How long Does It Take to Become a Sign Language Interpreter

The duration of training and learning required to become an American Sign Language interpreter includes numerous different factors. This is common with the vast majority of other professions – if you were to ask how long it would take to become a professional graphic designer, you would get the same answer – it depends!

Some of the factors include whether you already know American Sign Language, how advanced your current set of skills is, your ability to participate in the deaf community, your natural visual receptive skills, whether you are a quick learner and can retain information well, along with several other factors. One thing you should know is that each person will have their own learning process that differs from others. Nobody can know how long you will need to learn to become an American Sign Language interpreter, exactly – the best you could get is a ballpark estimate based on your current set of variables. 

Often, those that know American Sign Language think that is all they need to become an ASL interpreter. Just knowing the language is not enough to become an American Sign Language interpreter, which can be arduous. Both languages – English and American Sign Language – have completely different grammatical structures and rules. In order to be able to interpret simultaneously in an effective manner, the American Sign Language interpreter must have the ability to comprehend the message conveyed in American Sign Language, interpret the message into English while keeping the tone and meaning, then voice the message in spoken English, and the other way around, all happening in real-time. You need to train your brain to be able to process two different components of information simultaneously and interdependently. 

American Sign Language simultaneous interpretation is a skill that typically requires years of rigorous training, even if you already know the language. It is important to note that there is a big difference between simultaneous interpretation and consecutive interpretation. Consecutive interpretation happens when the interpreter conveys the message after the speaker has paused, giving the interpreter much more time to process information. In comparison, simultaneous interpretation requires the interpreter to comprehend and process the next message while comprehending, processing, and interpreting the current message at the same time.

Most of the interpretation jobs require simultaneous interpretation. Again, this is an intensely rigorous profession that requires years of training.

There are several different ways to expedite the process of learning how to become an American Sign Language interpreter. A highly effective way is to immerse yourself into the Deaf community. Interacting with actual deaf members of the deaf community can give your receptive skills a workout as you will quickly learn that there are a large number of different signing styles, techniques, how sentence structures are formatted, education levels, etc. 

For example – you can watch all the basketball skills videos you want, but you can’t truly make adequate improvements unless you actually play and practice basketball.

To become a certified ASL interpreter you must have a bachelor’s degree in any topic to qualify for the National Interpreter Certification (NIC) Exam. Most interpreters go through an interpreter preparation program (IPP) or an Interpreter Training Program (ITP) to advance their knowledge and skills in becoming an ASL interpreter. These training programs allow new interpreters to have internship experiences where new interpreters will be working alongside a mentor to ensure effective communication is still happening. 

We highly encourage anyone who wants to become an ASL interpreter to enroll in the training courses that are offered by community colleges along with several universities.  You can find more information where IPP and ITP courses are available at: https://myaccount.rid.org/Public/Search/Organization.aspx