Interpreting FAQ / Q & A

This page shows questions readers sent me over the years and the answers I gave them at the time. The newer questions are in the comments section. If you have a question, feel free to post a comment.

Here is a video I made of myself answering a common question in ASL:

What interested you in sign language interpreting?

Everyone asks me how I came to learn sign language. I don’t have any Deaf family. I was born to hearing parents. However, my mother and grandmother loved foreign languages, and I can’t remember a time when I was not exposed to and fascinated by foreign words and phrases. I couldn’t wait to learn a foreign language, and in seventh grade, I took French. I studied French for three years, and then took Spanish for the last two years of high school. In college, I took an intensive summer course in French. I have maintained and expanded my skill in these languages with continual practice.

In 1987, when I was a theater student at the UCLA College of Fine Arts, I went to a monologue competition, and saw a young woman deliver Sarah’s speech from Children of a Lesser God. The young woman spoke and signed at the same time, and she looked fluent and expressive. I remember the line, “you will never understand my silent world until you learn my language.” I knew then that I must learn ASL! It would be another two years before I actually took my first ASL class. In 1989, I took an ASL course at San Diego Mesa College, and, as they say, “it changed my life!” I decided to take all four courses in ASL, moved in with a Deaf person, learned quickly and, after only a year-and-a-half, began interpreting at the same time I began my Interpreter Training Program (ITP). I received my associate degree in American Sign Language/Interpreting with from San Diego Mesa College in 1993. Since June of 1990, my main profession has been ASL interpreting. In 1991, I earned a Level IV (Advanced) Certificate of Competence from NAD (National Association of the Deaf). In 1997, I joined RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf); in 1998, I became a certified interpreter (CI), and in 1999, I became a certified transliterator (CT). In 2010, I earned my NIC Master certificate. I served as secretary, membership chair, bylaws chair, and Webmaster for SDCRID (San Diego County RID) from 1999–2003. Since I moved to Phoenix in 2004, I have been a member of the Arizona RID.

What was the process that you went through in becoming a freelance interpreter?

My first public interpreting job: Deaf Day at Sea World, July 1990
My first public interpreting job: Deaf Day at Sea World, July 1990

I completed an Interpreter Training Program (ITP) at a community college. I got my first job from someone who knew me from the many deaf community events I had attended during my education. I had just passed my first interpreting skill evaluation, and I received a call from the late Sonny Romero, then president of the local chapter of the Southern California Recreation Association of the Deaf. He asked me if I would be willing to interpret for Deaf Day at Sea World. I told him that I would like to do this job, and let him know that I had passed an interpreting skill evaluation and was now charging for my services. He agreed to my terms, and I interpreted all the shows and tours at Sea World that day. It was a high-profile assignment, and you might say it was my début as a professional sign language interpreter.

What resources did you use to become an interpreter?

I spoke to other interpreting students, interpreter trainers, deaf students and community members, became certified by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), joined the Registry of Interpreters of the Deaf (RID) and earned my Certificate of Interpretation (CI) and Certificate of Transliteration (CT). I approached Network Interpreting Service (NIS) and Deaf Community Services (DCS) about working for them, and began to get freelance work through those agencies.

How did you go about making a name for yourself?

I participated in the Deaf community by going to events and being friendly with people. I let people know I was in an interpreter training program and was working on becoming an interpreter. I ate lunch with the deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the cafeteria at the college where I received my associate’s degree in ASL Interpreting. I have done community service my local chapter of RID, and have gone to many interpreter training workshops. In addition, I wrote a column called Voicing with Valor in my local RID chapter’s newsletter, and of course, this Web site helps acquaint a vast potential readership with my work. All of these activities introduced me to potential colleagues and clients.

Is it important for interpreters to socialize with the Deaf community?

