To become an ASL-English interpreter, one must develop competency in both English and ASL. The more adept students become in both languages’ grammar, linguistic features, discourse structure, and prosody, the more comfortable and skilled they will be at interpreting. As with learning any new language, ASL proficiency cannot be attained by attending classes alone; it requires practicing and using ASL with native ASL signers. Just as those who study spoken languages frequently study abroad to immerse themselves in a new language and culture, ASL students must immerse themselves in the culture and language of Deaf people if they wish to become fluent.
To succeed in this program and graduate with a greater level of confidence, students need to commit to spending significant amounts of time outside of class to record videos, meet with Deaf people for feedback, and immerse themselves in ASL and Deaf culture by attending community events. Naturally, this makes Interpreting a very time-intensive program. Students who have limited availability outside of class time often find their progress is not as robust or advanced as those who are able to expend time in those additional extra-curricular activities. The more hours that students spend outside of class interacting with Deaf people, the faster they progress in their ASL skill development and the greater their readiness for the exciting but challenging field of interpreting.
Students interested in pursuing ASL-English interpreting as a career should take into consideration this additional aspect of time commitment before applying to the program.
Other skills needed to be successful in this program:
A solid foundation in spoken and written English
Basic computer skills
Ability to clearly hear the speech of another person (even if the person is behind you or the speech is recorded, and you are listening through headphones)
Ability to speak clearly, so others can understand
Ability to concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task over a period of time
For transfer applicants, evaluation of applicable college credit will occur as part of the admission process. A transfer credit summary will accompany the acceptance letter. However, course work in ASL and interpreting will not be transferred in until an assessment is completed. Due to the sequential nature of the course work, it is possible that a student could transfer in two years of credits but need an additional three or four years to complete the required course work.
A bachelor’s degree in interpreting teaches the skills, ethics and professional behaviors required to become a professional interpreter. Professional certification is an examination that tests the skills, ethics and professional behaviors of a working interpreter. The National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf is the professional organization for sign language interpreters that offers the certification exam. You can visit their website at www.rid.org.
An academic degree is different than professional certification. When you graduate, you will have a Bachelor of Science degree in ASL-English Interpretation. Certification is a credential that interpreters obtain from professional organizations. Generally, professional certification is obtained after students have completed their education and have 1-2 years of work experience. There are two organizations that certify sign language interpreters: the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and Boys Town National Research Hospital.
Sign Language interpreter certification typically includes a written test, which must be passed first, followed by a performance test. In a recent survey of graduates from the NTID ASL-English Interpretation program, more than 60% of the graduates took and passed the written test within a year after graduation. Most will go on to obtain professional certification.
The American Sign Language-English Interpretation program follows a sequential course plan, including ASL II-VII and core interpreting courses. Because this course sequence begins in the fall semester, you are not permitted to begin the program during the spring or summer semesters.
If you’re interested in applying to the American Sign Language-English Interpretation (ASLIE) program, there are two application deadlines for you to consider:
Early Decision: If you submit all application materials by November 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-January. (Early decision is available to freshman applicants only)
Regular Decision: If you submit all application materials by January 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-March. (Regular decision is available for freshman and transfer students)
Note: The Regular Decision deadline is January 15. Incomplete applications after January 15 may not be reviewed for admission.
To enter the program you need to demonstrate beginning-level competency in ASL. For most students this will mean the completion of a course titled ASL I or Beginning ASL. We will assess your ASL ability to verify you satisfy the entry requirement.
You will submit an ASL sample as part of the application process. You will then be placed in the appropriate course for your ASL ability. Any previous ASL coursework will then be transferred to NTID. Most previously taken ASL courses will be transferred to the major or as general education electives.
It is important to note that the ASL courses and the interpreting courses are sequential. Regardless of how many transfer credits you bring in, if you start the program at Foundations of ASL, ASL II or ASL III, it will be a four-year program; if you start the program at ASL IV or V, it will be a three-year program.
Typically, students with 30 or more college credits with grades of “C” or higher do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores or a high school transcript. Keep in mind, this may be a case-by-case decision, depending on courses taken, grade point average and other academic factors.
