Many people might consider the job of an American Sign Language Interpreter and think “Oh, I could do that!” However, have you considered all that goes into this career path? ASL – English Interpretation is definitely not a textbook profession. What is it that makes a successful and mindful Interpreter? What makes a stellar interpreter?

Of course the first thing and most obvious thing to do is become fluent in both English and American Sign Language (ASL). If you are unfamiliar with ASL, it is imperative that you receive adequate education and training if you wish to pursue Interpretation as a professional field. Most schools in San Diego and across the country offer American Sign Language classes as well as appropriate degree options. Examples of degrees include American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. The requirements for these degrees offer a variety of classes that will teach you not only the language, but the culture and ethics involved. Many of these classes also require outside assignments, including hours in the community. The most beneficial thing you can do as a student is spend time in the community. This is really where you will learn the most. Interacting with Deaf individuals and applying your skills is crucial to your language development. After going through ASL Levels 1-4, your next step is to go through the Interpreter Training Program (ITP). We have two options here in San Diego, Palomar College and San Diego Mesa College. Both colleges offer great training including hands up and voicing experience. Your last semester as an ITP student will be in field work, where you are able to shadow a certified interpreter and observe jobs in different situations, such as education, medical, business, religious, etc. After you graduate from the 2 year program, it is important that you stay connected in the community. Part of being a successful interpreter is building a positive reputation, getting to know members of the community and being committed to the community. As you spend time volunteering and going to community events, you will gain experience that will help you prepare for the National Certification test. Due to recent changes, it is also required that you have a Bachelor’s Degree to gain your certification. We recommend pursuing a Deaf Studies degree so you can simultaneously get your degree and stay connected in the community. This can be done before or after the ITP. As you work toward the ITP, certification, or perhaps you are a working interpreter already, what characteristics should you strive for? What does the Deaf community want?

Humility – One thing Deaf individuals complain about the most is an interpreter with a bad attitude. Remember you are doing a service. Have a good attitude, be respectful, and be humble in everything you do.

Patience – Be patient when things don’t go as planned. We guarantee it hardly will, but isn’t that most of life?

Flexibility – The job of an interpreter is never the same. Things change last minute, people don’t show up, roads are blocked, etc. Be ready for change and go with the flow. Think on your feet as things are thrown at you. If you need consistency in a career, maybe consider another career path.

Mindfulness – Remember you are working with people every day. Be mindful of who is involved. Get to know your client, be friendly and kind.

Bi-Cultural/ Bi-Lingual – You are the communication facilitator. It is crucial that you understand deaf culture as well as hearing culture. You are not only interpreting between languages, but cultures as well.

 Team Mentality – There’s a reason your parents forced you to join that softball team as a kid. No matter what you work towards in your lifetime, you will need to work in groups and to get along with others. Being a team member is important as a human and interpreter because any job over 50 minutes long, you will be teamed with another interpreter. Chances are that you will work with that interpreter in the future, too. In the CPC (Code of Professional Conduct), Tenet 5.0 says Interpreters must exhibit Respect for Colleagues. Colleagues include students of the profession, classmates, volunteer interpreters, certified interpreters, veteran interpreters, teachers, and really anyone besides the client.

 Advocacy – Speak up with the Deaf community! You may sometimes be the first impression for the community and educating the hearing world about what is appropriate and what isn’t, is part of your job! Advocate for the community and make sure your client is not being taken advantage of.

If this sounds like you and you have a passion for the Deaf community, we welcome you to the world of Interpreting. We have yet to meet an Interpreter who doesn’t love their job. We do too 😉

Deaf Dare 2015

CLIP Interpreting is ecstatic to annonce Deaf Dare 2015 a #DeafHeart Project fundraiser!

Help ‪#‎CLIPInterpreting‬ give back to the community by participating in our scavenger hunt!

Register now @!

The #DeafHeart Project seeks to support the local Deaf community by providing paid interpreters free of charge for job interviews and funerals.  We also provide scholarships for Deaf youth to attend the National Association of the Deaf’s Youth Leadership Camp!

Last year’s champions were Matt Ellis and Brad Cohen.  They were absolute beasts at completing challenges and finding locations!  Can you beat them?!  Register now!