I socialized with deaf people a great deal when I was first learning to sign. For the first year-and-a-half or so, I went to almost every deaf social event I could get to. I had a deaf lover for over a year (and we met 3 months into my first ASL class). I certainly went the “immersion” route. In addition to socializing, however, I also spent hours poring over ASL dictionaries, learning every sign in every book, and watching deaf people on ASL videotapes. Once I became an interpreter, though, I stopped doing so much socializing. I still go to the occasional deaf theatrical event to see a deaf comedian or performer, or to go to a party once in a while. Once in a while, I might have lunch with a deaf friend or acquaintance. But that’s about it. I guess it’s a matter of keeping a professional distance from my clients, or maybe just respecting their space. I would also have to admit that, at this point, I don’t feel so much of a need to socialize with deaf people in order to learn ASL– even though there is always more to learn. I get most of my “socializing” with my clients before and after interpreting. We might engage in small talk in the medical office waiting room, or in a lobby before a job interview, or in a hotel café or banquet room during a conference, or in a board room while waiting for a business meeting to begin. I do appreciate these moments not only as a chance to learn a client’s communication style, but also to warm up to the client, have the client warm up to me, and feel that our relationship is just a bit more human than “professional/client.” Socializing on the job means that I’m not invading their community space or the social time they reserve for their deaf friends. It feels natural, not awkward. It is on a professional level, a bit higher register than that used in casual socializing. Socializing with deaf clients helps us to feel like “colleagues” or “teammates in the communication process.” Depending on the interpreting situation, I might not “socialize” with my clients at all. On a legal or mental health assignment, I keep socializing to a bare minimum so as not to create any appearance of bias or partiality. Plus, for my self-protection, I don’t want to get chummy with a criminal. Even if the deaf person is innocent or perfectly sane (and who am I to judge?), I do find it best not to develop too much of a rapport, lest they or anyone else feel that I am their ally or advocate.

How do you find out about Deaf events in my community??? One more thing ~ For now I was thinking about just getting my A.S. (Associates in Science) and going straight to the business world, but what would you suggest I do, should I stay in school to finish with my bachelors or go for my masters?

You should be able to find out about Deaf community events from your ASL and/or ASL interpreting teachers. You could also look up your local chapter of NAD (National Association of the Deaf) and RID (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf). If you want to be an interpreter, you should go through an ASL interpreter training program, and you will also have to have a bachelor’s degree, either in interpreting or another field. If you don’t get a bachelor’s in interpreting, you might want to get a bachelor’s in a field you would like to specialize in as an interpreter. You may even want to go for a master’s degree, either in interpreting, or in a field you want to specialize in.

What do you love/hate about interpreting?

I love communicating, I love telling stories, I love processing language, I love going all over the place and learning new things every day. I love helping people gain access to the world and each other. I get tired of always saying what someone else is saying, and losing myself. I get tired of spending long days interpreting highly technical and specialized language rattled off by speakers who don’t give it a second thought. I hate the physical pain. My wrists are in pain now even typing this!

Why is a freelance interpreter business different from a regular business?

Because there are many kinds of businesses, I believe an interpreter’s private practice is as regular a business as any. My business comes from referrals from agencies and contracts with individuals, organizations, and businesses. The bulk of my work, agency referral, involves receiving an assignment request from an agency. The agency receives a request from one of their customers, usually the hearing party responsible to offer “reasonable accommodations” to the deaf or hard-of-hearing party per the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The agency contacts me and asks me whether I am available to do it. As a freelance interpreter, I have the freedom to accept or decline based on my availability and self-assessment of whether I am an appropriate match for that assignment, taking into consideration the consumers’ language needs and my ability to meet those needs. At the end of every week, I send an invoice to the agency, billing for my time in half-hour increments or quarter-hour increments, depending on the agency, at a two-hour minimum for each job. The agency usually mails me a check within two weeks of receiving my invoice. They bill the consumer who requested the service, and the consumer pays the agency directly. This relieves me of the need for billing multiple parties, and it relieves the consumers of the need to contact multiple interpreters to find one who is available. The agency does not pay me as much as the consumers pay them, but it saves me the hassle of bidding and billing. I do occasionally receive an interpreting request directly from a consumer, in which case I charge what an agency would charge a consumer, and if they say it’s too much, I ask them to request me through one of the agencies (which I would prefer anyway, since it’s less work for me). The only times I have received interpreting requests directly from deaf consumers were for weddings and receptions, in which case I might charge a bit less than what I charge an agency, especially if the wedding party will let me stay for the banquet. In fact, sometimes I do such jobs pro bono.

