This study researched expressive ASL competencies of applicants to a four-year degree program. The results provide evidence that there is minimal difference in ASL language competence between a graduate of a two-year interpreting degree (approximately 60 credit hours of ASL and interpreting coursework) and individuals who have completed only ASL I-IV (approximately 12 credit hours of ASL coursework) at the college level. This provides quantifiable evidence of national inefficiencies in interpreter education, and should spark a discussion regarding the impact on the student interpreters and the quality of interpreting services provided to deaf consumers.
Over the years, research has identified that deaf and hard of hearing students have difficulty building their language proficiency when they are paired with an educational interpreter who has weak ASL production. This is critical, as deaf or hard of hearing students cannot succeed academically without a foundation of language proficiency. The findings from our research support the calls others have raised over the last decade for increasing entry-level requirements for new interpreters to include a four-year interpreting degree. The most recent call to action was a publication of Complexities in Educational Interpreting: An Investigation into Patterns of Practice, which provided in-depth evidence of the challenges faced by deaf and hard of hearing students in receiving an interpreted education.
Our research presentation will be followed by a discussion to identify what actions can be taken to improve interpreted education for deaf and hard of hearing students. This will include raising the standard of interpreter education, as well as instituting national certification standards for any ASL-English interpreter working in K-12 settings. The goal of sharing this quantifiable data is to encourage discussion among interpreting practitioners, interpreter educators, stakeholders, and accrediting and certifying bodies to move towards establishing a minimum requirement of a four-year degree in interpretation for ASL-English interpreters. In the words of Dr. Dennis Cokely, let’s work as an organization to consider how we can become together to collaborate on change and be of the community, rather than just created for the community.
Barbara Garrett, Emily Girardin