Questions Often Asked to a Sign Language Interpreter
As an interpreter, many questions are asked by the general public. Which some are shocking to me. And, looking back, it shouldn’t be so surprising that people who are not familiar with Deaf culture
I wanted to share some of these questions with you…
- Are you Deaf?
- This question gets asked a lot. It is surprising to me how many people have approached me and asked if I was Deaf. At first, I was shocked at the question. But now, I just expect it. I always answer this question two different ways. I say, “I am not Deaf. But, there are interpreters that are Deaf.” Then, I go on explaining the need for Deaf interpreters verses the need for interpreters who can hear.
- How long did it take you to learn ASL?
- This is a loaded question. And, to be honest with you, kind of a misleading question. I have been interpreting for over 26 years and I am still learning ASL. Like English, you never stop learning. There is always something to learn. As an interpreter, it is important to always maintain your ASL skills. For me, I became certified in about two years. For some, it may take more time or less. Depends on your passion for ASL. Regardless, the more you practice, the better you will become. And, we need more sign language interpreters badly.
- Do you get paid to interpret?
- Yes. Professional interpreters get paid a respectable amount of money. However, just like in the previous question, it takes years to get your skills up to where you can interpret. Now, some states require interpreters to be certified. And, if you live in one of those states, make sure you follow the law. In Michigan, if you are caught without being certified, it is a misdemeanor. You always want to make sure you are qualified for the assignment. For me, I may not be comfortable interpreting for an appointment for the opposite gender. There are somethings I don’t or should not know about women. Not only that, you want to make sure that you are able to provide the best service for your Deaf consumers. As an interpreter, your name is everything. You have to protect it. If you decide to take an assignment that you may not be “ready” for it, and you mess it up, believe me, the word would get around how badly you did on the assignment. Always be professional.
- How many signs are there in ASL?
- This is a great question. Like any other language, ASL is unique in grammar, syntax, structure, vocabulary, non-manual behaviors, fingerspelling, etc. I don’t know how many words there are in ASL. For ASLdeafined, we have over 16,000 words in our dictionary and it is still growing. But, ASL is not only about words, but it is based on concepts. ASL can be very complex, and at the same time, simple. For those who want to learn ASL, please check out ASLdeafined.com for FREE. You will love what you see. 🙂