- Interpreting is the process of transmitting spoken English into American Sign Language (ASL) and/or gestures for communication between Deaf and hearing individuals. ASL Interpreters do NOT sign each word that is heard – they translate between two DIFFERENT languages, much like interpreters who work between spoken French and spoken English or spoken English and spoken Spanish.
- Sign language is no more universal than spoken languages. American Sign Language (ASL) is the language used by a majority of people in the Deaf community in the United States, much of Canada (LSQ is used in Quebec), certain Caribbean countries and areas of Mexico. Other areas of the world use their own sign languages, such as England (British Sign Language) and Australia (Australian Sign Language, a.k.a. Auslan).
- Simultaneous interpretation requires interpreters to listen and sign, or watch and speak, at the same time. The interpreter begins to convey a sentence in the target language while listening or watching the message being delivered in the source language. This type of interpreting happens most commonly in business meetings, college classes, or conferences.
- In contrast, consecutive interpreting begins only after the speaker has spoken or signed a sentence or paragraph. Interpreters may need to take notes to assist in the process of creating a coherent accurate translation. This form of interpretation is used most often for witness testimony in legal settings or in a one-on-one meeting such as with a doctor, social worker, or counselor. It is the more accurate of the two types, as it allows more time for the interpreter to process the information and determine the most linguistically and culturally accurate manner to convey the concept in the target language.
- Because of the need for a high degree of concentration in both types of interpretation and because of the physical demands of the work, interpreters often work in pairs if an assignment will last more than an hour, with each interpreting 20- to 30- minute segments.
Tips for Working Effectively with a Sign Language Interpreter
Interpreters are trained professionals who are bound by a cope of professional conduct. They have no knowledge of the student’s classroom performance or the etiology of their deafness. The following suggestions are helpful for working with an interpreter in your classroom.
- Speak directly to the student who is deaf or hard of hearing. Don’t ask the interpreter to “Tell him/her…”
- Look at the D/HOH student, not the interpreter. The interpreter will sign whatever you say and voice whatever the student signs into English. The interpreters are not permitted to voice their own personal opinions or enter the conversation.
- Speak at a normal rate. The interpreter will ask you to slow down or repeat if the delivery is too fast.
- Allow the interpreter to sit or stand near you. The interpreter, the student, and the instructor should work out the best place for the interpreter to work. The closer the interpreter is to the speaker/instructor, the easier it is for the student to see the interpreter at the same time as the instructor and any visual aids.
- Class Flow/Timing: Remember that the interpreter will be a few words/concepts behind the speaker. Allow the interpreter time to finish their interpretation so the student may ask questions or join the class discussion. If other students call out answers or answer immediately after an instructor presents the question, you will find that the student will seem to not participate. This is not because this student does not wish to do so or that they do not understand or that they are simply a quiet person… it is because the question was answered while they were still getting the question presented through the interpreter. This can be managed by the instructor-guided turn taking and allowing the interpreter to finish signing before students can provide answers.
- Access to Materials: Interpreters will be provided online access to materials you have placed on Canvas. If handing out hard copies of materials not in Canvas, please provide a copy to the interpreter. This access allows the interpreter to study pertinent vocabulary, have a visual reference to draw upon in interpreting into a visual (signed) language, and provide effective communication.
- Notetaking Support: Students using interpreters will typically need notetaking support (copies of notes from another students in the class) as they cannot effectively watch the interpreter and take notes. To turn their attention to taking notes would require that they stop “listening” to the lecture. Please see the information on notetaking support for more details.
- Schedule or Location Changes: Interpreters are paid professionals and skilled interpreters are in great demand. Please notify DSS and/or the interpreters of any class cancellations or location changes as early as possible. Late cancellations cost the University a significant amount of money.
- No Shows: If the interpreter does not show up, the student (or a faculty member) should notify the DSS (Disability Support Services) Director and a substitute will be sent if one is available. If one is not available, the student and the instructor will work with DSS to decide what to do (record the lecture to be interpreted later, allow the student to leave, etc.)
- Classroom Dynamics: Initially, an interpreter’s presence may be distracting to the instructor or other students. However, the initial curiosity will subside and having an interpreter in your classroom will be a comfortable situation for all concerned.
Real-time Captioning (Speech-to-Text) Services
- Speech-to-text service providers (“captionists”) provide real-time captioning during classes or events for students who do not use sign language or when exact word-for-word English is deemed essential. Captioning can be provided via several methods, such as word-for-word transcription (certified court reporter), or a more summarized captioning method such as C-Print.
- The captionist most often is situated in the front of the classroom and near the instructor, with the captions being displayed either on a laptop in front of the deaf student, or occasionally on a wall screen. The student should have both the captionist and faculty member in their field of vision as visual cues are an important aspect of any communication. A captionist is there to facilitate what is spoken in the class, by both faculty and other students, into a form of visual communication, for real-time access and interaction.
- Captionists will need an additional chair and may need to be seated near a power source for their equipment. It is requested that captionists be provided access to the course vocabulary, specifically names, or unusual or technical terms (copy of glossary or an extra desk copy of the text if available). These resources are requested in advance – as they can program their captioning equipment to assure more accurate transcripts. They also need a copy of the syllabus and calendar – such as canceled class dates, tests dates, etc. DSS can assist in obtaining an additional desk copy or in the purchase of an extra text, if necessary. Students may be provided a copy of the written transcript. DSS does request that the transcript not shared with others in the course, as it is part of a disability accommodation for a specific student.
- Information regarding class flow/timing, access to materials, schedule/location changes, no shows or classroom dynamics as described above is generally as applicable to real-time captioning services as to interpreting.