Other than Freelance Interpreting, what other kinds of interpreting have you done, i.e. Staff interpreter, Educational interpreter, Theatrical interpreter?

I have worked as an employee of the San Diego Community College District and the Maricopa County Community College District, respectively, in the role of Academic Interpreter and Staff Interpreter. I have also worked as an employee of Deaf Community Services of San Diego, Inc. in the role of Community Interpreter and Staff Interpreter. As a freelance interpreter, I have contracted with theatres, producers, and artists to perform theatrical interpretation.

How has freelance interpreting in your area changed in the past 5 years (business aspects)?

One of the changes I saw in San Diego from 1999–2004 was that more interpreters were becoming employees and there was less work to go around for freelance interpreters. Between 2003–2005, a big change happened in the business of interpreting. I am speaking of the emergence of video relay centers. With the ubiquity of broadband Internet connectivity came the ability for deaf people all over the country to sign to each other using remote video conferencing. With funding for telecommunications for the deaf and hard-of-hearing regulated by the FCC, video relay call centers began to spring up in many cities. These call centers need qualified sign language interpreters to be on hand all day, every day. Suddenly, there is no shortage of work for ASL interpreters. Conversely, Deaf consumers’ demand for interpreting services is harder to meet than ever. I can honestly say now that I never want for work. I have all the interpreting work I can possibly do. I wish the profession had been this way during my first 13 years! Now, it’s time to make a massive effort to develop qualified interpreters!

Do you expect any more significant changes in the freelancing field in the near future? If so, please explain.

As long as the demand for video relay interpreting remains where it is or increases, I predict a steady demand for interpreting services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; there will still be slower times overnights and weekends, the work is not as sporadic or seasonal as interpreting has been historically. Let us not forget that, in addition to meeting the constant demand for qualified video interpreters, interpreters must also be available in all the physical locations where deaf consumers need access, such as doctors’ offices, classrooms, vocational and athletic fields, performance spaces, etc. Whether as independent contractors or employees, I expect there to be plenty of work for interpreters in the near future.

Would you recommend/encourage new interpreters to freelance in this area (lucrativity of business)? please expand..

If you had asked me that in 2003, I would not have been so encouraging. I would have explained to you that, even though deaf people perceive a shortage of interpreters, that is because many people want interpreters at the same times, such as 9a–11a, 11a-1p, 1p-3p, and 3p–5p. Let’s say the deaf people in a particular city need 100 interpreters to fill each of those time slots. Let us remember that interpreters need transportation time to get from one place to another, so some interpreters could fill the 9–11 and 1–3 slots and others could fill the 11–1 and 3–5 slots. If there are 200 interpreters in that city, there might be enough interpreters to satisfy those consumers’ needs, but each interpreter will only be working 14 hours a week! The consumers might be satisfied, but the providers are not. Your question comes to me in 2005, so my answer is very different. Not only do I encourage you to become an interpreter; I urge you to become an interpreter! There is now enough work to keep everyone busy all the time! As for freelancing or being an employee, that is up to you, but get yourself trained and join us! 🙂

What does an interpreter need to know to interpret effectively at a wedding?

Find out about: dress code, music, lyric, religion, readings, special vows, deaf person’s relation to wedding party and/or role in wedding party (unless they’re the bride or groom), number of deaf clients, indoor or outdoor, get script if possible, have a contract signed, get half payment up front if possible, ask whether they want you for just the service or the service and reception. Do they want you at the rehearsal and will they pay you to attend it?

I am researching foreign language instruction for deaf students. Can you give me a sense of appropriate techniques for signed language interpreters in spoken foreign language classes. What would you recommend that the SLI [sign language interpreter] do to bridge the two languages? Any advice you can offer will be greatly appreciated.

Fingerspelling and mouthing have worked for the deaf students I’ve interpreted for in foreign language classes. When the focus is on new vocabulary, and it is assumed that the students already know the rest of the words in a sentence, I might sign and mouth the known words and then fingerspell and mouth the new word. One must be careful not to “give away the answer” by signing the new word in ASL, so it is best to have one consistent team of interpreters who know what is new and what is old. That way, when the teacher asks something like “Qu’est-ce que veut dire PROMENER?” the interpreter can sign “WHAT MEANS P-R-O-M-E-N-E-R” while mouthing “Qu’est-ce que veut dire ‘promener’?” Obviously, the interpreter would have to be following along with the class and using the book so as to know that “promener” is the new vocabulary word. One wouldn’t want to sign “WHAT MEANS WALK?” and give away the answer to the question. Another option is cued speech, because one can cue any language, since cued speech is not a language; it’s a code for phonetics. However, not many Deaf people use cued speech, and not many interpreters know how to cue.

