Category Archives: Sign Language Mentoring Services nyc

So You Want to be an ASL Interpreter

how-to-become-asl-interpreter-01There are many students heading into the fall semester at colleges and universities across the country who remain uncertain about their career path. Planning for the future can be overwhelming, but take it from me: entering a profession that you love is a truly rewarding experience. If you have ever thought about pursuing a job as a sign language interpreter, here are seven factors to consider.

1. Job Market

asl-interpreter-job-faq-info-02ASL interpreting is a growing profession with plenty of room for dedicated providers. Interpreters are increasingly being used in a variety of settings such as schools, medical offices, business meetings, social events, theaters, and call centers. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for “Interpreters/ Translators” is expected to rise 46% from 2012 to 2022. The need for qualified ASL interpreters will continue to rise as people who are deaf keep breaking through barriers to participate in areas of life where they were previously excluded.

2. Passion for Communication

asl-interpreter-job-faq-info-03Motivated sign language interpreters love the way language can be used to form meaningful connections. Strong linguistic skills are necessary for facilitating nuanced (and sometimes critical) conversations between deaf and hearing parties. Sign language interpreters need to take the time to understand each side, their motives, and their communication style so that they can ensure the messages are being faithfully conveyed. People who wish to be ASL interpreters are those who enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and hearing about their experiences.

3. Love of Deaf culture

asl-interpreter-job-faq-info-04Deaf culture is made up of individuals who take great pride in their rich heritage and visual language. Those pursuing careers in the interpreting field will, of course, need to work toward conversational fluency in American Sign Language. They must also learn Deaf history, follow contemporary issues, and try to understand the everyday experience of deafness. This means active involvement in both the Deaf and interpreting communities! Interpreters cannot just sit on the sidelines, because the quality of our work lies in our passion for the communities we serve.

4. ASL Skills

Not everyone is fluent in ASL when they decide to become an interpreter, and that’s ok. For those individuals, the first step to becoming an interpreter is working on sign language skills in a formal environment— a workshop, classroom, or private lessons. If possible, look for instructors who are native sign language users (those who are Deaf or CODAs) to help develop your full understanding of ASL grammar, vocabulary, structure and Deaf culture. Once you gain confidence in your level of fluency, become engaged with the local deaf community. Practicing with native signers will hone your conversational skills.

5. Education

asl-interpreter-job-faq-info-05All deaf individuals deserve an ethical interpreter with the skills to get the job done right. Over the past 25 years, ASL interpreters have worked hard to create a high standard of quality within our field. This begins at the very foundation: education.

As of 2012, a bachelors degree is required for interpreters to become certified by Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), although the degree does not have to be in interpretation. If you are ready to pursue ASL interpreting as a career, it’s time to enroll in an Interpreter Training Program (ITP). You can enter an ITP with an associates degree or during a bachelors program. In these structured programs, students gain the knowledge and skills they need to become a top quality ASL interpreter. While an ITP might not be mandatory, those who do not complete a training program tend to lack a body of knowledge when it comes to being a well-rounded provider. A combination of classroom and supervised field experience prepares future interpreters bridge the Deaf-hearing communication gap in an ethical and reliable way.

6. Licensure and Certification

Every state has a different system as far as licensure and certification requirements, so be sure to check with your state commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. After your ITP has been completed, the next step is the National Interpreter Certification (NIC). The NIC is a two part examination given by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and RID. The NIC exam includes a computer-based component which tests your knowledge of Deaf culture and the field, and a performance exam. This NIC measures your competency as an interpreter and helps clients and consumers to feel confident in your skill set.

7. Continuous Professional Development

asl-interpreter-job-faq-info-06In this field, education does not end with a degree! The best ASL interpreters are those who actively engage in mentorship programs, as well as professional development workshops, conferences and seminars. Interpreters must keep challenging themselves to provide better services and become stronger advocates. We need to pay close attention to the issues facing both the Deaf community and the interpreting community, discuss these topics collectively, and then work to resolve these issues in our own practice. If you are looking for a job that starts at 9am and ends at 5pm, you may want to consider another line of work. ASL interpreting is a career choice that requires dedication and humility.

It is inspiring to enter a field of motivated professionals who are genuinely passionate about the work that they do. Engaging with Deaf consumers and hearing clients on a daily basis opens your mind to new perspectives and provides constant opportunity for personal growth. If you are looking for a rewarding career where each day is different and you get the opportunity to help others, ASL interpreting might be right for you!