Becoming a Deaf doctor isn’t easy. This is of course not due to any lack of intelligence in the Deaf population, but rather the obvious lack of medical schools where learning is conducted in ASL. Deaf individuals seeking to gain a medical degree must face the odds stacked against them and submit to a learning environment where most information is exchanged in their second language. Yet despite these hurdles, throughout the years Deaf individuals have overcome the odds and achieved medical degrees. There are no formal statistics on the number of Deaf medical doctors in America, but is has been estimated the number is in the dozens. Rochester boasts a large Deaf population and is home to a total of six deaf doctors, made up of four physicians, a veterinarian and a dentist. It is noteworthy that all six individuals grew up Deaf and are fluent in sign language.


Dr. Philip Zazove, recently featured in a CNN article, applied to 12 medical schools during his senior year of college, but received only two interviews and no acceptance letters, despite better grades and MCAT scores that should have clearly made him preferred above his peers. After completing graduate school of biology, he applied to another 35 schools and received one acceptance letter from Rutgers University, where he began his medical school education. Later transferring and graduating from Washington University, Zazove became the third Deaf American physician. He now specializes in family medicine and is the well-loved doctor of his Deaf community, with some patients driving two or three hours to see him. He also mentors Deaf and hard of hearing student physicians and runs a non-profit foundation that seeks to provide scholarships for students with severe hearing loss.


Dr. Judith Ann Pachciarz graduated from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, despite being told at a young age her dreams of becoming a doctor were unrealistic and having a high school teacher block her enrollment in chemistry class because her deafness supposedly posed a hazard to working with chemicals. In 1965 she received a master of science degree at the University of Illinios and in 1971 received a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology at St. Louis University. She writes, “Others have said that I am the first deaf person in history, male or female, to earn both a Ph.D. and M.D.; and the first profoundly deaf woman physician. In a way this is very sad. It means that there must have been others more intelligent and more qualified who have been denied the opportunity to be who they wanted to be.”


Dr. Scott Smith is a pediatrician, and works as a Fellow in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the Center for Children with Special Needs (CCSN) at the Tufts-New England Medical Center (NEMC). Smith describes himself as unique among his Deaf and hard of hearing colleagues, because he chooses to sign with his patients and uses an interpreter to voice for him.


Dr. Carolyn Stern, a Brighton physician in private practice, uses her car to educate her community on the capability of Deaf individuals. With a license plate that reads “DEAF DOC,” she enlightens hearing people that Deaf people can not only drive cars, but also become a doctor.


Dr. Christopher Lehfeldt, a Rochester dentist, explains why he chose his career: “Because I can’t hear, I depend on lip reading for cues to what is being said and thus notice teeth with cavities. Dentistry, then, is perfect for me as a career.”


These are just a few of the dozens of empowering stories of Deaf doctors across the country. Their lives and stories serve as a reminder that Deaf people truly can do anything, except hear.

cdi-infographic(Image courtesy of

Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) are a wonderful, but often neglected component of successful interpreted interactions in today’s interpreting world. They are most commonly used in situations where the consumer has communication demands which may not be able to be met by the standard hearing interpreter. These demands may stem from mental, physical, or linguistic demands of the consumer.

There is a movement of individuals who feel that interpreters should be required, by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, to work with a CDI in specialized settings. Members of this camp would argue that a CDI should be present in every situation that could potentially could prove life altering for the Deaf consumer, and that a hearing interpreter who does not work in conjunction with a CDI may actually be violating the CPC by not adopting this into their standard practices. Still more individuals from the larger community would claim that a CDI should be summoned for most, if not all, medical and legal settings. On the other hand, some believe that if the hearing interpreter is unable to meet their clients’ needs without CDI support then the interpreter should not be accepting these assignments; in other words, a skilled hearing interpreter should be capable of managing the demands for each assignment with appropriate control.

Many factors contribute as to why CDIs are not utilized with greater regularity. These include the financial burden of hiring an additional interpreter, the fact that the hearing interpreter often does not know the specific demands of an assignment before entering into it, and the decision-making process each interpreter must face as they evaluate the necessity of a CDI during a given assignment.

Despite the various perspectives on the role of CDIs in the interpreting profession, no one can deny that the topic is gaining momentum. What are your experiences working with CDIs and what are your views on implementing partnerships with CDIs into the standard practices of interpreters?