American Sign Language and Interpreting Education
Keith Cagle, Department Chair
Breana Chandler, Senior Staff Assistant
Sign language interpreting is a fascinating, challenging and rapidly expanding field that offers an endless variety of opportunities and rich linguistic and cultural experiences. With more than 1,100 Deaf and hard-of-hearing students and 17,000 hearing students on campus, and more than 100 Deaf and hard-of-hearing faculty and staff members, RIT provides you with a unique environment and excellent opportunities to increase your knowledge of cultures and enhance your English, American Sign Language, and interpreting skills.
Guided by a strong commitment to the language and culture of Deaf people, the Department of American Sign Language and Interpreting Education at NTID provides a rigorous program of study to a diverse group of learners. The department of ASLIE offers two programs: the ASL/English Interpretation Program and the American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Program.
The department of ASLIE:
- Explores and celebrates American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Culture;
- Promotes respect for Deaf people’s right to full communication access;
- Cultivates a commitment to life-long learning;
- Fosters respect for diversity among people;
- Provides practical education for application in the professional world of work
Sign language interpreting is a fascinating, challenging, and rapidly expanding field that offers an endless variety of opportunities and rich linguistic and cultural experiences.
What is Interpreting?
- Sign language interpreters bridge the communication gap between people who don't share a common language. They are highly skilled professionals who must be able to ascertain the meaning of a speaker’s message in one language and communicate that intended meaning to an audience that doesn’t share the same language and culture as the speaker.
- They can work in a wide variety of settings: business, educational, medical, legal, government or social service agencies, religious, video relay or performing arts.
- Interpreters are highly skilled in facilitating communication between languages.
- For more information, see the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf's articles on Professional Sign Language Interpreting. and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.
What is American Sign Language?
- ASL is the visual language used by many deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the United States and many parts of Canada.
- ASL is very different from English—it is a complete language with its own grammatical structure.
- For more information, see the National Association of the Deaf's definition of ASL
- The demand for interpreters is greater than the supply, so there are many employment opportunities.
- Interpreting is rewarding: you will work with people and develop relationships.
- Interpreting is flexible: you can be employed on staff at an agency or choose to work for yourself and set your own hours.
- Interpreting is interesting: you can work in a wide array of settings.
- Interpreting is challenging: you will be able to continue growing as a lifelong learner.
How does the ASL-English Interpretation program prepare me for a career in interpreting?
- It enables you to gain a firm foundation in American Sign Language.
- It helps you develop cognitive and ethical decision-making skills.
- It provides you basic socio-cultural knowledge needed to serve as a cross-cultural mediator.
- It provides you with more than 200 hours of field experience working with professional interpreters.
- It enables you to meet the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s requirement that candidates for certification must possess a bachelor’s degree.
- It provides you with a solid foundation on which to develop the skills needed to pass professional certification exams.
Academic Preparation and Requirements
Learn about the skills needed to be a successful interpreter
Degrees and Programs
Seamlessly facilitate communication and interaction between deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing people in educational, medical, and community settings.Learn more about the ASL-English Interpretation BS program
Our graduate degree in health care interpretation meets the demand for nationally-certified ASL-English interpreters qualified to work in the health care industry.Learn more about the Health Care Interpretation MS program
The non-credit "Certificate in Educational Interpreting" (CEI) program is taught exclusively online and will run from September-May. CEI provides specialized professional development to ASL-English interpreters working in educational settings, and employs innovative teaching by experts in Deaf education and educational interpreting.
The non-credit "Certificate in Healthcare Interpreting" (CHI) program is taught exclusively online and will run from September – May. CHI provides specialized professional development to ASL/English interpreters in the area of healthcare interpreting, and employs innovative teaching by nationally recognized healthcare experts combined with practical application within healthcare environments.
The non-credit "Certificate in Deaf Interpreting" (CIDI) program is delivered using an online blended format with two-thirds of instruction occurring synchronously in Zoom and one-third completed asynchronously online. There is also a required four-day on-campus Deaf-Blind Protactile session held in September. The 20-week CIDI program runs from September to April and trains Deaf professionals to interpret in a variety of discourses: educational, international, legal, medical, mental health, business, Deaf-Blind Protactile,and government settings.
This non-credit "Certificate in Trilingual Interpreting" program is taught exclusively online and will run from September to May. This program provides professional specialized development for trilingual interpreters and aspiring trilingual interpreters with fundamental tools that contribute to their growth as interpreters and help them build skills for their trilingual work. Participants will practice their skills in bilingual interpretation between ASL and Spanish, English and Spanish, and ASL and English. In parallel with existing modules, this program offers supplemental content for participants who are fluent in Chinese (Cantonese or Mandarin).
RIT/NTID is pleased to announce a new Certificate in Signed Language Translation (CSLT) which will be launched in January 2024. The focus of this non-credit certificate is on translation between ASL and English and (other signed languages). Instruction will be provided by mostly Deaf instructors and designed for learners who have SLPI rating of Advanced Plus or ASLPI skills with 4+.
Beginning American Sign Language I and II at RIT
- Have you ever met a deaf person and wished you could communicate with them?
- Have you watched a sign language interpreter and thought that you’d like to learn that beautiful language?
- Would you like to learn ASL online?
What is ASL?
ASL is a visual language used by thousands of people in the United States and parts of Canada. It’s the third-most studied language in colleges and universities across the country.
Benefits of Learning ASL
- You’ll learn to communicate with friends, clients and customers who use ASL.
- You’ll expand your horizons, learning the rich culture of the American Deaf community.
- You’ll enhance your cognitive skills, including visual-perceptual skills and spatial reasoning skills.
- If you’re a kinesthetic or visual learner, you will really enjoy learning ASL!
- ASL could satisfy a foreign language credit.
- Learning ASL could lead to a new career opportunity, such as working in a setting that serves deaf clients, in education, or interpreting.
The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is the largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the world, and is one of the nine colleges at RIT. Faculty in NTID’s American Sign Language & Interpreting Education Department teach the ASL courses. All of our American Sign Language classes are taught by Deaf faculty members who are certified by the American Sign Language Teachers Association, and all of our interpreting instructors are certified as sign language interpreters by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and are active in the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.
NTID has been offering sign language classes and programs for more than 40 years and delivering online courses since 2014. Credit obtained from taking this course may be transferrable to other colleges.
Who is eligible?
Online ASL classes are open to degree-seeking students and non-degree seeking students.
How to enroll
If you are interested in taking Beginning ASL I or II this summer, visit here for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to many common questions regarding attending NTID ASLIE programs here...