Manchester: This year, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) has nine students majoring in American Sign Language (ASL) Interpretation. UNH is the first and one of the 13 institutions accredited for its interpreting program by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) in the United States.
UNH at Manchester aims at increasing the program by 25% in the next seven years, especially due to the high and seemingly ever growing demand for sign interpreters. Given the complex employment situation in the United States, these nine students will definitely find a job in their field even if they have to sit for further examinations to get a national certification to reach the standard required for American Sign Language interpreters.
The Path after Graduating
At university, students sit for exams in which they are required to interpret in different situations, always emulating real life experiences. After they graduate, students can sit for an exam to get a state license. For this, they generally wait until they are more confident about their abilities and have more experience. After that, students can choose to test for national certification; of the percentage of students that graduate from UNH at Manchester, only one third get to this point, while the other third choose to work with a state license.
The Pros and Cons
The prospect for the graduates is positive nonetheless. Most interpreters work freelance and get jobs from agencies such as the Northeast Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, which distribute the jobs among a series of interpreters. In New Hampshire, interpreting professionals can earn between $23 and $50 per hour. Even if it could seem otherwise, the job is very demanding and needs a very high level of proficiency in the sign language, as well as contextual and background information. Sign language has its own vocabulary and grammar and makes use of certain expressions that those who do not handle sign language do not generally understand, such as the use of seemingly exaggerated facial expressions.
Full competency as an interpreter is something which very few claim to have attained, even in the case of those interpreters who have years of professional experience. Many interpreters specialize in one field and avoid the challenge of crossing to other ones in which they feel less confident to ensure they are not going to be a hindrance to their clients or other parties involved. The growing need for sign interpreters is seen as a logical outcome of the Americans with Disabilities Act, under which deaf people are entitled to an access to free interpreters.