Sign Language Interpreting

What is sign language interpreting?

Sign language interpreting is the art and (applied) linguistic science of rendering a spoken or signed message into its spoken or signed equivalent.

When working with an interpreter remember:

  • Keep lines of sight free for visual access to information. In class, the interpreter will attempt to stand or sit in direct line with you, the student, and any visual aids.  For interactive situations, semicircles or circles work best for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
  • Try to avoid talking while students are focused on written classwork. The student can't read/write and watch the interpreter at the same time.
  • The interpreter's job is to faithfully transmit the spirit and content of all auditory and signed information; allowing the student and instructor to control the communication interaction.
  • The interpreter(s) will need the following materials before the first class: a course syllabus, textbook for the class, access to handouts, outlines/PowerPoint slides, readings, overheads, and vocabulary lists that will be useful for the interpreter to use to prepare for class.
  • Speak naturally at a reasonable, modest pace, keeping in mind that the interpreter must listen and understand a complete thought before signing it. Thus there is an approximate 3-6 second delay between when an utterance is first made and when the interpreter produces the interpreted utterance.
  • The interpreter can only convey one message at a time after indicating the speaker. It is important that only one person speak/sign at a time. This will allow the interpreter to finish interpreting for the current speaker and enables the student who is deaf or hard of hearing to ask a question or make a comment.
  • The interpreter will relay your exact words. Use "I" and "you" when you communicate with deaf individuals using an interpreter. Look directly at the person you are communicating with, not the interpreter. Use of third party phrases such as "ask her" or "tell him" can be confusing.
  • Simultaneous interpreting requires the processing of new information while the information that was just communicated by the speaker is being delivered. For classes longer than one hour in which only one interpreter is available, a five-minute, mid-class break is essential. 

For more information or clarification, please call Kim Bates, Interpreter Coordinator at 864-4064.

**This information was modified from the PEPNet Teacher Tipsheet in order to meet the needs of students here at the University of Kansas.


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