Over the course of their four years of study, William Woods bachelor’s degree students of ASL interpreting dive into every angle of what it takes to become a great American Sign Language interpreter.
Here are a few things that make American Sign Language Interpreters exceptional:
1. They are always learning.
In an article for Street Leverage, ASL interpreter Brittany Quickel writes: “Professional development in our rapidly evolving field of interpreting is also an ongoing endeavor.”
Keeping on top of trends and best practices is crucial.
You can do this by “taking advantage of local workshops in your area and the numerous online resources available to us through the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, as well as online discussion groups on Facebook and LinkedIn,” writes Quickel.
2. They have strong observational skills and can think quickly.
Interpreting ASL is very nuanced and it includes not only reading the words but the tone, facial expressions and body language of the speaker.
While every Interpreting course at William Woods touches on the importance of making quick decisions within an ethical context, in the ASL Interpreting course ASL220 Ethics and Decision Making, students model specific ethical decisions an interpreter may have to make, including specific nuances of working cross-culturally, power relations within and among groups, and ethical standards and statements from a variety of professions and communities.
3. They have passion and a positive attitude.
Interpreting is a people business, and a passion for helping people must be at the core of what ASL interpreters do. Every day, ASL interpreters facilitate communication between one or more parties and to do this accurately, they must be comfortable in any situation.
4. They are confident and prepared.
In a blog for LC Interpreting Services, advocate and well-known interpreter Lydia Callis sums it up well: “A high-quality interpreter will have real world experience, a flexible attitude… These individuals will be confident in their knowledge, will never accept a job they do not feel prepared for, and are not afraid to ask questions.”
5. They are empathic.
Lydia Callis also writes, “Taking on different roles allows interpreters to take a microscope to all these different parts of society. We are granted access to people’s everyday lives, and to be effective we must come to understand the situations that Deaf consumers find themselves in.”
One key to not just effective, but compassionate interpreting is the ability to empathize with every one in the room. An interpreter who can put himself or herself in the shoes of others can foresee clients’ needs before they ask, understand what they may be going through, and interpret with greater care.
As a part of a liberal arts education experience, William Woods ASL undergraduate students take several courses that build empathy, including various social work and psychology electives. But more than that, students engage in hands-on, real-world practice to understand diverse situations and people.
“ASL interpreters must be gracious friends and fierce allies of the Deaf community that welcomes us into their lives.” – Lydia Callis