There are different kinds of “visual language” interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing people that relay messages by revoicing, signing, and/or cueing:
Interpreters only relay information, they do not impose their ideas or make decisions for their deaf clients.
Sign Language Interpreters
Many of you have probably seen sign language interpreters at some events. They are sometimes called “signers”, but it’s not a correct description. A signer is someone who knows sign language – who could be a deaf person – while an interpreter is someone who is professionally trained to be able to convey and perceive between spoken and signed languages. It would be similar to someone who speaks a foreign language but is not qualified to be a foreign language interpreter. Sign language interpreters are thoroughly trained to become proficient by better understanding Deaf culture and regular interactions with Deaf people.
There are different kinds of signing systems:
- Pure ASL (with a grammatical structure different from English – it is not coupled with any voice and is the language of culturally Deaf people),
- PSE (Pidgin Signed English – that has ASL signs and follows a grammatical structure of English and includes fingerspelling only for important words that don’t have signs for and may be used with some voice and mouthing),
- SEE (Signed Exactly English – that has letter-based signs and follows a grammatical structure of English and additional fingerspelling for everything else that don’t have signs for and may be used with some voice and mouthing),
- Rochester method (fingerspelling each word – which is very rare for full conversations, but may be used for explaining some of English grammar or sharing English slangs).
Not all deaf people use ASL for all situations. Some were raised oral and learned sign language later in their lives, so they may use more English-based signing. Before conversing with deaf people, it would be good to ask them how fluent they are in sign language and to adapt to their signing styles.
If you are interested in becoming a sign language interpreter, you can check with RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) for more information on where to get training.
Oral interpreting is less common, but benefits some people who have good lipreading skills and don’t know sign language. An oral interpreter revoices to a deaf client by silently mouthing spoken words and may also use facial expressions and gestures.
If you are interested in becoming an oral interpreter, you can check with RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf) and AG Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing for more information on where to get training.
Cued Speech Transliterators
Cued Speech Transliterators are completely different from sign language interpreters and benefit deaf cuers who know little or no sign language and have limited lipreading skills. The transliterator cues the sounds of words visible to a deaf cuer who can understand word for word what was being said in a spoken language.
If you are interested in becoming a cued speech transliterator, you can check with NCSA (National Cued Speech Association) for more information on where to get training.