Going 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,"
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
Get help learning the signs
About American Sign Language
This site gives some background