Professional sign language interpreters work in two ways: they provide an oral interpretation for hearing people of what a deaf or mute person is signing, and/or they provide a sign language interpretation for a deaf person of what a hearing person is saying. The interpreter provides a communication bridge between someone using a signed language and someone using an oral language.
In this article, I will share the unique facts about the Sign Language Interpreter profession.
1. Different Types of Sign Language
Did you know that there are many different types of sign language? Just like our spoken language, there are variations to sign languages too. We have listed some for you below:
American Sign Language (ASL)
People in the United States use a sign language called American Sign Language (ASL). ASL language development comes from French Sign Language, Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, and other local sign languages. When viewed from the cues to describe the alphabet, ASL only spells it with the fingers of one hand.
ASL and BSL are two separate languages that arose independently of each other. Although some signs appear similar to other’s, the lexicon is largely quite different in each language.
UK, Australia and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZL)
British Sign Language (BSL) is a form of sign language in Britain that involves hand movements, gestures, body language and facial expressions to communicate. Predominantly, people who are either deaf or have a hearing impairment use BSL.
Australia and New Zealand have a language similar to BSL. Therefore, it is often referred to as the British, Australian and New Zealand Sign Language (BANZL). BANZL uses 2 hands to draw the alphabet.
French Sign Language (FSL)
French Sign Language (FSL) basically influences other sign languages such as ASL, Irish Sign Language (ISL), Russian Sign Language (RSL), and others. Although similar to ASL, which uses one hand for spelling the alphabet, there are still minor differences across the sign language.
Fact #2: Shortage of Professional Sign Language Interpreters
The existence of sign language interpreters is the key to helping mitigate communication problems, but today there are fewer and fewer.
It occurs in almost all sign languages, for example, ASL interpreters. The shortage of ASL interpreters can especially happen in rural parts of America. Because there are fewer deaf people, and those who live in the area may face more issues accessing or affording interpreters.
Usually, a professional sign language interpreter holds an undergraduate degree in American Sign Language and a joint certification from the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
The shortage is also exacerbated when interpreters take the test to be certified but cannot work right away because of a lack of ASL graders.
For those who are still in school and planning their future careers or those who are planning to switch career lines, you can consider this. It may be your calling.
Fact #3: Sign Language Degree Program Exists For Aspiring Interpreters
Studying for a sign language degree can best be done abroad in the country whose system you want to learn. It will grant students the opportunity to practice the sign skills they have learned in real life. Study sign language abroad in the United States, for example, where students can master American Sign Language.
You can start learning ASL by attending a sign language class, along with downloading an application, watching videos on social media. We can find Sign language classes at community colleges, universities, libraries, churches, organizations/clubs of the deaf, and many other places. You can also expand your knowledge of ASL by practicing your signs with people who are deaf or hard of hearing and also know ASL.
Not only learning sign language, but you are also led to being more patient, empathetic, sensitive, and can handle how to deal with deaf people.
Fact #4: Learning from Fellow Deaf Friends
The most proficient and effective way to learn sign language is to get in the habit of interacting with deaf friends as often as possible. Because that way, implementing their knowledge becomes more effective and efficient.
The method used by Deaf friends to communicate, among others, is using mother tongue, for example, BISINDO (Indonesian sign language), verbal language and writing.
BISINDO is an Indonesian sign language that uses hand gestures and expressions. The general public often uses it. For verbal language, it is usually in the form of lip movements or expressions. And, if a deaf friend does not understand the mother tongue or BISINDO, he can use written language.
There are two languages of deaf friends, SIBI (Indonesian sign language system) and BISINDO. BISINDO uses two-handed movements, and SIBI uses one hand.
SIBI uses one hand, while BISINDO uses two hands.
BISINDO does not use word sequences, while SIBI uses word sequences. BISINDO is easier to understand, while SIBI is sometimes difficult to understand because there is a sequence of words that not everyone can understand.
We also need to know that every region in Indonesia has its own deaf culture. It also means that the use of sign language in each region also varies.
Fact #5: Interpreters Should Have a High Sense of Love and Empathy
Besides having the ability to master sign language, a sign language interpreter should have compassion and empathy. The work of a sign language interpreter requires patience, compassion, flexibility, and a heart of service.
Without the empathy shown for people with disabilities, especially deaf people, sign language becomes more difficult to understand.
Fact #6: Meet People and Travel the World For Work
Many sign language interpreters relish the opportunity to travel locally and internationally as a part of their interpreting-related work. When they got an invitation to interpret for a study abroad, a cruise, or an organized tour, they accept the assignment with joyful anticipation. These assignments do indeed offer sign language interpreters important opportunities for professional growth and personal fulfilment.
Fact #7: One of The Most Challenging Professions
Deaf people have different abilities. Some are easy to understand, some are hard to understand. The biggest challenge is in explaining so the deaf can understand.
If you are an interpreter for public events and television, the speaker is too fast to talk; you have to be patient and calm. Because you have to do two things at the same time. Listen to resource speakers and translate them for other deaf people.
That is the fact about sign language interpreters. I hope you will become more confident in this profession, or at least you will learn basic sign language to facilitate communication between deaf people and those who are hearing.
If you plan on becoming a professional Sign Language Interpreter, you may search for some colleges on the trusted website.
And if you need an interpreter for a sign language other than BSL or ASL, you can find a skilled sign language interpreter in several credible interpreter providers that can work offline or online.