Discover the Silent World of Deaf America

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-01Lately it seems like American Sign Language is everywhere! It’s been making appearances at musical performances and sporting events. It can be seen in news stories, comic books, movies, and TV shows. Pop stars are using it, sports mascots are using it, even President Obama knows a little ASL. With so many people finally embracing this second American language, there has never been a better time to begin learning to sign.

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-02In my opinion, the best reason to learn sign language is that it allows you to communicate with the estimated half million Americans who use ASL as their primary language. This gives you the opportunity to make new friends, connect with deaf classmates and coworkers, or help deaf customers feel welcome at your business. Knowing ASL, even just some basic everyday signs, sends a message to deaf people that you are willing to step outside of your hearing comfort zone to engage with them. Our society is so focused on verbal communication, sound, and noise, that deaf people often feel forgotten. Even learning how to say “hello” or take a simple food order in sign language breaks down a small barrier and can brighten another person’s day.

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-03Knowing how to sign opens up a whole new world — a place where words exist in 3-dimensions. ASL is a beautiful visual communication form which relies on body language and facial cues. It is emotional and highly expressive. If you’re a hearing person who wants to become a better listener, learning sign language can actually help! Sign language requires eye contact and attention to detail, which makes ASL users very perceptive to subtle changes in mood.

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-04Members of Deaf Culture are considered a linguistic minority, with ASL serving as the foundation for this unique subset of American Culture. Discovering ASL can help hearing individuals access a different perspective about the very society they live in. As a person learns the words of another culture, they can come to understand their values. The more one explores ASL, the more opportunity they have to understand the Deaf experience.

Besides breaking through the barriers between deaf and hearing culture, there are a number of other benefits to learning ASL. It makes you bilingual, which looks great on your resume. It allows you to communicate with people across a noisy room. Sometimes, such as the example of this 10 year old girl, knowing ASL can help you save a life. If you’ve never seen an ASL musical performance or ASL poetry, you are definitely missing out. Check out some videos by Peter Cook or the Deaf Jam documentary to get a little taste; but nothing compares to the live experience.

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-05Hearing individuals who are interested in sign language have nothing to lose and everything to gain! ASL is fun to learn, and as American as apple pie. Learning a new language can be challenging, but moving outside our comfort zones encourages personal growth and development. Why limit your possibilities? You never know, maybe the romantic partner of your dreams is deaf. Not knowing sign language could prevent you from ever making that connection.

If you’ve been thinking about discovering the silent world of ASL, just start learning today! You don’t even need to leave your couch.

There are a number of completely free resources for learning sign language on your own time.

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-06Websites:

Apps:

YouTube Channels:

american-sign-language-deaf-culture-07In addition to this brief list, there are hundreds of other sign language resources available online at very affordable prices. Of course, it is always best to learn one-on-one when possible. Be sure to look for classes in your community, or connect with an ASL instructor for a few structured lessons. Start today and before you know it, you will find yourself immersed in the fascinating culture of Deaf America!

LCIS is thrilled to offer personal ASL training for individuals or groups. Learn sign language on your own time, at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home or a public location in NYC. Learn to sign while exploring Deaf culture and current issues in the community. Get an in depth perspective on deafness and deaf communication from our qualified instructors.

Deafness is Not One Size Fits All

nick_news_with_linda_ellerbeeThe pediatrician just informed you that your child is profoundly deaf.

What is deafness like?

How does deafness impact a person’s life? What will you do now? Your answers to these questions will depend on personal experience. If you have connections to Deaf culture, you may feel very differently than someone who has never had interacted with a deaf person. Though we live in the Information Age, mainstream society still understands very little about what it means to be deaf.

This week, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee premiered an episode titled “Now Hear This!” (watch the full episode HERE ) The show does a great job exploring the spectrum of deafness, and demystifying the deaf experience by telling the stories of 5 deaf young people. The children’s’ experiences are vastly diverse, and touch on a number of issues from deaf education methods to family dynamics. The overall message is that, like any of us, deaf children have individual needs. Despite what some may claim, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for being deaf!

