Interpreting can take you anywhere from community to educational to legal interpreting. There is also a huge demand for healthcare interpreting and mental health interpreting. Additional skills can help you in international interpreting, trilingual interpreting and DeafBlind interpreting. Many of these specializations can also be addressed through video relay interpreting. Those who have been interpreting in the field for some time also have options in teaching interpreting and coordinating interpreting.
Community interpreting is where most new interpreters get started because of the opportunity to work one-on-one or in small group settings. Community interpreting is often interactive or dialogic, but not always. Examples of community interpreting are parent-teacher conferences, job interviews, business meetings, new home purchases, museum tours, weddings and funerals, and AA meetings. Read more about other community settings that require specialized skills and knowledge: medical, mental health, legal, trilingual, educational, and video.
With all the interpreting work out there, somebody’s got to coordinate it! Every state in the country has at least one public or private interpreter referral service. Most states have several to serve local and regional needs. In addition, many colleges, hospitals, and court houses have their own internal offices to coordinate myriad interpreting needs. In-house referral services often offer training, mentorship, and internships to support the continuing education needs of their staff and community interpreters. Many interpreter referral services are started or staffed by interpreters themselves. Do you have organizational skills? Can you see yourself doing this kind of work?
Interpreting for people who are DeafBlind is an interesting area of interpreting. It allows interpreters to broaden their perspectives and gain new skills as they discover how different kinds of low vision or blindness influence interpreting technique and process.
The interpreter learns how to provide both auditory and visual information, how to modify the signing space and the distance between the consumer and interpreter, and the importance of clothing and other factors in accommodating people who have various types of restricted vision.
The interpreter also learns tactile signing and tracking. Tactile signing is a hand-over-hand method for people who understand (read) signs by touch. The tracking system is used by DeafBlind people who can see and follow signs by holding the interpreter’s wrist or forearm.
An interpreter’s role when working with people who are DeafBlind is also often expanded to include guiding when walking from place to place, relaying visual/environmental information, note-taking, sight translation of printed materials or assisting with seating arrangements. It may also include working with one or more teams of Deaf interpreters who are interpreting directly with DeafBlind consumers using any of the various modes mentioned above. This type of collegial teamwork allows for continued growth and opportunities to learn.
DeafBlind people are part of the same general population as Deaf people. Anywhere an interpreter works, DeafBlind consumers may be present. The expansion of skills and knowledge as it applies to DeafBlind consumers provides the interpreter with a well-rounded complement of skills, allowing for a unique window into the interpreting process and how other people experience the world.
Do you find fulfillment working with children…but don’t feel teaching is your calling?
Have you considered becoming a qualified sign language interpreter who provides the visual access needed for students to actively participate in their own learning with teachers and peers?
Federal law classifies educational interpreters as related service personnel. This continues to strengthen the job market for educational interpreters across the United States. Working in this specialized arena provides constant stimulation as you work for students of different ages, abilities and interests…in different subject areas and at different academic levels in partnership with different educational team members.
Educational interpreting is a challenging profession that requires proficiencies in American Sign Language and English and the mastery of cognitive interpreting processes. Competent educational interpreters must also demonstrate knowledge sets related to child development and language acquisition, subject matter expertise as well as K-12 pedagogy, educational laws related to interpreter roles and responsibilities, and functional aptitude with other support systems (e.g., FM systems, CART, Cochlear Implants) used by students who are deaf or hard of hearing. All of these knowledge and skills sets must be partnered with the proven ability to work as a collaborative member of the educational team.
Individuals interested in a rewarding career as an educational interpreter will find that current national and states efforts are defining professional standards for educational interpreters. More than half of the states now require demonstrated competencies on a standardized testing system, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (2006) has recommended a baccalaureate degree be required of interpreters working in K-12 environments.
Communication is crucial for quality health care!
Not only is language an important vehicle for making a diagnosis and negotiating a treatment plan, it can also make the difference between life and death.
