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Blog Articles by: Brenda Cartwright
Interpreter Tips | Tuesday, December 15, 2015
You will meet interpreters who are burnt out and no longer care about doing their best. Perhaps they are satisfied with their entry level certification. Or they only go to workshops to get their required CEUs.
Here are some suggestions to keep that spark that drew you into the Interpreter profession in the first place:
- Plan to go to a workshop with interpreter friends.
- Mentor an eager Interpreter Training Program student.
- Go to deaf social events.
- Seek opportunities to team interpret.
- Network with other interpreters.
- Do pro bono interpreting work.
- Sign up with an agency to try new areas of interpreting.
- Seek out more deaf friends.
- Stay in touch with interpreter friends outside of just interpreting work.
- Look at workshops outside of your local geographic area.
- Share your experiences with others (ie. write a blog).
There are lots of ways to challenge yourself and keep your interpreting skills sharp. These tips will help you stay passionate and engaged in the community.
How do you stay passionate and engaged as an interpreter? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Interpreter Tips | Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Freelance interpreters may find themselves going from a college class in Physics to a hospital emergency room to a theatrical performance all in one day and even when we think we are prepared, "things happen."
The instructor decides to show a non-captioned film and turns out all the lights. The ever-prepared interpreter pulls out their handy dandy flashlight.
The warden at the prison goes above and beyond to ensure your safety behind his walls and you want to leave him a quick thank you note. Pull out your stationary and envelope and write away.
You're at an all day hospital assignment with a deaf patient waiting for the doctor to come in to discuss test results. The nursing staff has no idea when that will be, "sometime soon," they keep saying. The patient is sleeping, so you pull out your phone to check messages. Unfortunately your battery is deader than a door nail. You look around the room and it seems like every outlet in the room is already being used. Tech savvy interpreter that you are, you pull out your wall adapter and viola! You are now able to share an outlet and touch base with your agency.
You stop for lunch after what you think is your last assignment for the day and have the most delicious veggie sandwich (heavy on the onions) when you get a call from an interpreter referral agency asking you if you have time this afternoon for one more job. "Sure" you say, as you pull out your toothbrush, toothpaste and extra strength mouthwash.
You have an umbrella in your interpreter bag so you are prepared for the rain but the walk to the actual assignment is much further than you anticipated. By the time you arrive, your shoes are soaked and squeaking, but lucky you - you happen to have a dry pair of socks in your bag. What a difference dry socks can make. (Also see our related article on Interpreter Q & A: Is It Better to Be Late or Wet?)
Don’t let surprises ruin your day, pack these items in your interpreter bag so you can be prepared for whatever life brings your way:
Plan for the unexpected.
- sewing kit - needle, thread, needle threader, small scissors, tape measure, safety pins, straight pins
- office supply kit - rubber bands, stapler, staples, paper clips, tape, sticky notes
- blank note card
- wall outlet adapter
- small bag - to hold jewelry and organize other items (also see our article on Interpreter Q & A: Are Piercings Ok for Interpreters?)
- extra socks and a change of clothes
- lint roller
- stain remover
- nail kit - nail file, nail clippers
Don’t forget to bring the essentials:
- phone (in addition to being your way to communicate via call/text/email/video, your phone is your calendar, contacts, and entertainment)
- phone charger
- business card
- money / credit card
TIP: Items that come in "kits," such as an office supply kit, sewing kit, fresh breath kit, nail kit, and/or first aid kit, are great because they are self-contained - making it easier to stay organized and find things in your bag.
See our Buying Guide: What to Pack in Your Interpreter Bag for tips on where to buy items for your interpreter bag.
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Interpreter Tips | Tuesday, September 1, 2015
I have noticed that an interpreter that I team with nearly every week (she has been an interpreter for over 20 years, and trust me, she never lets me forget it for one minute) tends to omit information. Either she doesn’t think it’s important, or she just doesn’t understand it herself. Forget suggesting giving her "feeds" from me, I’ve "only" been nationally certified for 5 years, and still am a baby in her book. My problem is that she always asks me to do team interpreting assignments with her, and asks for nobody else. I know you’re going to tell me to say something to her, but our community is so small I can’t afford to anger her, financially or professionally. How can I handle this?
An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:
Your situation might not have the negative conclusion you seem to fear. There is no reason at this point to think that saying something to her will anger her. Start by telling her that you have noticed that she omitted "xyz." Be specific. It is possible she has legitimate reasons for omitting certain information. Give her a chance to explain herself. For example, there are legitimate reasons why someone interpreting a "how to" computer software class will not sign everything a chatty trainer might say. You may get the opportunity to see something from a different perspective. If, however, it is as you infer - that she is omitting valuable material - ask for her perspective in a positive way that does not put her on the defensive and indeed make her angry at you. Choose to say something like, “What leads you not to include that?” instead of asking her a defensive question like, "Why are you leaving that material out?" Depending on her answer you may have to make a choice of how much you want to work with her or what else you might say or do.
Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:
I had to fight and advocate for ten weeks to have an interpreter replaced in a team setting during a 15 week graduate class. The supervisor of interpreters finally came and observed the interpreter’s skills and agreed that in spite of her certification and years of experience, her skills were indeed inadequate in that particular setting. Had her team interpreter reported her, I would not have had to go through ten weeks of missing valuable classroom information and weeks spent advocating on my own. The supervisor was in fact reluctant to replace the interpreter because of her years of experience and because the team interpreter never said anything.
I believe the team interpreter had a responsibility to give feedback to her colleague and peer about what was lacking. Interpreters are responsible for communication the whole time they are on the job not just during their "shift." Once an interpreter is out in the field, there is no other monitoring system other than peers in team situations. Interpreters shouldn’t worry about angering the other interpreter, but focus on communication that the Deaf person may not be getting that could result in failing a test, not getting a promotion, or any number of other negative consequences.
Interpreter Tips | Sunday, July 26, 2015
I interpret in a technology class where I am the only female in the room. The students often make crude remarks about women and the class always looks over at me and cracks up while I interpret them. I can see my Deaf client is embarrassed for me, but he laughs along with the rest of them.
An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:
In any classroom, the teacher bears responsibility for controlling student behavior, whether it’s kindergarten or graduate school. I would approach this problem as a discipline issue. If you talk about this issue by placing the focus on yourself - on how you feel or how this behavior is hurting you - statements like that leave room for others to suggest that you are too sensitive, or that "boys will be boys." Instead, talk about the class behavior in terms of outcome: it is disruptive, impedes the student’s access to instructional material, and impedes the interpreting process. Use words that carry legal impact.
Always talk to the teacher first. The field of education is fraught with politics, and it is better to begin the problem solving process in the classroom. If that fails, then the next step is to ask to talk to your immediate supervisor (not the teacher’s). Your supervisor should handle the matter from there. Be clear in what you expect. I would ask my supervisor to have the classroom discipline issue dealt with. If that doesn’t resolve the issue, I would then ask my supervisor to move me to another class, since I cannot perform effectively in a hostile work environment.
Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:
In a perfect world, the deaf client will speak up in the interpreter’s defense and scold the class for making crude remarks about women in general, and specifically you, the interpreter. But in today’s real world, the way to handle this is for the female interpreter to lodge a formal protest with the teacher about the boorish behavior of the class (including the deaf client who laughed along with the rest of them). Hopefully, the teacher will be able to handle this situation. However, if the teacher is not able to do so, then file a harassment complaint. Why? We do have harassment laws and if we do not invoke on those laws protecting people, harassment of any form or substance will continue to no end. It is high time to make our laws work so that we can all live in a perfect world.
Interpreter Tips | Monday, May 4, 2015
Interpreting is 99% about being able to work with other people - having good soft skills and good people skills. These aren’t something that everyone is blessed with naturally. It is important to take time to work on and improve these skills.
When have you butted heads with a co-worker? What caused it? Notice I didn’t ask who was at fault or who was to blame. What really caused the conflict? A miscommunication? An age difference? A power difference? Assumptions? How did you resolve the issue? What are some successful strategies?
Here are 5 steps for resolving interpreter conflicts:
1. GET PERSPECTIVE
- Take time to cool off.
- First impressions matter and can affect how people work together.
- Often times negative interactions are a result of assumptions.
- Realize that the issue is coming from incongruent expectations.
- Try to see the situation from other viewpoints.
- Explain your point of view and give them the chance to do the same.
- Using the words “Help me understand…” shows that you value the other person and their opinion.
3. BE RESPECTFUL
- Strive for mutual understanding and respect.
- Show them respect.
- Don’t bring others into it.
- Talk privately.
- You can say anything - it all depends on how you say it.
- Don’t just focus on the problems, come up with solutions.
- The tried and true use of “I” statements really does work.
- Let them know, but don’t point fingers even if it was their mistake.
- If you’re wrong, apologize and try to make it right. (Even if you don't think you're wrong, you could say, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings" or "I'm sorry you feel that way.")
5. MOVE ON
- Learn to let some things go.
- Move past it and don’t remain bitter.
- Live and learn. It is all part of growing professionally and personally.
Do you have other tips for resolving interpreter conflicts? Share your thoughts in the comments below.