American Sign Language Interpreter

American Sign Language Interpreter

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By Helena Wright

American sign language (ASL) is known as a language that uses various hand gestures to symbolize words and meanings. Sign language interpreters essentially translate the gestures that individuals use into a vocal language whether it be English, French or any other. Though sign language is a visual language and could possibly been see as “common sense” the gestures used are much more complex and difficult. People who practice ASL also move much quicker and for those that are uneducated in the language would have trouble keeping up or even recognizing the words that they are saying. That is why we have interpreters, because like any other language, there are barriers.

ASL is usually used for individuals that are hard of hearing, deaf, or non-verbal. Those that go into this profession would need to be educated on deaf culture and studies. It is said that just over 350, 000 Canadians would be linguistically or culturally deaf. Meaning that there are many people in Canada that don’t speak either English or French but still have to communicate to others that do not sign.  Interpreters, like translators have a whole spectrum of varying jobs they can do.  All of which have different hours, job descriptions and salaries. Interpreters must also be good at communication, quick thinkers and have a deep understanding of both ASL and the other languages.  An example to contrasting positions would be as a child’s aid worker helping integrate a kindergarten student into their class or in a court room translating a testimony. There are universities such as Carlton and provincial colleges that allow individuals to learn ASL academically – earning credits and in some cases, degrees.

The average starting salary is $30, 000 for an interpreter but with more experience and proficiency the opportunity for growth and advancement arises. The field of interpretation usually, though not always, leads to different fields of social work. Social work is mentally and emotionally straining and requires some discretion and support. Physically, the movement of sign language can be very difficult for those that do not have optimal mobility in their hands and wrists. Overall, sign language interpreters are seen as those that allow and help those that sign to communicate their actions into words.


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