Scochlear-implant-graphicome families choose to assimilate their child to a hearing lifestyle by implanting a device called a cochlear implant into the skull, which stimulates the auditory nerve and allow the brain to “hear.” Sammy is a CI recipient from a hearing family who jokingly refers to herself as “part robot.” She was not born deaf, but her hearing deteriorated throughout childhood and, at 12 years old, she made the choice to have CI surgery. According to Sammy, her parents presented the pros and cons, and she strongly feels a CI was the right choice for her. She attends school with all other hearing students and plays on a basketball team, insisting she doesn’t need to know ASL because she can hear. Cici also comes from a hearing family, she lost her hearing as a baby. Her parents elected to send her to a school for deaf children that focuses on teaching English and oral communication, so she never learned any ASL. At 5 years old she received her CI. “It was hard to learn to speak,” she says, but she feels very grateful that she did because it allows her to communicate with her family and non-deaf friends. Cici is a ballet and tap dancer who feels that deafness is a disability that her CI and hearing aid help her overcome.

Restored Hearing - Cochlear ImplantAlthough the first instinct of a hearing parent might be to “fix” their “disabled” child through technology, they should first explore the many perspectives about deafness. Yes, cochlear implants and hearing aids work great for some people, but every person is different and everyone learns differently. In the show, CiCi says she loves her CI, but acknowledges how difficult it was to learn spoken English. Imagine having dyslexia– or any common learning disability– and being forced to learn a challenging foreign language. Though Cochlear Implants or oral English education do work for many, it’s unfair to assume that all deaf children have the same capabilities.

asl-interpreter-services-nycOther families choose American Sign Language for their deaf child. Isabella was born deaf and grew up in an all-ASL family, with two deaf parents and one hearing sister. She discusses education at her Deaf school, playing soccer on a hearing team, and having fierce Deaf pride! Isabella does not view deafness as a disability in any way, and she loves the language of her family. Arbab is a young man from a hearing family, who became deaf as an infant. In Pakistan, he would not have had educational opportunities, so his family immigrated to the US to ensure a better life. Arbab’s family does not use ASL and he does feel isolated from them, but he absolutely loves attending asl-interpreter-services-nyDeaf school where he signs freely with his peers. He uses technology, such as texting or video chat, to contact his friends when he is feeling lonely. Kaylee is the only deaf person in her entire town but, when she was in preschool, school administrators decided to add ASL to the curriculum for her whole class. The hearing kids all learned sign language, and use it throughout the school day to make sure Kaylee feels included. “My hearing friends sign to me, they are very fluent,” she says, “when my hearing friends don’t sign to me, then I feel alone.” She and her hearing friends love ASL and have made it their goal to spread Deaf awareness by volunteering to teach ASL to children.

private-ASL-lessons-nyAs a parent, it is your responsibility to become educated about your child; to engage and develop a relationship with them. Learn about deafness, and Deaf culture. Discover all the options available before making any major life decisions. Deaf children, like hearing children, have limitations, and areas where they excel. Instead of dictating how young deaf people should live their lives, parents can work together with their child to find the most comfortable way of adapting. This solution may not always be what the parent initially expected, and that’s ok! Holding on to strict expectations for any child– deaf or hearing– is unfair. Every person and their circumstances are unique!

“Now Hear This!” explores a spectrum of deafness, language use, and the various strategies deaf people use to communicate. We get a glimpse of how deaf people fit into different families, and how much parental choices can impact the course of a child’s life. Most importantly, the program presents 5 well-adjusted young people doing the best they can to learn new things, make new friends, and be understood “in a hearing world that doesn’t listen.”

How Do I Know What Interpreting Agency to Work For?

hearing_speech_agency-interpretingLast year, audiences watched in disbelief as the South African sign language interpreter for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service earned the nickname “the fake interpreter.” Insulted, but not entirely surprised, the global deaf community used this public example to bring attention to an unfortunately common problem. The agencies which provide interpreters, even for large televised events, aren’t always looking out for the best interest of the communities they serve.

Applying to an Interpreting Agency

deaf-hoh-interpreting-agencyWhen interpreting agencies assign unqualified interpreters to jobs, they are denying equal access– it happens at hospitals, police stations, and court rooms alike. From the very start of our careers, interpreters should aware that these agencies are unethical, and that it is our professional responsibility to ensure access for the deaf is provided.

