Sign Language Interpreting

By Evelyn Hunter 
Many avenues lead people into a career as a sign language interpreter. Some come from families which include a deaf family member. Some encounter a deaf friend along the way. Some witness a beautiful song performed in sign language and become intrigued with the beauty and grace of the language. Sign Language is not the same around the world. Many believe that it's a common language shared among deaf people everywhere. The truth is that - while it is a concept language - it varies from country to country and even regionally within the U.S. Just like colloquial language and accents may vary as you travel across America. Granted, the deaf may have an easier time communicating with each other than those who can hear. The sign for 'driving a car' for instance looks the same in every country. Place your hands on the invisible steering wheel and turn the wheel back and forth as if you're driving.

Most interpreters are professionals who have attended college, received a degree and then earned their certification. Continuing education is also available and multiple specialties are an option for those who want to specialize in a particular field. In the fields of science, medicine, law for instance - - the terminology can be extremely complex. This is where speedy and clear fingerspelling is the only choice. American Sign Language or ASL is not simply English transformed into signs. The order of words may be different. Body language and facial expressions play a part as well.

Much information is available online for those who wish to follow this path to become a sign language interpreter. The National Association for the Deaf (NAD) is one resource as well as Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). Everything you need to know can be found within these two websites. More and more colleges and universities are recognizing that ASL IS a foreign language - alive and continually evolving.
Beyond the language of the deaf, there is also a culture with which most are unfamiliar. Today, many deaf people refuse to see themselves as "disabled" or "impaired". The see themselves as 'Deaf' and able to do everything that hearing people do... except hear. This has allowed the deaf population to enter into countless industries that were unavailable before. But there is always the question of clear communication needs. Until everyone on the planet becomes proficient in sign language, there will always be the need for interpreters.

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