What to look for in an ISL (International Sign Language) Conference Interpreter
Sign language may be one of the most unique languages for clients to navigate when looking for conference interpreters. Granted, digital and online translation tools can help verify the quality of written and voiced languages – but only to a certain extent. However, in the case of a prospective sign language interpreter, trusting that they are ethical, professional, and accurate can feel a little challenging. In fact, there have been high-profile cases in the news recently where sign language interpreters have been found to be fraudulent (more on this below). Sign language interpretation is almost always handled in simultaneous mode. In multilingual scenarios, you may require a team of interpreters to handle the interpreting between source and target spoken languages and ISL interpreters to serve deaf colleagues, prospects or clients.
The quality of your interpreter is directly associated with the quality of your brand, its products and your services.
Case in point: During the recent hurricane season, the leaders of Manatee County Florida procured a “sign language interpreter” to relay critical information regarding safety precautions and evacuations in the anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Imagine the surprise of the deaf community when the so-called “interpreter” signed complete nonsense. The same kind of scenario appeared at Nelson Mandela’s memorial when the so-called interpreter signing President Obama proved to be faking and a fraud.
Unfortunately, these examples are not as uncommon as professional language service providers would hope it to be. This is why it’s so important you know what to look for when hiring a professional international sign language (ISL) interpreter.
Finding a competent ISL conference interpreter
Here are some recommendations when looking for a qualified ISL conference interpreter to work at your next meeting, summit or seminar:
Work with a professional language services provider
Instead of vetting the interpreter yourself, work with a professional language services provider who has a solid reputation in the industry. A provider with years of experience recruiting conference interpreters for multiple spoken languages will be equally as conscientious regarding the ISL interpreters they use.
Ask for proof of advertised credentials and experience
Here at CCA, our conference interpreters have credentials and experience that are verifiable on paper. Interpreters who sign should have some type of professional membership or certification from nationally and internationally recognized organizations, such as the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC), the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) or the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID).
The deaf interpreter’s credentials should also include:
- A graduate degree in conference interpretation from an accredited university;
- Proof of at least 200 days of conference interpretation-level work and/or five years of conference-level experience;
- Membership in or affiliation with interpreter organizations that recognize deaf interpreters.
When these requirements are met, it is more likely you will be working with a deaf interpreter who is adequately qualified for the task at hand.
Know the difference between conference interpreters and community interpreters
There is a significant difference between community and conference interpreters. Community, medical, court and conference interpreters each have their own niche, and you are wise to choose the level of interpreter who is best suited to your expectations.
In the case of a multinational summit or high-level conference you need to have an interpreter who not only meets your needs when it comes to source and target languages, but who also can handle the fast-pace nature of events that don’t slow down to accommodate anyone – and that may involve industry- and or technical subject matters.
When you hire a conference sign language interpreter, you’ll want one who has the experience and training to keep up, not one who fades or wilts under pressure.
Feel free to judge a book by its cover
When it comes to hiring a professional interpreter, you should take a prospective interpreter’s “cover” into consideration during the hiring and working phases:
- Do they come prepared with the necessary research for your event, including glossaries?
- Can they provide you with their credentials and proof of their professional acumen?
- Are they dressed for the part and do they handle themselves with the decorum required for the job?
- Do they strike you as honest and ethical?
If you note red flags when it comes to any of the above, dismiss that candidate and move on to the next one.
Read Interpreting the Interpreter’s Code of Ethics, to learn more of what you should expect – and demand – from the ISL interpreters you hire.
Do your best to prepare conference interpreters – ISL and otherwise
Lastly, once you’ve found a team of interpreters that is a good fit for your company and brand, do your best to prepare the interpreters to facilitate an optimized outcome.
Yes, interpreters can do their work on the fly – but as with any professional endeavor, it’s always better to be prepared. The more you are willing to share your materials, create a glossary and a style guide (if you don’t already have them), provide any scripts or notes from previous events, etc. – the better your interpreter will do.
Check out The benefits of sharing your company’s materials with interpreters, and How to get the most out of your interpreter to learn more about the recommended steps to optimize your interpreters’ performance.
Looking for a professional conference ISL interpreter for your upcoming event? Contact us here at Chang-Castillo and Associates. We are the platinum standard in translation and interpretation services, so when it comes to translators and interpreters, we only use the very best.