Novice interpreters graduate from their Interpreter Training Program (ITP) eager to begin serving the deaf community. For many, this means moving to a large metropolitan area, a place where they may not be familiar with the community, the neighborhoods, or the job opportunities available. When I first moved to New York City, I just wanted to get right to work! I have learned that professional responsibility starts right here, at this juncture. If you recently relocated or graduated from an ITP program, there are ways to ensure you are working for a reputable agency that cares about the quality of the interpreters that they provide to the deaf community.

Looking for agencies that are Deaf or sign language interpreter owned and operated is a good first step. People who live and work in the deaf community understand the importance of matching a deaf consumer with a skilled qualified interpreter. They can recognize any issues which might arise between interpreters and clients, and advocate for the deaf consumer when needed. Multiple language interpreting agencies are often unfamiliar with deaf specific issues, making them less qualified to mediate these types of cultural misunderstandings.

NAD-RID-agency-nycResearch agencies to ensure they adhere to RID/NAD standards. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) is a professional organization which strives to provide consistent and ethical sign language interpreters. The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is a civil rights organization by and for deaf people, representing the interest of deaf and hard of hearing individuals across the United States. Together RID and NAD have developed a Code of Professional Conduct, a set standard practices and expectations for interpreters that protects the rights of deaf consumers. It is crucial that any agency an ASL interpreter applies to is not only familiar with, but in strict adherence of these policies. It shows respect for deaf consumers and a desire to provide the highest quality ethical interpreting services.

deaf-hoh-interpreting-agency-nycWhen applying to an interpreting agency, find out how they treat their employees and pay careful attention to the hiring process. It is important that the agency have an accurate interview and screening process, which will include assessment by a deaf or hearing interpreter to appropriately evaluate each new interpreter’s skill set. A quality interpreting agency will know their interpreter’s strengths and weaknesses, and distribute assignments accordingly.

Seek out agencies that follow community standards and protocol to ensure interpreters are taken care of. Assignment details should provide as much depth as possible to help prepare interpreters for any demands that may arise. An agency which demonstrates concern for its’ interpreters will work within the Demand-Control schema to reduce occupational stressors, allowing interpreters to perform at the highest possible level. Assignment details are so critical for interpreters because we are synthesizing conversations based on a specific situation. If we do not have the correct information, or have an incomplete picture, we will be doing a disservice to the deaf consumer.

spanish-sign-language-medical-interpreter-jobsOne difference between spoken language interpreters and sign language interpreters is team interpreting. When interpreting a verbal language into a physical one, ASL interpreters become prone to both physical and mental fatigue. After one hour of interpreting alone, even the best sign language interpreter will be providing a lower quality of service. ASL interpreters should make sure any agency they apply to regularly provides team interpreting for assignments. Not every situation requires a team of interpreters, but many do and it’s best to look for agencies that are ready to provide interpreters with support in the field.

sign-language-interpreter-agency-nycBefore you sign a contract with any agency, be sure you read it very thoroughly and that you agree to the terms. If you find any questionable items in the contract, bring it back to the agency to discuss how your needs can be met. Look for the following items: a cancellation policy that ensures pay for the interpreter if the assignment is cancelled without 24-48 hours notice; a policy that states payment will be made within 14-45 days of an assignment; and pay that follows the cost of living standards for your area. Whether you live in a city or rural area has a big impact on your income. Learn the standard rates for non-certified and certified ASL interpreters in your city, and seek out an agency that provides all interpreters a fair hourly wage.

sign-language-interpreter-nycWhen working for an organization that understands the deaf community, and truly cares about the quality of services they provide, interpreters will find they are better supported and able to focus. Look for agencies which emphasize the RID/NAD Code of Professional Conduct and have connections to deaf culture. At the end of the day, the people who suffer most when unqualified interpreters are assigned to jobs are deaf consumers. If an interpreter lacks the skill set to perform a specific task, and the agency does not recognize this, the deaf person is denied access. By partnering with ethical, consumer-focused agencies, sign language interpreters choose to support professionally responsible business practices. Beyond that, they choose to support equal access– and that’s what this job is all about!

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If you are seeking a professional ASL interpreting mentor, my services are available. It is critical for interpreters to continuously develop their professional skills at every step of their career. LC Interpreting Services is deeply involved with the deaf community, focused on deaf consumers, and passionate about providing equal access in all situations. If you are looking for career guidance and information about reputable agencies, LCIS would be happy to help!