Becoming a Sign Language Interpreter in the great state of Alabama
Interpreters and transliterators facilitate the cross-cultural communication necessary in today's society by converting one language into another. However, these language specialists do more than simply translate words—they relay concepts and ideas between languages. They must thoroughly understand the subject matter in which they work in order to accurately convey information from one language into another. In addition, they must be sensitive to the cultures associated with their languages of expertise.
Education and Training. The educational backgrounds of interpreters vary. Knowing at least two languages is essential. Although it is not necessary to have been raised bilingual to succeed, many interpreters grew up speaking two languages.
In high school, students can prepare for these careers by taking a broad range of courses that include English writing and comprehension, foreign languages, and basic computer proficiency. Other helpful pursuits include spending time with other Deaf students, engaging in direct contact with members of the Deaf community and learning about their culture, and reading extensively on a variety of subjects in English and at least one other language.
Beyond high school, there are many educational options. Although a bachelor's degree is often required for jobs, majoring in sign language is not always necessary. Formal programs in interpreting and translation are available at colleges nationwide (see ITP link on left) and through non-university training programs, conferences, and courses. Many people who work as conference interpreters or in more technical areasundefinedsuch as legal or educationalundefinedhave master's degrees.
Whatever path of entry they pursue, new interpreters and should establish mentoring relationships to build their skills, confidence, and professional network. Mentoring may be formal, such as through a professional association, or informal with a coworker or an acquaintance who has experience as an interpreter. Both the ALRID and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf offer formal as well as informal mentoring programs.
Self-employed and freelance interpreters need general business skills to successfully manage their finances and careers. They must set prices for their work, bill customers, keep financial records, and market their services to attract new business and build their client base.
Certification and Licensure. The National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) jointly offer certification for general interpreters and transliterators (visit RID.org). In addition, the registry offers specialty tests in legal interpreting, speech reading, and deaf-to-deaf interpreting, which includes interpreting among deaf speakers with different native languages and from ASL to tactile signing.