I am an Surgical RN and my mother has done volunteer work in signing at our church. I am interested in changing careers and seriously looking into to this as one for myself, especially since I see a need for it in the medical arena. However, I need to keep up a certain income to meet my monthly expenses. Is this a better paying job and would it be something a nurse would especially be good at considering the experience I have (16 years). Thank you!

I don’t know what you earn now, so I don’t know if interpreting would be a better paying job for you. I also don’t know whether interpreting would be something a nurse would be especially good at. I think your best bet would be to contact your nearest ASL interpreter training / education / preparation program (ITP / IEP / IPP).

Hello, Mr. Greene. I came across your web site while searching for ASL info and videos on I am not deaf nor am I hard of hearing, but I find your job (or at least your main job) quite interesting and have a couple of questions that I was hoping that you might be able to answer for me. My questions are as follows:

• Can you tell me the difference between something called PSE (I think that is right), American Sign Language, and Signed English?
• Which is more common of those listed (PSE, ASL, or Signed English)?
• Can the people who used Signed English understand the people who use ASL and PSE or does it cause a lot of confusion?

PSE and Signed English are almost synonymous, although PSE (Pidgin Sign English) might connote signing that combines features of ASL and English syntax, while Signed English, I believe, connotes signing that more strictly follows the syntax of English. Another term for pidgin is contact language. Related terms are Conceptually Accurate Signed English (CASE), Sign Supported Speech (SSS), and Simultaneous Communication (SimCom) — though SSS and SimCom include audible speech while CASE includes only inaudible English mouthing. ASL has a syntax that differs from English; i.e., the order in which signs appear in a sentence follows the rules of ASL, not English. The grammar of ASL is also expressed in eye gaze, head tilt, torso shift (forward, back, twisting to the left, twisting to the right), and mouth morphemes. I’m not sure there are any statistics about prevalence of usage of ASL and PSE, but it has been widely noted that many people “code switch” between the two. That is, there may be people who are monolingual in either language, but many (if not most) express themselves in ways that swing along a diglossic continuum somewhere between the two. As to whether people who use ASL can understand people who use PSE and vice versa, some can and some can’t. I don’t know the statistics.

Hello. I was surfing the web and found you site. You are really great with ASL! I am interested in becoming an ASL Interpreter also. However, I can not seem to find any schools that offer the program in my state. Do you know of any sites that may have a list of schools that offer this program? I live in Kentucky by the way. I’d be really [grateful] for any light that you may be able to provide on this. Thank you!

I would suggest checking with NCIEC, The National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers.

Your site is very informative and extremely helpful. Thank you so much for providing it! I just moved to San Diego from….where I received my associate’s degree in a Sign Language Interpreting program….I am so lost as to where I might look for jobs…

I would suggest you look into the San Diego Community College District, Cuyamaca Community College District, San Diego City Schools, La Mesa / Sweetwater School District, Chula Vista School District, Deaf Community Services of San Diego, and Network Interpreting Service. Good luck!

More questions?

There are many more questions and answers below. If your question has not been answered yet, please leave a comment. Thanks!


44 responses to “Interpreting FAQ / Q & A”

  1. Deanna Avatar

    Hi Daniel,
    My name is Deanna. I had taken 2 semesters in H.S. learning ASL, which was offered as a second language. I am a quick learner. I have been in Community Theatre since age 12. Was hired into the Florida School System as an ASL Interpreter for an Elementary School, then in a Middle School, total of 8years. I am a visual learner and could never pass a sit down test, it was always so difficult for me. Moved to NYC and received my Medical Certificate with ASL. Worked in the NYC Hospitals, freelancing for 2 years. Then needed a full time job with a steady pay to get my own apartment. Now I am seeking to get back into ASL Interpreting and would like to know how I should approach this? I have a total of 10 years experience, but alot of the work out there is asking for a Bachelor’s degree or RID. Doesn’t my experience count for anything? I am excellent at what I do and I would just like some suggestions from you, on some options out there to earn a descent living, using my Interpreting for the deaf. It’s very rewarding and I would like to find something out there, which will be a perfect fit for me.


