What is Interpreting?
Interpreting is the ability to facilitate between two languages, extracting the main message from the Source Language and producing an equivalent meaning in the Target Language. Interpreters can be found in many countries and many different languages. People who are d/Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing and use sign language use interpreters to facilitate between their preferred sign language and spoken language.
In the USA and Canada, d/Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) people use American Sign Language (ASL). American Sign Language interpreters are used to provide equal communication access in various settings. We will discuss each area in more depth below. One can find interpreters in various places, including but not limited to: healthcare, workplace meetings, courtrooms, K-12 and postsecondary classrooms, churches, etc.
Legal Aspects of Interpreting
If you are a company, business, building, or another service that is widely available to the public, you may be required to provide sign language interpreters for your deaf and hard-of-hearing consumers.
There have been instances where companies who have been required to provide interpreters refuse, insisting that the deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) person bring a family member or friend to interpret or potentially billing the DHH person for the interpreter. This is illegal and provides the deaf person with legal grounds to sue and win.
Qualified interpreters have five requirements- they must be able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary (Office of Civil Rights, 2015). To learn more about interpreting services and your requirements under the law, please read about the ADA and the Rehab Act of 1973.
Areas of Interpreting
There are many different areas interpreters can work, and there are many types of interpreters. Some interpreters work freelance, meaning they charge their own pay rate and contract with whomever they want- interpreter agencies or companies directly needing interpreter services. Depending on what area they are located in, interpreters’ pay rates can greatly vary. Other interpreters work strictly for agencies. They don’t freelance and may only work for one agency. Still, other interpreters work as staff for a particular business. They may be employed by a school district, a hospital, or a workplace. Pay rates differ for various positions, depending on skill, certification, or level of education.
Interpreters can be found in many places. Some examples of where interpreters work are college or university graduation ceremonies, weddings, funerals, dentist appointments, doctor visits, church services, educational environments, and courtrooms. Below, I will highlight several specialized fields where interpreters work and list resources for aspiring or working interpreters. Remember, wherever a d/Deaf person can go, an interpreter can go.
Specialization for Interpreters
Listed below are some of the many specialized areas interpreters can work in. Click on each picture or title to learn more about each area.
Aspects of Legal Interpreting
Many people think legal interpreting only consists of the courtroom. That is incorrect. Legal interpreting consists of paralegal, law enforcement, and courtroom. It also includes forms signed in healthcare or educational settings that are legally binding.
Interpreters in legal settings should have a legal or court certification. It is required that court interpreters have this specialized certification, but this is not always the case for law enforcement or paralegal settings. The most effective interpretations usually are a result of a team of interpreters- a hearing legal/court certified interpreter and a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI), especially when the d/Deaf person has a limited understanding of the legal system.
Below, you will find a brief description of each setting, and resources for interpreters to utilize.
Aspects of Religious Interpreting
Interpreters can work in religious settings, interpreting for various religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc.) and denominations. They may interpret congregational songs/hymns, sermons, weddings, or funerals with a religious context, conferences, or concerts.
Interpreting in religious settings requires knowledge of the specific religion or denomination, cultural knowledge/understanding of the original religion’s culture, the ability to interpret messages that rely heavily on imagery or idiomatic expressions, and sometimes a willingness to perform services pro-bono.
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Aspects of Healthcare Interpreting
Healthcare interpreting is a broad category that encompasses mental health and medical interpreting. Mental health interpreting can include counseling/therapy, psychiatric evaluations, and psychiatric hospital stays, while medical interpreting can involve anything from dental to ER.
As stated above, medical interpreting involves a lot of areas. It can include deaf patients or deaf healthcare professionals in settings ranging from specializations such as dental/orthodontic, optometry, and ophthalmology, podiatry, OBGYN/women’s health, or can include typical healthcare such as routine checkups, surgery, hospital, and Emergency Room or ICU care, or include infant/child wellness.
Many people think educational interpreting only exists in K-12 settings, but educational interpreting can include postsecondary as well. It can also be represented as workshops that Deaf educators must take or host for professional development.
Just as Deafness can be on a spectrum of mild to profound loss, so can DeafBlindness. One can have mild hearing and profound vision loss, and vice versa, or a variation of either. To interpret for a DeafBlind person requires knowledge of ProTactile, a new variation of ASL that has emerged in recent years. One should also be aware of basic guiding principles for DeafBlind individuals, as this skill may be required during the time you are employed as their interpreter.
Interpreting in Other Contexts
In addition to the five specialized areas highlighted on the other pages, there are many settings where interpreters can work. I will provide aspiring or working interpreters with resources to expand their current knowledge base. Please note that the list of areas I give where interpreters can work is not exhaustive.
Video Relay Service (VRS) Interpreters
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)/Over Video Interpreting (OVI)
Certified Deaf Interpreter
Commencement Conference Interpreting