Sign Language Interpretation and Translation  Program Description


Insider Info

dotGoing through a sign language interpretation program is a great way to dive into the mysteries of a world without sound.

Most sign language interpreter (SLI) programs are two years long. They are generally offered at community colleges. Some programs, however, are four years long and offer full undergraduate degrees.

SLI students gain an in-depth understanding of the interpreting profession and its code of ethics. They develop cultural mediation skills. And they learn to appreciate the importance of continued professional and personal development.

Judy Kegl is a professor of sign language interpretation at the University of Southern Maine. She says the courses students take are quite varied. They include deaf culture, linguistics and English.

"We also offer courses in critical thinking and a work experience component that pairs the student with a deaf person in one semester and a working sign language interpreter in a second semester," says Debbie Smith. She is the coordinator of the sign language interpreter program at a community college.

"Experience in the deaf community and a university-level English [course] would make candidates attractive to the college."

She says it's generally expected that students will have some previous experience with American Sign Language (ASL).

Potential applicants should volunteer in the deaf community. Take some sign language instruction through part-time study. "Courses in English, American Sign Language and social studies are perhaps the most important prerequisites," says Kegl.

Students often pursue double majors with courses related to sign language and deafness. Communication arts, social work, sociology, psychology and education are all popular choices.

Many SLI courses focus on issues within the deaf community. They include such important topics as deaf-blindness, interpreting, bilingual and bicultural education and sign language acquisition. They also cover sociolinguistic and cultural aspects of deaf life.

The main costs are tuition and books.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Interpreters and Translators

ASL Dictionary
Get help learning the signs

About American Sign Language
This site gives some background

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.