While teaching basic interpreting principles to a group of new signers, I asked, “Do you understand your pastor?” I was very surprised that almost everyone in the group shook their heads. In any interpreting situation, the sign language interpreter must understand the speaker before he/she can interpret into signs.
What is the message? – Generally, the message is the main concept that the speaker is presenting. Inside the message there are often many important details that help support the message and make the point clear. For pastors, the main point could be called the “preaching theme.” It is usually the point that is emphasized at the end – the point of decision.
Listening for the message – Many interpreters only sign the words they hear (transliterate). Because English and ASL are grammatically very different, transliteration often does not make the message clear. Interpreters should listen for key points, phrases, and words that communicate the heart of the message. Ask, “What is the point?” or, “What is the most important part of what I hear?”
The Great Divide – The interpreter’s job is not only to transfer the message accurately from one language to the other, but also to change the message from a spoken language into a visual language. Once the interpreter understands the message, the words may often be discarded. Construct the message in the language of the people who are watching.
Caution – Interpreters must communicate the message accurately! New information must not be added. Nor should significant content be omitted. Does this seem difficult? It should! Interpreters must continue to improve their signing and interpreting skills so Deaf people get the meaning of the message! Come to ASL Institute this summer! Click HERE for more ASLI information.