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      I don’t know what to suggest, except to learn how to pass the RID written and performance tests, and either get a bachelor’s degree or apply for RID’s “alternate pathway.”


  2. Tasha Avatar

    Hi Daniel,

    Your blog is great and informative. I was wondering if you could give me some advice…I just went back to school this semester for an A.S. in interpreting and I have 1 year prior experience with ASL. I will finish this degree in about 4 years and upon graduation will take the NIC written exam. How long do you suggest I wait to go for the performance exam after I pass the written exam?



    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Thanks, Tasha. First off, I don’t know if you already have a BA, but you will have to have one to take the NIC performance exam. As far as how long to wait, that all depends on where your interpreting skills are four years from now!

      Good luck in your preparation. 🙂


  3. Gknee Avatar

    Great info 🙂 As a fairly newbie to the field it’s wonderful to have sites like this one.


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Thanks for saying so! Happy to help.


  4. Yady Avatar

    Hello Daniel Greene,

    I spent about three days searching for blogs and forums about 11months ago to find insight on court interpreting, but i had no luck. I gave up and decided to take a break.. (turned out to be a very long break.) As my interest is back once again, i began searching this morning and found you. Im not sure if you might be able to help but i figured i give it a try. I am young ( but noth that young) and i want to go back to school i only did on semester at a community college after i graduated hish school in 2010 but now i have a better idea of what i want to take on career wise. I work for a law firm and i think paralegal work is something that interests me and court interpreting but i cant find anyone that i could ask questions regarding these careers. (Phoenix, Arizona)


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Hi, Yady. A good place to start is to take an ASL class or two and see if you like it and pick it up well. There are classes offered through the Maricopa Community Colleges, Arizona State University, and other schools. The next thing to do, if you find you have the aptitude for signing, is to find an interpreter education/preparation/training program (IEP, IPP, or ITP). There is a certificate or associate degree program at Phoenix College. There is a bachelor’s degree in interpreting at the University of Arizona. (The BA in Educational Interpreting site seems to be down at the moment, but for more info, email Cindy Volk,

      Wherever you choose to get your interpreter education, it will probably take you about a year-and-a-half to two years to take ASL courses and a year-and-a-half to two years to take interpreting courses. Give yourself at least 4-5 years to become an interpreter. Then, for legal interpreter training, give yourself another year or so. If you work hard, you could be interpreting in court in 2018! 😀

      Two things you need to know: 1. You have to have a bachelor’s degree in order to take the NAD-RID National Interpreter Certification (NIC) test. 2. Legal interpreting in the state of Arizona requires a Legal Interpreting License, which requires a legal interpreting certificate (currently the SC:L).

      I wish you the best!


  5. Beth Erven Avatar
    Beth Erven

    Hi Daniel,

    Thank you for getting back to me, I have been away visiting my family and have had limited access to a computer.

    My question is, I notice you have teaching workshops on the topic Oral Transliteration. Do you have any upcoming workshops planned? (or any planned for 2013)

    I have a need in my community for this and I am looking at different options in the US as Canada does not offer training in Oral Transliteration.

    Do you know of any other resources that may help me?

    Thanks so much!

    ASL/English Interpreter


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Thanks for writing, Beth. From what I understand, Claire Troiano teaches oral transliteration workshops in Boston, Mass. the speaker bureau webpage at Northeastern University says she teaches it every August, but I spoke with Anna Davis at the Northeastern University Regional Interpreter Education Center and she told me those workshops would not be happening this month. Anna told me that Claire Troiano teaches at oral transliteration at The Clark School and there is a book you can buy called Preparing for the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. Oral Transliteration (OTC) Written Exam. You could email Claire Troiano as she has taught in Ontario (where you mentioned you lived in your other correspondence). I’ve just had almost no call for oral transliteration here in the Phoenix metropolitan area in Arizona the past eight years, so I’m not a regular practitioner. If you would ever like me to come teach any of my other workshops, though, I would love to come out and teach your community.


