The goal of an interpreter is to make communication as complete as possible between both Deaf and hearing people. Conversational fluency in ASL does not necessarily qualify a person to be an interpreter.

Professional training is vital so that interpreters learn to convey the thoughts, feelings, words, attitudes and meaning of the messages presented, whether those messages are spoken English, ASL or other modes of signed communication. Interpreters strive to be both bilingual and bicultural.

Because the interpreting profession serves a population with varied communication needs and language proficiencies, interpreters must be extremely versatile so that they can meet the challenges that arise in interpreted situations.

These qualities are essential for a student to possess before beginning interpreter preparation:

  • General Curiosity about all subjects
  • Strong interest in people
  • Objectivity
  • Flexibility
  • Good Judgment
  • Reliability and Integrity
  • High Motivation to Achieve
  • Good Physical and Mental Health
  • Excellent Recall/Memory Skills
  • Proficiency in English
  • Fluency in ASL

Test your qualities

A strong interest in people

It is so sad that Sign Language is not universal! How do you react to that statement?

  • I roll my eyes and will explain: "Of course not, because…."
  • You make a pity face: "Yes, isn´t it?"
  • Well, actually I enjoy the diversity. Did you know, that Sign Languages can help us to understand the development of languages in general?"


You have an interpreted a rigorous contest and your assigned team has won. Everyone gets flowers at the end of the event except you. How do you react?

  • assume it was a mistake and talk to the team leader
  • take a flower bouquet from someone else
  • you don´t care and smile for the winning picture


You are asked to interpret for a company´s team building event. You arrive at the meeting point and realize that the event will take place in a forest. Dressed in a skirt and pumps you start to anticipate:

  • I will go back to my car and get my trainers and jogging gear, which I luckily have with me all the time
  • You think: Since it is about team building and the Deaf person has no 24/7 interpreter anyway, it actually does not really matter if I join the team or not.
  • I am uncertain what to do and start looking for the deaf person and the team leader

Good Judgment

You interpret in a K-12 setting. The teacher enters the room and says: "uh, it´s cold in here!" What do you interpret?

  • "it´s cold in here"
  • "Do you mind closing the window?"
  • "He says you should close the window"

Reliability and Integrity

You interpret between a hearing employer and a Deaf employee. The boss is asking the Deaf person to work overtime for the following weekend. However you know, that the deaf persons will fly across the US to join the biannual NAD event that weekend. How will you interpret the Deaf person´s refusal?

  • You will not interpret the refusal but tell the deaf person if he does not come this weekend he could be fired.
  • You ask him if you could get the NAD ticket?
  • You interpret the refusal as careful as possible trying to explain the cultural importance of NAD meetings to the superior.

High Motivation to Achieve

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Good Physical and Mental Health as well as General Knowledge

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Excellent Recall/Memory Skills

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Fluency in English

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Fluency in ASL

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