Across the nation, there is a demand for certified interpreters with specialized training in healthcare. In this expanding and exciting field you may find yourself interpreting during labor and birth one day and in the ER the next day. You may be in a large Level 1 trauma center or in a small neighborhood clinic. You may be interpreting for healthcare providers who are Deaf or you may interpret for patients who are Deaf. People of all ages and backgrounds need healthcare and certified interpreters find it challenging and rewarding to be the critical link for communication.
As with other types of interpreting, those working in the healthcare settings must have excellent competency in ASL and English, understand and apply ethical practices and render messages between languages that convey the original content and meaning. Successful healthcare interpreters have the ability to work in situations that can be emotionally and physically challenging. Interpreters in healthcare strive to maintain calm, even in highly stressful or tragic situations. They must strike a delicate balance between being compassionate and having clear boundaries, always keeping the focus on the communication between the healthcare provider and patient.
Around the nation, hospitals and clinics are increasingly aware of their legal responsibility to provide linguistic access. Interpreting in the healthcare setting is a growing area of specialization with many challenges and opportunities. If you’re interested in the healthcare system and cross-cultural communication, this may be the exciting and fulfilling career for you.
Interpreting in the legal setting offers the promise of a challenging and distinguished career or area of specialization.
Federal, state, and local courts throughout the nation are facing a severe shortage of qualified, professionally trained ASL-English interpreters to work within both criminal and civil court proceedings.
Qualified interpreters are also in high demand in law enforcement, court-related social service agencies, and for a wide range of administrative hearings. Interpreters working in this setting are those who have first achieved a high degree of generalist interpreting competence and certification, followed by further study and supervised work experience in a wide range of legal settings.
For those who wish to specialize in the legal setting, advanced certification is also available and encouraged. In many locales specialized legal certification is required.
Interpreters working in the legal setting find tremendous satisfaction in knowing that their services contribute to someone gaining important access to the legal system. Legal interpreting provides the opportunity to do work that is aligned with the deeply held values of fairness and equality. It may involve interpreting for someone who has been wrongly denied some basic human right or services, or a child who has been neglected, or an abused woman seeking protection from the courts, or wrongfully evicted tenants, or an AIDS patient denied health benefits, or any number of other life circumstances that require individuals to secure legal counsel and assistance. Regardless of the circumstance, the opportunity to contribute to communication access in a highly competent manner is exceptional.
mental health interpreting
Are you fascinated by human behavior, emotions and interpersonal dynamics? If so, the rewards of interpreting in mental health and substance abuse settings may be the perfect career choice for you.
The range of settings where mental health interpreters are required is diverse, including group and individual psychotherapy and counseling, psychological testing, and substance abuse treatment, among others. These settings can take place in clinics, hospitals, in-patient or outpatient sites, peer led settings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous), private clinicians’ offices and long-term residential treatment facilities.
There are a number of specialized skills needed to work in these settings. At times patients’ or clients’ language and modes of expression may be impaired or distorted, either by their illness, or by strong emotion, or both. Thus, the mental health interpreter needs excellent spoken and signed language skills as well as superior interpreting skills. Part of this language ability requires knowledge of the specialized techniques of speaking used in therapeutic relationships in order to determine and convey the therapeutic intent of the clinician’s interventions. Knowledge of mental disorders and medications commonly prescribed is also crucial for optimal interpreting in these settings, along with familiarity with a wide range of psychotherapeutic approaches (such as Jungian, art therapy, Rogerian, and so forth).
Mental health and substance abuse interpreting requires an individual to have a strong sense of ethics along with the ability to set appropriate boundaries. Strategies for self-care are vital in order to avoid being overly affected by the crises and struggles of others. Good team work skills are also needed, to work effectively with clinicians in providing effective treatment.
