Sign Language Interpretation and Translation  Interviews


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dotWhat to Expect

Students in sign language interpretation programs learn to translate spoken language into signs. You need communication skills and a knack for language to succeed in this training.

Sam Hansen took sign language interpretation at a community college. His 30 hours of class per week involved essays, quizzes, reading assignments, shadowing and paraphrasing work.

"The most difficult aspect of the program for me was learning ASL [American Sign Language] and staying focused while doing verbal exercises such as paraphrasing an audio text," he says.

Mabel Chan took the sign language interpretation program at Madonna University in Michigan. But she got there through a series of strange events. She is originally from Singapore and came to the U.S. after she completed a degree in sociology. She had spent three months in Singapore working with deaf kids at the local YMCA.

"On the first day of work, my boss told me that YMCA has a youth program for deaf teens and I'd have to work with these young deaf people," Chan says. "I knew nothing about sign language then. So I learned from the kids. It was like a total immersion program."

She eventually decided to leave Singapore and move to San Francisco. She found that in order to be a permanent resident, she would need to acquire a skill that was lacking in the U.S. workforce. And this skill would have to be acquired through a degree program.

"At the same time," Chan says, "I also found out that the U.S. has a shortage of ASL interpreters. So I started to look for schools that offer a four-year program in sign language and interpreting and a study grant at the same time." And the rest is history.

How to Prepare

There are certain skills you need before you sign up. Chan says it would be beneficial to learn ASL and do some research into the history of deaf people.

Hansen advises high school students to take writing courses and get to know the local deaf community.

"Do as much research as you can on deaf culture. There are some great sites on the Internet and some great books on the subject."