  6. Paul Kelly Avatar

    Cool blog! As a sign language interpreter myself, I think you offer a lot of good info for those interested in interpreting.


  7. Nina Avatar

    what is your salary per year?


      1. Daniel Greene Avatar

        Let me elaborate a bit: In 2010, I earned about $70,000 from interpreting (about $1500 of that being from teaching workshops) before taxes. After putting away money for retirement and paying taxes, my net income was less than $55,000. I’m updating with these specifics because I want aspiring interpreters to have an accurate idea. Besides, I earn more because of my 20+ years of experience, bachelor’s degree, and NIC Master certification, so a yearly salary for a beginning interpreter would be less. On the other hand, some people work more than I do, so it varies. I hope that gives you a better idea.


  8. Shayna chan Avatar
    Shayna chan

    Hi my name is Shayna and I am a senior at a high school and I’m currently applying to universities. I am interested in becoming an American sign language interpreter since I’m already fluent because both my parents are deaf.

    I have been having trouble finding major of deaf interpretation in California and I was wondering if I were to major in communications with a b.a can I still be an Asl interpreter or is that different?

    I would really appreciate your help(:


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      For RID, you only have to have a B.A. in any subject; it doesn’t have to be interpreting. I think it would be a good idea to major in interpreting, but that’s up to you. What about Deaf Studies or ASL Interpreting at CSUN? There’s also one at CSUF. I pulled these from the RID web site “Find a Program” area. Here’s a link to the search for BA degree ASL interpreting programs in California:


  9. Raul Cruz Avatar
    Raul Cruz

    Hello, my name is Raul and I saw a movie with Sign Language and I searched the web for info and ran into your blog. I watched some of your videos but I don’t know sign language, do you have any video with sound or caption, I would like to know what you are saying with your hands. I find it amazing but since I cannot understand it, nor do I know any person who can translated for me, I don’t know. Thanks.


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Is there are particular video you want to know about? Let me know which video you want to know more about, and I’ll give you the gist of it. At this point, I don’t have the time to transcribe and caption all my signed videos.


  10. Why Interpreters Charge a “Two-Hour Minimum” « Daniel Greene’s Blog–o–rama Avatar

    […] wrote: Hello Mr. Green We have a patient coming in who has requested an asl interpreter (this would be a […]


  11. What Proactive Experienced Interpreters Do « Daniel Greene’s Blog–o–rama Avatar

    […] wrote: Daniel, As a working interpreter have you noticed anything that proactive experienced interpreters […]


  12. Caitin Avatar

    As a working interpreter have you noticed anything that proactive experienced interpreters tend to do??


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Hi, Caitlin. I answered your question here: What Proactive Experienced Interpreters Do


      1. Matilda Avatar

        Why does this have to be the ONLY reliable suorce? Oh well, gj!


  13. Marissa Avatar

    Hi Daniel, I was curious, in one of your posts you mentioned that one thing you dislike about interpreting is the pain. You said ” I hate the physical pain. My wrists are in pain now even typing this!”

    I am also an interpreter and have worked for three years. Though I currently don’t experience pain, I do notice wrist discomfort. Wrist injury can seriously affect our ability to work. In your experience have you seen many interpreter’s leave the field due to this problem? Do you feel that interpreting is a career you can physically continue to do for the next ten or more years? How are you coping with the pain? These are questions that have been on my mind lately, and I would love insight from an experienced interpreter such as yourself. I appreciate your time and assistance! Sincerely, Marissa


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Sorry I haven’t gotten around to answering you until now, Marissa; my wrists were hurting. Just kidding. 😉

      Actually, I have been able to continue as an interpreter for over twenty years. My wrists aren’t what they were when I was 21, but with all the typing and mousing I do, I doubt they would be the way they were before computers even if I didn’t sign. My wrists do hurt when I interpret too much or use the computer too much. What is too much? A large enough amount that I can still do enough interpreting and computing to fulfill my needs. I cope with the pain by restraining myself from spending too much time on the computer or too much time interpreting. I work with teams; I do stretches, I take ibuprofen sometimes, etc. It’s manageable. 🙂


  14. Briana Avatar

    I have been very passionate about sign for many years now, and am currently in the process of switching colleges to pursue a major as an ASL interpreter. The only thing I am concerned about, however, is being able to make a decent living off of the work. Do you have any input on that?


