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American Annals of the Deaf

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Service Learning in Interpreter Education: Strategies for Extending Student Involvement in the Deaf Community

Sherry Shaw

Eileen Forestal

This book, which is a timely and much-needed addition to American Sign Language–English interpreter education programs, will help interpreting students become skillful mediators of language and Deaf culture. To learn to be effective intermediaries for users of American Sign Language (ASL) and English, students should be required to immerse themselves in the Deaf communities by participating in community building and networking. Students must understand the concept of providing services as interpreters through a service-learning program in their interpreter education programs (IEPs).

As a Deaf person, I have observed a chasm developing between IEPs and the Deaf community in several metropolitan areas. Through personal and professional interaction with Deaf persons, I have observed that students from IEPs are not reciprocating with Deaf community members as the former learn language and culture from the latter. Many IEPs are bypassing Deaf communities as students enroll in and graduate from these programs and yet have little or no interaction with the Deaf community, especially in terms of involvement and networking with Deaf persons prior to entering the interpreting profession. Deaf communities have been displaced as gatekeepers for those who aspire to be interpreters and are no longer deemed vital in the IEPs’ central role in preparing interpreters. In this twenty-first century it is critical that interpreters develop both an alliance with the Deaf community and a “Deaf heart” in order to work effectively with Deaf persons as allies. Through service learning, students develop partnerships and work collaboratively with Deaf communities; they also benefit by learning together and striving to fulfill the Deaf community’s objectives. As an additional advantage of service learning, students are exposed to the sociopolitical discourse of Deaf people and the infrastructure of the Deaf communities, which Deaf people, including me, call “home”; they also develop an insider’s sense of the language Deaf people use. In this book Dr. Sherry Shaw introduces the concept of “reenfranchising,” which will be crucial as IEPs work to reinstate the “rightful place of Deaf communities in interpreter education” (this book, p. 29).

As a Deaf consumer of interpreting services, an interpreter educator, and a certified interpreter, I am deeply grateful to Dr. Sherry Shaw, who has dedicated the past several years to promoting service learning and writing this book. Here she presents excellent research and helpful insights that will guide IEPs that recognize the need to include service learning in their curricula. Service Learning in Interpreter Education will be a valuable resource for IEPs as they work to implement or enhance a service-learning program, to help students form a closer alliance with Deaf communities, and to provide justification to their respective colleges for the need for a service-learning program.

Eileen Forestal is Coordinator and Professor of ASL/Deaf studies and ASL-English Interpreting Programs at Union County College in New Jersey.