A sign language interpreter breaks through hearing barriers and helps people who are hard of hearing understand what’s being said and have a voice in a conversation that deals with others who do not understand sign language.
If you want to work in a courtroom, with government agencies or help those who use sign language, you can become an interpreter.
Essential Skills for an ASL Interpreter
ASL interpreters must have certain skills that will help them excel in their positions. If you want to enter this field, you should have the following skills:
- Quick thinking: You need to think quickly. Rapid speakers exist, and you need to be able to translate what’s being heard into sign language very fast.
- Experience: If you don’t know medical terms and need to think about a sign before making it, you’ll end up way behind. You need to have experience in multiple fields or be willing to specialize in certain areas, such as legal or medical, to be able to excel in this position.
- Observation: An interpreter will need to read body language well and understand facial expressions. For example, you may need to translate someone being sarcastic, which is only possible if you can read the person’s body language well.
You’ll obviously need to have a high level of language proficiency, flexibility and adaptability, cultural understanding and more.
The Path to Becoming an ASL Interpreter
A sign language interpreter is a professional who is highly trained and educated. If you want to enter this career, you’ll need to focus on two main types of requirements:
Your educational requirements will depend on where you live. In the US, the requirements are often set by the state. General requirements often include:
- High school degree or higher
- Master level of American Sign Language
- Potential college degree
Many positions will require a college degree in English, communication, interpretation or ASL. Some colleges offer certification programs that will provide you with the education and certification to be an ASL interpreter.
You may or may not need to have an ASL certification, depending on the place of employment that you’re seeking. If you do need to be certified, there are three main types of consider, starting with the National Interpreter Certification.
You can also pursue the same certification for:
Once you have your certification, you can then work in the field and begin seeking employment. You can work as a school interpreter or seek practical experience and training.
Practical Experience and Training
Meeting educational and certification requirements is essential if you want to offer sign language interpreter services, but the importance of practical experience cannot be overstated.
There is no substitute for being out in the field and working with clients.
Mentorships and internships are two excellent ways to obtain practical experience and gain valuable hands-on training. These opportunities will also allow you to build an impressive portfolio of work that demonstrates your skills and experience.
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To maintain certification, you will also need to meet Continuing Education (CE) requirements.
There are many courses and programs available to help ASL interpreters meet their CE requirements and stay ahead in the field, including those for:
Continued education gives you the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of translation, which can make your skills even more valuable and in demand.
Working as an ASL translator will open doors for you to offer sign language interpreter services or work for an organization that offers these vital services. If you’re interested in a career in this field, use the guide above to ensure you have the training and skills you need to get your foot in the door and advance in this field.