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar


      Once you get certified and experienced (five or ten years), you could make $50,000–$70,000 a year. It might take a while to get there, but even a beginning interpreter can make $30,000–$50,000. It depends on where you live, how much you work per week, etc. It is certainly possible to make a decent living as an interpreter. Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics “Interpreters and Translators” page for more info.



  15. Daniel Greene Avatar

    Here’s one that came in through email today:

    I am interested in learning ASL..could you recommend a good website/company that have good dvd’s and content?

    There are several companies that produce ASL materials: DawnSignPress, Sign Enhancers, and Harris Communications, to name a few.


  16. Isaac Stanley Avatar

    [Isaac Wrote:]

    Hello Daniel,

    Just doing a blog search today and came across your page. I live in the greater Chattanooga, TN area, co-own an interpreting agency. I’ve left my website; there isn’t much to it yet but our contact info is there. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to know of any interpreting blogs that you might suggest. Thanks!


    [Moved to FAQs because this question was left on my Interpreting page.]


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you, Isaac. Been busy. You might want to check out a blog post of mine from a few years ago: Where are the ASL interpreter blogs?


  17. Sarah Waters Avatar

    Hi Daniel,

    I’m trying to write an article for the Baltimore Business Journal that argues that providing interpreting services is good customer service, good business, and is likely to lead to more business from both Deaf and hearing consumers. Have you ever heard of any stats or even anecdotal evidence I can use to support this argument?
    Thanks! Sarah


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      I don’t know any statistics, but I suggest you ask the National Association of the Deaf and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. I believe one or both of those organizations can supply you with the resources you need.


  18. Donna Avatar

    [Donna wrote:]

    Hello Mr. Green
    We have a patient coming in who has requested an asl interpreter (this would be a first for us). Some of the agencies i checked into seem pretty steep and are asking for a minimum commitment of 2 hours. Our eye exams ususally last no longer than 30 minutes. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

    [Moved to FAQs because this question was left on my Interpreting page.]


  19. Alexa Ara Avatar
    Alexa Ara

    I have two questions about being an ASL interpreter:
    1. Can an interpreter live in a rural setting, or should one live close to a city?
    2. Are there any medical advances in the foreseeable future that would make an ASL interpreter obsolete?


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      I’m not sure about whether an interpreter could make a living in a rural setting. It would all depend on supply and demand. If they wanted to live in a rural setting and interpret occasionally but not worry about making a living, it might work for them.

      As far as medical advances go, I don’t know of any that would render ASL interpreters obsolete. Even cochlear implants haven’t done that yet. There are many deaf people who still use ASL. I’m not an expert in medical futures, though.


  20. Mary Reilly Avatar

    My daughter Deanna, 28 soon to be 29 is fluent in ASL. She has been interpreting for 8 years, mostly working in the School system interpreting for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing students. They adored her. She moved up to NYC in November of 2006. She worked for an Agency who called on her frequently for work (using ASL Interpreting). Since then, her and I (I, being her Mom) wanted to start an Agency for ASL Interpreting in Manhattan. We began the end of Aug. of 2009. We have been spending long hard hours to successfully try to launch our Business. We have othe Freelance Interpreters who would like to work for us but the main problem is, trying to land Clients. We’ve tried Hospital, Colleges & haven’t had any luck thus far. Deanna wants to continue to sign and with her experience she is excellent at what she does but she only has a Medical Certificate and no degrees. Can anyone in Manhattan hire her with a Medical Certificate only? She works with FNL and her signing work could be seen on the above website. She is the host for the “Silent News”. She wants to continue to work as an ASL Interpreter with only her Medical Certificate. What other options does she have in the NYC area? Do you have any other suggestions that she can act on asap? Thank you for your time.


