Last night, while thinking about writing a post about the recent episode of Switched at Birth, I posted a message on my Facebook page about it. I was trying to gauge interest and amazed at the number of responses. Honestly, it was the most comments I have EVER gotten on a Facebook post.
While I still have post on Deafness swirling in my head, one of my followers asked about becoming a sign language interpreter. There are a lot of resources out there but I wanted to take a minute answer her question here and field any more questions that you might have.
Many people ask me how I became interested in interpreting. Interestingly, I didn’t start out in this profession. I learned sign language while I was in high school working at a special needs school. After graduating, I went to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida for my bachelors degree in Deaf Education. I wanted to be a teacher. However, once I honed all my super teacher skills and took a real job teaching, I realized I hated it. So I applied to Gallaudet University’s Masters of Interpretation program. Three years later, I graduated and have been working as a professional interpreter ever since.
With that being said, becoming an interpreter is not has hard as it sounds. There are wonderful programs in almost every state. With most of them being 2 year associate programs.
So if you want to be an interpreter…
1) Use this resource to locate an interpreting training program in the US.
2) Really take time to learn the language and get to know the community. Deaf people are considered a culture within a culture and sometimes interpreters can be viewed as interlopers. You want to make sure that you get to know the language OUTSIDE of the classroom and make friends with some Deaf people.
3) Most programs say they are 2 years but the majority of them will require more. It’s ok, you can’t learn an entire language and the process of interpreting in only 2 years. Plan to take your time and really hone your skills.
4) Once your graduate, you will want to become familiar with the licensure and certification rules in your community. Some of this information can be found our national organization’s website – Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
5) It will take some time to pass certification. In the mean time, find mentors and internship opportunities.
There is still a very high need for sign language interpreters in the US. Plus it is a very specialized skill set, so you will be amazed at the places you can find work. Interpreters work in legal, medical, educational, political and video relay work. There are even interpreters who work at Disney and on Broadway. You would be amazed at all the opportunities that you can find.
I would love to answer more questions about becoming a professional sign language interpreter. Ask away!