Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQs for Sign Language Interpreting

In terms of phone calls, many Deaf or hard of hearing individuals have a videophone. When you call his/her phone number, you will be connected to a hearing ASL interpreter who will interpret the phone call for you. If the Deaf consumer is physically in the office without an interpreter, try writing back and forth if communication is absolutely necessary. English is often a second language for Deaf and hard of hearing people, while American Sign Language is the native language, which can make written communication ineffective (
Most of the time, no. Forty to sixty percent of English sounds look similar when mouthed on the lips. In medical settings, many complex medical terms can go misunderstood or misinterpreted, causing further problems for the Deaf consumer. Most Deaf consumers do not depend on lipreading because of the excessive guesswork involved. If your patient is not Deaf, but requires a lipreader, you can seek agencies that provide oral interpreting/transliteration (
“Deaf” or “hard of hearing” are the acceptable terms. Labels such as “hearing impaired”, “deaf-mute” or “deaf and dumb” are outdated and no longer accepted or considered politically correct by the Deaf community (
According to the American with Disabilities Act, most businesses and medical facilities are required to ensure effective communication, which includes providing qualified interpreters (

Using friends and family members is highly discouraged due to the lack of training and possible conflicts of interest, which can lead to errors or filtering of information (

To find out if you are the responsible party required to pay for interpreting services, call the Americans with Disabilities Act office at (800) 514-0301.
No, sign language is unique to each culture. Additionally, many countries have dialects or variations of their primary sign language. American Sign Language (ASL) is used in the U.S. and parts of Canada (

Countries such as Mexico and Spain have differing sign languages, signifying that many countries that share a common spoken language do not share a sign language.
Not necessarily. A person may know how to read or write a language but still use American Sign Language or a different signed language. It is important to find out the linguistic background of the Deaf consumer(s).
Interpreting is a physically and mentally demanding job. Studies have shown that after 30 minutes of continuous interpreting, fatigue can set in, causing the interpreter to make errors. Typically, if a job is highly technical and/or longer than one hour, SAI Interpreting & Translation will require a team of interpreters be sent. This is to provide the Deaf and hearing consumers with the highest quality of interpreting. When submitting an interpreting request to SAI Interpreting & Translation, providing as much information as possible is crucial. This way, SAI Interpreting & Translation is able to determine which interpreters are most qualified for the job, how many interpreters are needed, and what type of interpreting team to send, whether it be two hearing interpreters, or a Deaf-Hearing interpreter specialist team.
Deaf-Blind refers to anyone with some type of hearing and visual loss. Deaf-Blind consumers require unique forms of ASL, including Tactile Sign Language. Not every interpreter is qualified to work with Deaf-Blind consumers as there are different grammatical rules and structures used, in addition to the specialized training one must possess when working with a Deaf-Blind person. It is important to find out the Deaf-Blind consumer’s preferred method of communication before making your interpreting request (
A Deaf Interpreter is a specialist who provides interpreting, translation, and transliteration services in American Sign Language and other visual and tactual communication forms used by individuals who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, and Deaf-Blind. As a Deaf person, the Deaf Interpreter starts with a distinct set of formative linguistic, cultural, and life experiences that enables nuanced comprehension and interaction in a wide range of visual language and communication forms influenced by region, culture, age, literacy, education, class, and physical, cognitive, and mental health. These experiences coupled with professional training give the Deaf interpreter the ability to successfully communicate across all types of interpreted interactions, both routine and high risk. NCIEC studies indicate that in many situations, use of a Deaf Interpreter enables a level of linguistic and cultural bridging that is often not possible when hearing ASL-English interpreters work alone.

Currently, Deaf Interpreters work most often in tandem with hearing interpreters. The Deaf-Hearing interpreter team ensures that the spoken language message reaches the Deaf consumer in a language or communication form that he or she can understand, and that the Deaf consumer’s message is conveyed successfully in the spoken language. (
There are times when the communication mode of a Deaf consumer is so unique that it cannot be adequately accessed by interpreters who are hearing. Some such situations may involve individuals who: 
  • use idiosyncratic non-standard signs or gestures such as those commonly referred to as "home signs" which are unique to a family
  • use a foreign sign language
  • have minimal or limited communication skills
  • are deaf-blind or deaf with limited vision
  • use signs particular to a given region, ethnic or age group
  • have characteristics reflective of Deaf Culture not familiar to hearing interpreters.

FAQs for Spoken Language Interpreting

A bilingual individual is a person who has some degree of proficiency in two languages. A high level of bilingualism is the most basic of the qualifications of a competent interpreter, but by itself does not ensure the ability to interpret. A bilingual employee may provide direct services in both languages but, without additional training, is not qualified to serve as an interpreter.
Consecutive interpretation is the process by which the interpreter renders their interpretation during natural pauses in the conversation. Consecutive interpretation works most effectively during one-on-one meetings or group discussions.

Simultaneous interpretation is used most often during more formal meetings in which one person will do the majority of the speaking (such as conferences and workshops) or when a meeting must take place with minimal interruptions (such as a legal proceeding). Call us with more information and we will help you determine the best possible solution for your meeting.
“Translation” refers to the written word and “interpretation” refers to the spoken word.
The two main reasons are grammatical differences, and vocabulary. Many languages have elaborate grammatical structures that use more modifiers, prefixes, and suffixes than English. There are also many words in English that do not have equivalents in the other language, which require the interpreter to “paint” a word picture, describing what the word means. Generally, more words means the interpreter is thoroughly and accurately interpreting what was said.
“Certified interpreter” has many meanings. Outside the courts and legal system in the United States, there is no nationally recognized standard or certification for spoken language interpreting. There are many state level certifications and industry specific certifications, such as health care, however.

If you have any further questions or would like in service training for your staff or at your place of business on any of the information listed above, or information not found on this FAQ, please feel free to contact SAI Interpreting & Translation.

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