erica's asl blog

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ASL Paper

What it takes to become an interpreter for the deaf

Contrary to some beliefs, interpreting for the deaf is not just transferring American Sign Language and English word-for-word. American Sign Language, ASL, and English are two completely different languages. They have different grammatical structures, and many words in ASL do not directly transfer into English words. For example, sometimes when interpreting, simple English words will be replaced by complex facial expressions and body language in ASL. An interpreter must have knowledge of these different linguistic structures between the two languages (RID, 2006).

There are no course or degree requirements that must be reached prior to taking the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) certification exams, but I don’t recommend walking in without any professional training. To prepare for the exams, soon-to-be interpreters can take ASL courses at interpreter training programs, participate in ASL certificate programs, such as the one offered through Sacramento State University, interpreter workshops or conferences, or knowledge gained through first-hand or on-the-job experience (, 2006).

While taking sign language classes here at Sacramento State University does help your signing abilities, classes alone are not enough to become a certified interpreter for the deaf. To become a certified interpreter for the deaf in California, you must pass the performance exams given by the National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), NAD, NIC (the new NAD-RID test), the American Consortium of Certified Interpreters (ACCI), or an equivalent association. These exams include a written exam and a performance test. During the tests, candidates will be asked to interpret “voice-to-sign”, “sign-to-voice” and a one-on-one interview in which the candidate will be signing and voicing the message simultaneously (RID, 2006).

Soon-to-be interpreters are not only tested on their signing abilities, but are also tested on their ethics and professional behavior. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) use the “Code of Professional Conduct” to examine the candidates for certification. The seven parts of this code are: “

  1. Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.
  2. Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation.
  3. Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific interpreting situation.
  4. Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
  5. Interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession.
  6. Interpreters maintain ethical business practices.
  7. Interpreters engage in professional development.” (RID, 2006)

Since 1964, when the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was established and the Code of Ethics for interpreters was created, the demand for interpreters for the deaf has increased at astounding rates. Due to this recent growth in the demand for interpreters, many programs have been made for training to become an interpreter. There are also many more jobs for interpreters for the deaf that may include different required interpreting skills specific to those jobs. Some court rooms require the interpreters to “use the same grammatical person as the speaker for whom they are interpreting.” The interpreters are also required to be well-versed in formal legal language, colloquial, and slang so the interpreter can relay the exact message and tone to whom they are interpreting for (Mintz, 2002). While passing the certification exams may technically qualify you as an interpreter, jobs such as court interpreting may require additional skill and experience. (2006), Interpreting, Retrieved Aug 20, 2006 <>.

RID: Registery of Interpreters for the Deaf (2006), How to Become an Interpreter, Retrieved Aug 20, 2006 <>.

Mintz, David (2002, Dec 10). FAQs about Court Interpreting. Retrieved Aug 22, 2006 <>.


Blogger natech said...

Great post! Am passing this around especially those who are interested in becoming one.

12:32 PM  
Blogger Heather Quinn said...

A very thorough and updated post.
I'm an interpreter in San Diego and would also like to add that as of 2008 RID will require an Associates Degree in order to take the NIC and in 2012 a BA or BS will be required. Also, as of 2007 (month pending) all educational interpreters will be required to hold a score of a 4.0 on the EIPA assessment. This is the national educational interpreting certification. For more information on the EIPA you may visit

6:16 PM  
Blogger Coda Terp 258 said...

Nice Post! I'm looking to find more blogs like this one.

11:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home