Some accepted students ask us what they can do to begin learning about Deaf people and Deaf culture before they begin the program. Here are a few resources you may be able to find in your local library, online, or at a movie rental store:
Mr. Holland's Opus: 1996, Rated PG. Stephen Hereck, director. Hollywood Pictures
The story line involves an aspiring composer whose dreams are thwarted by life getting in the way. For financial reasons he must take a job teaching music appreciation and band at a high school, putting his career as a musician on hold. When his son is found to be profoundly deaf, he retreats into his work, isolates himself from his wife and child, and refuses to engage with the silent world to which he feels his son has been consigned. The oral method of communication is attempted, and then the frustrated mother turns to a school for the deaf and sign language to unlock her son's mind. Mr. Holland must learn to reconcile what he wishes were so with what reality has presented him.
Hear No Evil: 1993, Rated R. Robert Greenwald, 20th Century Fox
The main character is Jillian, a personal trainer and athlete, who inadvertently becomes involved in a heist that has her under investigation. She becomes a woman hunted by the police and by the actual thief, who believes she is in possession of what he wants. She is befriended by an investigator who is introduced to sign, TTYs, and what the world of a deaf person might be like in terms of awareness–or lack of awareness–of sounds.
Four Weddings and a Funeral: 1994, Rated R. Mike Newell, director. Polygram Filmed Ent.
The deaf character in this movie is the brother of the hearing protagonist. He functions as a normal member within his brother's circle of friends, and along the way he meets and falls in love with a young woman who learns sign because she admired him from afar. The climax of the story occurs when he intervenes in his brother's life in a most surprising way, and there is a fun twist on the idea of a hearing person having to “voice” for a deaf person who is really signing what the hearing person wants to say and can't.
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter: 1968, Rated R. Robert Ellis Miller, director. Warner Brothers
The main character of the whole novel, and film, is a deaf man who is ironically named “Singer.” Everyone he meets feels that because he can read lips they can come to him with all of their problems and anguish and share their innermost feelings with him. He has one signing friend in a hospital far away, and his inner life is never explored or connected with in any way. He is a metaphor for the loneliness within us all, and even though many in the deaf world objected to a hearing actor playing this role, the film does show a slice of 40's and 50's American South and what an intelligent, sensitive deaf man's life might have been like.
The Family Stone: 2005, Rated PG-13. Mike Bezucha, director. 20th Century Fox
The deaf man in this film is also gay, with a partner who is of a different race, and plans to adopt a baby in the near future. His family is full of strong characters, and he has always been treated equally and with as much access as they could muster (bad signing by all, but at least it is attempted). He is presented as a contrast to the upscale, uptight fiancée of his brother, who points out how hard it must be for him to be hit with the double whammy of deafness plus being gay. It becomes apparent very early in the story that she is the one who is the misfit in this situation, and his “afflictions” have not kept him from being “normal.”
Johnny Belinda: 1948, not rated. Jean Nagalesco, director. Warner Brothers
This is an old movie that is interesting to watch. It shows what life might have been like for a deaf girl who was isolated in a small island community in Nova Scotia, and how her family and others communicated with her in a rudimentary way. When a new doctor takes up residence, bringing his "modern" attitudes and philosophies, he takes notice of Belinda. Suspecting she is intelligent, he teaches her sign language, thus unlocking her mind and ability to communicate. Tension escalates as a local bad boy lusts after her, and a crime occurs which drives the rest of the plot and allows the audience access into Belinda's heart and mind. So many people have this film as their only reference to deafness that it's important to be aware of it as a cultural touchstone.
Children Of A Lesser God: 1985, Rated R. Randa Haines, director. Paramount Pictures THE deaf movie - and usually the only one folks of a certain age know about. It shows the oral/manual controversy in all of its glory. A rebellious deaf girl goes head to head with the speech teacher at a school for the deaf, and as they fall in love they exchange banter and arguments about the merits of speech only or sign only as communications choices for the deaf. Shows schools for the deaf in the 80's and the political polarization that is exemplified by other characters who represent the signing or oral point of view.
Ridicule: 1996, Rated R. Patrice Leconte, director. Miramax Films
A minor deaf character in the film is discovered and entered into Abbé de L'Epée's school for the deaf in France. A wonderful scene occurs when the Abbé conducts one of his exhibitions to show French nobles how well deaf people can function with sign and how intelligent they are once they are given the gift of sign language. Historically accurate, as he did travel all over France to garner funds for his school by means of these show-and-tell events to impress the well-heeled. This occurred just prior to the French Revolution.