It’s not rocket science: To grow the number of interpreters across the U.S., we need more interpreting educators. If you have a substantial amount of interpreting experience and enjoy sharing your knowledge and skills with others, interpreting education may be a career path for you.
Interpreting educators need at least a masters degree to teach at the college level. A PhD is required for tenure track positions in four-year institutions. There are currently several masters level programs devoted to teaching interpreting.
Are you up for the challenge of interpreting in situations where three languages are used?
This is exactly what trilingual interpreters do to bridge the communication gap between an English speaker, a speaker of another language, like Spanish, and an ASL user. Trilingual interpreting is an emerging profession not only in the United States but also abroad.
There is a staggering demand for trilingual interpreters, especially as brought on by the growth of Video Relay Interpreting. The need for trilingual interpreters intensifies in areas of large ethnic populations, especially Hispanic, Asian, and also Russian.
To be a trilingual interpreter one must have the versatility, adaptability and cultural understanding of all three languages in order to convey all essential elements of meaning and to maintain message equivalency. Special training prepares the trilingual interpreter for the unique challenges of this work.
video relay interpreting
If you like variety, fast-paced work, and are comfortable with technology, video interpreting may be just the career path for you!
Today’s sign language interpreter has the exciting opportunity to live anywhere in America and work with people from Boston to Bangkok, through Video Relay Interpreting and Video Remote Interpreting. In both settings, the interpreter works from a central location, interpreting over live video and audio transmissions for Deaf and hearing people.
Video Relay Service (VRS) interpreting is fast replacing the text-to-voice relay services traditionally used in TTY calls. The explosive growth in video relay calls has increased the need for sign language interpreters to process these calls. A VRS interpreter typically connects to the Deaf caller through a video phone and then relays the call over an audio telephone line to the hearing caller. VRS interpreters relay all kinds of calls: between family members planning their next vacation, co-workers discussing a company project, and customers checking on their financial accounts. Additionally, VRS interpreters interpret for people from all around the country, and sometimes around the world. To ensure the success of their interpreters, VRS agencies often provide a supportive team environment where interpreters network with colleagues and receive daily mentoring.
Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is a technological twist on traditional interpreting, where the interpreter is connected to the assignment through a video connection. The hearing and Deaf consumers may be located in the same place, or they may be in different locations. Most VRI assignments have the interpreter calling in to a business or medical facility to interpret between the deaf and hearing co-workers or the patient and health care worker.
Regardless of which setting you choose, VRI and VRS interpreting can be exciting and filled with variety.
Really I find all interpreting work challenging. I don’t think there’s any job that I do that I’d feel is easy, or something where I can just tune out and not focus on my task. Interpreting is a challenging job and it’s rewarding because of that. And everything that I do, from a doctor’s appointment to a Video Relay call: equally as challenging.
finds all interpreting work equally challenging and rewarding
I really enjoy all the different things I get to see! I’ve done all kinds of classes, so I’ve learned a lot of things about computers and philosophy and history… almost any subject imaginable. I’ve worked in a lot of businesses and factories and seen how they make things. I’ve seen how government works a little bit. I’ve gotten a little taste of almost everything imaginable. And of course I enjoy working with Deaf people! American Sign Language is a fascinating language and it’s such a great means of communication that I enjoy, of course, as well. But I think really the biggest thing for me is I really enjoy all the experiences I’ve had just being in so many different places.
enjoys all the new things he is exposed to in the various environments that he works in
I think because I’ve worked in mental health and medical interpreting, I’ve been lucky to feel like my work has made a difference on a lot of levels. I worked with a 75 year-old deaf patient who had never had an interpreter even when undergoing major surgery. He told me recently that he will never again go to a doctor without an interpreter. Every time he sees me he hugs me and holds my hand. I know it’s not about me, but I am giving him respect and dignity and I am providing him the opportunity to talk with his doctors and vice versa. I get to see the difference my work makes on a daily basis.
found interpreting to be both humbling and rewarding