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      Thanks for the question, Mary. I Googled your daughter and found several of her videos. She is obviously skilled. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about interpreting in New York, and I don’t know what you mean by a “Medical Certificate.” As far as I know, RID doesn’t offer a Medical Certificate. I know that there are places that hire interpreters without degrees, and I suppose this Medical Certificate would help her get interpreting work in medical settings. Other than that, I’ve never run an interpreting agency so I can’t give any advice about getting clients. Maybe for now, she could continue freelancing with that agency that called on her so frequently. Or she could work for Sorenson VRS in Manhattan.


  21. clement sam Avatar

    i really find your site amazing interesting and informative.i would like to know more about the dress code for ASL interpretation.I live in GHANA and been interpreting for the past four years.


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      The dress code varies from job to job, but it is generally recommended that you dress like the people in the setting where you interpret. I interpreted a conference of accountants once, and every day of the conference, every man (yes, it was almost all men) wore a three-piece suit. I don’t own a three-piece, but I did wear my best suit every day of the conference. Conversely, when I interpreted a software developers’ conference, the president of the software company wore nothing fancier than khakis and a polo shirt even when delivering the keynote. Hence, I followed suit and wore khakis and polos every day of that conference. It would have been no more appropriate for me to wear a suit at the software conference than it would have been for me to wear khakis and polos at the accountants’ conference.

      Other than dressing to suit the occasion, it is recommended that interpreters dress in solid colors so as to be easy on the eyes (not distracting from your hands) and dress in colors that contrast with your skin tone (so that your hands stand out against your clothes).


  22. Daniel Greene Avatar

    gilles writes: “Hello,I found your blog by googling ‘thoughtful asl’ in an attempt to find a simple translation for the word ‘thoughtful.’ Google sent me to your post about Sign Chi Do. What will the world create next?gilles”


    1. Daniel Greene Avatar

      In answer to your question, Gilles, I do not know of any one sign for “thoughtful” but I do believe I have seen CONSIDER+FULL, CONSIDER (one-handed) + F-U-L-L, and simply “thoughtful” fingerspelled. In an ASL context, it is more likely that the concept of thoughtful will be expanded into a short discourse along the lines of, “Wow, you really thought about, ‘What would he like? What is his way? What is his taste?’ and you got me the perfect gift!” Such expanded discourse involving role playing and direct quotation is common is ASL, especially when there’s not one sign for a particular concept.


  23. Daniel Greene Avatar

    Natalie emailed me:

    I just found your site this evening as I was trying to find answers to some questions I have about becoming a sign language interpreter.

    I am currently a Senior in college and will graduate in May of 2007 with a degree in Speech Communications. It has always been my desire to interpret for the deaf since I was little. I have a deaf friend that I’ve known since the age of three and I learned a lot of my sign language through him. I’m not fluent but can make it through a conversation (finger spelling a lot of the words I don’t know signs for).

    My question is, do ITP’s require that you have a degree in sign language or something of that nature in order for you to be in the program or is it possible to be in the programs without that? I guess bottom line: Will I have to get another degree to be able to get into a ITP?

    Thank you so much for any light you can shed on this and any other information you can provide that might help me out.

    There are ITPs that offer certificates of completion, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. I do not know of any that require you to have a degree in ASL, but most require you to be at least conversant, if not fluent, in ASL. If you are graduating with a bachelor’s in May, you might want to look into the master’s degree in ASL interpreting at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. Alternatively, you could look into getting a second bachelor’s degree from an ITP that offers a B.A. in ASL interpreting. Good luck!


  24. Daniel Greene Avatar

    Grace emailed me:

    Saw your “YouTube: ASL Intro” video. I am very new interpreter (graduated a little over 1 year ago) – I am very interested in theatrical interpreting and I am wondering if you could give me any suggestions to get started in that venue. I know that I do need much more experience than I have at this point, but what could I do now?? Thank you for any help you can give to me!

    If you haven’t already, I would suggest that you take an introductory drama class so that you can learn all of the vocabulary and concepts related to theater. You might look for a workshop on theatrical interpreting. You could get experience doing theatrical interpreting by asking permission to go into acting classes and practice interpreting the students’ monologues and dialogues. Perhaps you could find a mentorship with an experienced theatrical interpreter. If you are interested in traveling to New York City for one week in June, you might like to attend the Julliard Interpreting for the Theatre Institute next summer.


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