Are you interested in becoming an American Sign Language interpreter? Are you curious about what that type of work entails? Is it easy or hard? It’s important to note that an interpreter’s work can vary greatly, which does make this job intriguing. Here are some examples:
A Day Working at a College:
As an American Sign Language interpreter working in a college environment, your schedule varies per semester. For example, when I worked as an interpreter in a college, one semester I had Art Appreciation, Economics, English as a second Language (ESL), Math, Civil Draft, and Welding. As you work through the semester, you may start to develop a preference for which classes you like to interpret best.
In my case, I felt that some of the “easier” classes were Math and English. The teacher may be another factor for you. Is class lead by someone who talks fast? Someone who talks slow? Someone who might have an accent? Or maybe they speak in a low voice? All these different things will sometimes make your job easier – or even harder! But of course, as interpreters, we stick to doing our job!
First Day of School
On the first day of school, you show up early before the class you were assigned to starts. Why? So that you can have enough time to “set up” your position where you will stand or sit in the class while interpreting and perhaps briefly explain to the teacher your role.
Also, you’ll need to set up where your “team” will be while you interpret. Depending on the college, you normally interpret classes in a team of 2 interpreters, taking turns interpreting. In some cases, you may interpret alone if there are not enough interpreters. Having this is of great help, not only do you get a break of interpreting, but they can help you with a sign or two if you get stuck or blank out on something. With some of the classes you get, sometimes that extra help is needed!
By arriving early, you can also get to meet the student you will be interpreting for. After all, you will most likely be with them the whole semester. Getting to know them or even developing a friendship with them will no doubt be a kind gesture on your behalf. In my experience, most deaf students got along with their interpreters because of that. Also, by meeting them beforehand you get to see what kind of signing they prefer, ASL or Transliterating (English).
When you arrive early, you can also start to prepare yourself beforehand. Going over different terminology in your head for that class, or even looking over the syllabus when possible. And for those who get nervous, you can prepare yourself mentally to be ready to interpret in front of the whole class! I know I sometimes do!
Go With the Flow
As the semester continues, your schedule may change or remain the same. Your teams may also switch or remain the same. The amount of actual interpreting you do may vary greatly as well.
For example, let’s say you have a class that meets twice a week, one day for lecture and the other for homework on the computer, what some call “lab day”. On the day of lecture, you interpret a lot – anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the class. On lab day, if they work completely online, you interpret very little – perhaps just the instructions the teacher may give. Also, if the class has a test, you again interpret very little. I’ll let you in on a little secret… sometimes we American Sign Language interpreters look forward to those days!
A day working in the community:
Community interpreting can vary greatly. You can start your day at a local Doctor’s office, perhaps a checkup with a patient. You will normally do these assignments alone, unless it’s a big assignment and they send a team with you. Or you can go to a school to interpret a parent-teacher conference. You can even get an assignment to interpret a whole graduation ceremony! That’s a tough one! Again, each assignment can vary, yet all interpreters have the proper training to handle each accordingly.
A day working in the office:
Interpreters can also work in an office-like environment, yes sitting in a desk with a computer all day. They do this for Video Relay Service (VRS). I personally don’t have experience in this, mainly because it’s not my preference. Some people love it!
Sitting at their desk, answering calls through the computer, interpreting between the client (deaf individual) and a third party, anyone from a restaurant to a family member, or a bank. Every call also changes, giving you different experiences to encounter. With the current pandemic, many interpreters can enjoy doing this work from the comfort of their own home. Convenient, isn’t it?
Being an American Sign Language Interpreter is an Adventure
Overall, any ordinary day for an interpreter brings many great adventures. You’ll experience various situations, both challenging and unique. But you’ll love interpreting! I certainly do! If you’re interested in pursuing this as a career, go for it! Or you could also take a sneak peek at what interpreting is like by learning ASL here on TakeLessons!