An interpreter is a professional who provides the communication link between hearing
and Deaf or hard of hearing individuals. This communication link is accomplished in a
variety of ways.

For Deaf or hard of hearing people using American Sign Language (ASL), the interpreter
translates or interprets spoken language into ASL and vise versa.

There are also other types of interpreting available. Oral interpreters silently form words
on the lips to provide communication to Deaf or hard of hearing individuals who utilize
lip-reading as their main method of communication. Deaf blind individuals also need
interpreters who are highly skilled and specialized in Deaf blind forms of

As with any language, years of training and experience are needed to develop fluency in
ASL. Most interpreters have several years of interpreter training and must pass a
certification and/or verification assessment of skill level before they can practice as an

An interpreter is not merely an individual with signing skills. A “signer” is not an
interpreter and should not be used in interpreting situations.


Like all individuals, Deaf and hard of hearing individuals deserve the opportunity to fully
comprehend conversations, lectures, interview, legal proceedings and all other situations
in which they participate.

When an individual’s hearing loss makes it difficult or impossible to understand another
person’s speech, an interpreter can bridge the gap. American Sign Language is also
considered a foreign language, with its own syntax, grammar, idioms, and rules to follow
which are not like English. Sign language interpreters are facilitating communication for
individuals, processing two different languages.

In any given communication situation between hearing and Deaf or hard of hearing
persons the communication barrier goes both directions. Interpreters can bridge the gap
for hearing people who have little or no sign language training or have difficulty
understanding a Deaf or hard of hearing person’s speech.

Depending on the needs of their clients, interpreters either function as transliterators and
translate messages exactly, including intonation and emphasis, or interpret messages into

It is their responsibility to convey information between Deaf and hearing individuals.
The interpreter will not counsel, advise, or teach the student.

After passing a rigorous examination, interpreters can be nationally certified and/or state
verified according to a level of skill.

Interpreters, whether nationally certified and/or state verified are requested to abide by
the RID/NAD Code of Professional Conduct. The philosophy states, “The American
Deaf community represents a cultural and linguistic group having the inalienable right to
full and equal communication and to participate in all aspects of society. Members of the
American Deaf community have the right to informed choice and the highest quality
interpreting services. Recognition of the communication rights of American’s women,
men, and children who are Deaf is the foundation of the tenets, principles, and behavior
set forth in this Code of Professional Conduct.”

All of the interpreters who are members and/or certified from RID or are state verified,
whether nationally certified or state verified, have agreed to follow the RID/NAD Code
of Professional Conduct’s Seven Tenets:

   1. Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.
   2. Interpreters possess the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific
      interpreting situation.
   3. Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific
      interpreting situation.
   4. Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
   5. Interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the
   6. Interpreters maintain ethical business practices.
   7. Interpreters engage in professional development.


Hearing loss does not affect intelligence. Interpreters are trained to bridge the gap
between different languages regardless of the education or sophistication of the
Relax. Talk at your normal speed; the interpreter will be several words behind you.

Allow the Deaf or hard of hearing student to work with you and the interpreter to find the
best location for the interpreter. It is important for all involved to have a clear line of
sight for the speaker, interpreter and Deaf student.

Avoid locating the interpreter in front of a bright light or window. Glare and shadows
make lip movements and sign language difficult to see.

Speak directly to the Deaf or hard of hearing student. There is no need to ask the
interpreter to tell something to the Deaf or hard of hearing student. In other words, speak
as you would to any individual and leave the rest to the interpreter. The interpreter is not
responsible, nor keeps tabs on the student’s progress in class. Please address any
academic concerns with the student directly.

Throughout the class interpreters are working to convey information, and therefore it is
important not include the interpreter in the classroom activities or small group
discussions. Also, during class lectures, do not solicit opinions or responses from the

Depending on the course content and length of class, two interpreters may be assigned to
one student. The team of interpreters works closely together and provides clarification
and missed information when necessary. Interpreters will switch at convenient times
during in class lecture.

And lastly, use all the facial expressions and gestures you normally use—they show your
interest and improve understanding. The Deaf or hard of hearing student sees both you
and the interpreter.

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