events.
Efficiently communicating medical information is critical for the wellbeing of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Some Challenges for ASL Interpreters
One thing that not a lot of people consider are the extreme challenges that come with being an interpreter. Simply being talented at ASL does not mean that someone will make a good interpreter. It requires the ability to multitask.
Interpreters have to listen to what is being said, process it, and try to communicate it to the other individual as quickly and accurately as possible. They also have to be able to accurately convey the emotion behind the words since body language does not always translate.
They also are sometimes put in difficult situations including court cases and delivering difficult medical information. They must stay impartial and are not considered participants in conversations but conduits, instead. When emotions are high, this can be a tough position to be in.
ASL interpreters are the link between the Deaf community and the hearing community – we appreciate them every day and are grateful for the role they play in enabling communication for more people!