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American Annals of the Deaf

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Educational Interpreting: How It Can Succeed

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However, the problem remains: Too few programs are addressing the need to educate interpreters for work in the public schools. And yet the majority of graduates from interpreter preparation programs continue to enter K�12 settings (Battaglia and Avery 1986; Frischberg 1990; Schrag 1991). As early as 1989, the National Task Force on Educational Interpreting (Stuckless, Avery, and Hurwitz 1989) stated,

[I]t is evident that more than 50 percent of the graduates of interpreter preparation programs nationally become employed as interpreters in educational settings at the elementary/postsecondary levels. (2)

By 1991, Schrag (1991) reported that two-thirds of the graduates of interpreter preparation programs (IPPs) had entered educational interpreting.


To be clear about the terminology used in this chapter, some definitions are in order. First, let us define K�12 educational interpreter qualifications as the skills, education and training, and experience that are necessary to effectively provide sign language interpretation for school-aged children and young adults. In addition, the following definitions also will be helpful to this discussion.

K�12 Educational Sign Language Interpreter. The following two statements clearly describe what is meant by the term educational sign language interpreter:

�Educational Interpreter� means a person who uses sign language in the public school setting for purposes of facilitating communication between users and nonusers of sign language and who is fluent in the languages used by both deaf and nondeaf persons. (Colorado Legislature 2002, 22-20-116 (2), in CDE 2002)

[An educational sign language interpreter] . . . is a professional, who facilitates communication and understanding among deaf and hearing persons in a mainstream environment. The interpreter is a member of the educational team and is present to serve staff as well as students, hearing as well as deaf people, by minimizing linguistic, cultural, and physical barriers. The title, �Educational Interpreter,� is recommended by the National Task Force on Educational Interpreting, and is intended to imply that a person holding this title is a professional with specialized preparation in deafness, whose primary role is interpreting, but who is also qualified to provide certain other educational services. (New York State 1998).

Interpreting. Frishberg (1990) and Winston (1989) explain what the term interpreting encompasses:

[Interpreting is] the process of changing messages produced in one language immediately into another language. The languages in question may be spoken or signed, but the defining characteristic is the live and immediate transmission. (Frishberg 1990, 18)

Interpreting . . . refers either to the general process of changing the form of a message to another form, or to the specific process of changing an English message to American Sign Language (ASL), or vice versa. (Winston 1989, 147)

Note, however, that research (Jones, Clark, and Soltz 1997) shows that the term interpreting in the K�12 arena refers to transliterating (between two codes of English: one spoken, one signed).

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