What does a Sign Language Interpreter do?

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Published On: 11 Apr 2022Categories: Articles, Deaf Awareness

WHAT DOES A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER DO?

Sign language interpreters translate spoken language so that it is understood by Deaf people.

They do this by means of a sign language i.e., a combination of hand signs, facial expressions, and movements of the body. Sign language interpreters do not relay the message word-for-word; they transfer the meaning and basis of what is meant as closely as possible so that it is understood by Deaf people.

WHAT ROLE DOES THE INTERPRETER PLAY?

An interpreter’s role is to act as a communication tool between deaf people and hearing people. Interpreters are not meant to participate or give their own opinions on what is said. They are trained professionals that only sign what is spoken and vice versa and must be qualified to do so. Interpreters frequently work in pairs, taking turns to ensure effective communication and to make sure the correct information is being conveyed.

WORKING WITH AN INTERPRETER

What can you do to assist the interpreter in accomplishing the task of interpreting? It is important that you give them all the needed information about the task such as:

  • Topic • Setting • Expectations • Duration

TOPIC:

It is vital that you inform the interpreter of the topic/s that you will be discussing. Textbooks, class syllabus, handouts, notes are all important materials that can assist the interpreter. These materials help the interpreter to become familiar with the topics that will be discussed, and it will help the interpreter when interpreting key vocabulary words.

SETTING:

The setting of the event at which the interpreter will be interpreting is important information that needs to be communicated with the interpreter beforehand. The setting has an impact on the quality and clarity of the message. Keep in mind that poor lighting/visibility and visual “noise” will affect the clarity of the interpreter.

 EXPECTATIONS:

Communicate clearly what is expected from the interpreter. What you require the interpreter to do, interpret, relay, transcribe. Knowing what is expected helps the interpreter to be prepared and ready for the assignment.

DURATION:

The duration of the assignment will determine how many interpreters are needed. Interpreters cannot interpret for

long periods of time without a break, otherwise vital information is lost due to fatigue. Thus, interpreters take turns interpreting at intervals. Times such as the start and end of the event as well as breaks in between must be conveyed to the interpreter/s beforehand.

HOW TO MAKE USE OF AN INTERPRETER

  • Speak directly to the deaf/hearing impaired person at a reasonable pace. Keep in mind the person looks at the interpreter.
  • The interpreter has to be close to the speaker.
  • An interpreter should not stand with his/her back facing light or colourful designs that may distract attention.
  • Do not ask an interpreter for advice or opinions on what is discussed.
  • Everything you say will be interpreted, please do not talk about the deaf person to the interpreter.

DID YOU KNOW?

Interpreters need a break if interpreting for longer than 40 minutes.

TYPES OF INTERPRETING

SOUTH AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETING

It is the interpretation between a source language and a target language, e.g., English to South African Sign language and South African Sign language to English

SOUTH AFRICAN SIGN LANGUAGE DEAF RELAY INTERPRETING

It is the interpretation between the hearing interpreter, Deaf relay interpreter and the Deaf person. This interpretation occurs when a hearing interpreter is not familiar with the dialects of the Deaf person then the Deaf relay interpreter who is familiar with both the hearing interpreter and Deaf person’s dialects will relay the spoken information signed by the hearing interpreter to the Deaf person and a signed information from the Deaf person to the hearing interpreter.

TACTILE INTERPRETING

It is an interpretation done for DeafBlind individuals by touching of hands e.g. The interpreter interprets spoken language to sign language (by touching of hands) and sign language to spoken language.

TRANSLITERATION

The interpreter converts the spoken language to the Deaf person into a written or printed form without any loss in content but putting it in a different format. This method is also referred to as “Transcribing”.

WAYS OF COMMUNICATING WITH A DEAFBLIND PERSON

Tactile signing:

The Deaf-blind or hard of hearing person puts her/his hand on top or below the hands of the interpreter so that they can understand what being said.

Box Signing:

The interpreter signs within the box to the Deaf person with limited vision.

Tadoma: The Deaf person place their thumb on the interpreter’s lips and with small finger on the throat so that they can feel the vibration on the interpreters’ throat. This method is also known as “Tactile lip-reading”.

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do.

It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.”

– Rikki Rogers