National Association of the Deaf

Interpreting American Sign Language



So you’re thinking of becoming an interpreter! That’s good, because there’s always a demand for skilled interpreters who can sign fluently and read another person’s signing well.

The demand for qualified interpreters exists in many settings: educational interpreting in K-12 and higher education settings; in the community, such as for doctor’s visits, court appearances, and business meetings; and for the provision of video relay services (VRS) and video remote interpreting (VRI) services.

If you are a novice signer or have just begun to take sign language classes, you are not ready to become an interpreter; not yet. Interpreting also involves more than just signing. An interpreter must accurately convey messages between two different languages. It is a skill that takes time to develop.

Deaf and hard of hearing people deserve to have interpreters who know what they are doing and who do it well. A qualified interpreter is one who can, both receptively and expressively, interpret accurately, effectively, and impartially, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. Interpreters who struggle with their own expressive and receptive sign skills are difficult to understand, and cannot convey their clients’ messages accurately. This situation benefits no one. Deaf and hard of hearing people get frustrated, hearing people (businesses, speakers, interviewers, etc.) form an unfavorable impression of the entire experience, and the interpreting profession gets shortchanged.

Prospective interpreters will be tested on their expressive and receptive signing, sign-to-voice, and voice-to-sign skills. You are encouraged to take as many workshops and classes as possible to increase and improve your skills. Practice with deaf and hard of hearing people often to improve your receptive and expressive skills. Better yet, challenge yourself by finding several deaf or hard of hearing people whose signing skills and speed makes you tremble all over, and ask them for their honest assessment of your skills. If they think you have what it takes to become an interpreter, then it is worth your time and effort to get training in interpreting and undergo the certification process. The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) maintains a list of Interpreting Training Programs (ITPs) and has other information about the interpreter profession.

Good luck!