What 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
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."