Is sign language universal? This is a question that is often answered falsely. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people unaffiliated with the Deaf community mistakenly assume that sign language is a universal language. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There are at least two hundred identified sign languages used across the world today, and this number is steadily growing. Here in the United States, American Sign Language (ASL) is the predominant sign language used. Some other more prominent sign languages used throughout the world include Mexican Sign Language (LSM), French Sign Language (LSF), and Australian sign language, known as Auslan. While every sign language does share the communication medium of sight in the same way that all spoken languages share the medium of sound, each of these sign languages possesses its own unique hand shapes and structures. There are a limited number of hand shapes used to construct each sign language, and these hand shapes are typically unique to the sign language itself. Grammar and sentence structure varies among sign languages as well.

The assumption that sign language is a universal language is largely based on another common misconception: that sign language is a language largely based on gestures and pantomime. For now, let’s focus on ASL. In order to test the gestural nature of ASL, linguists have evaluated ASL for iconicity. Iconicity is a measure of the similarity between a sign and its meaning. Linguists would produce a sign for an individual with no knowledge of ASL, then ask the individual to guess the meaning of the sign. Overall, only 40% of ASL has been labeled as iconic in nature.

Not only are there a plethora of individual sign languages, but there is high regional variation inside each sign language itself. For example, San Diegan signers and New York signers use completely different signs for basic words like “rude” and “dog.” This regional variation presents a challenge for sign language interpreters, who must be well-versed in regional signs beyond their own. San Diego interpreters must be familiar with regional signs from across the United States.

The next time you see someone signing, remember that the particular sign language they are using is only one of over two hundred sign languages used across the world!

National certification is essential to maintaining a qualified field of interpreters. Without national certification, the level of skill various ASL interpreters possess across the U.S. would not be standardized, and Deaf clients would be unsure of which level of certification to require for various jobs as they traveled from state to state. Interpreters themselves would have to get re-certified in each new state they moved to. While some states still employ the use of their own evaluations, it is generally understood that the primary goal of a new interpreter is to obtain their National Interpreter Certification, or NIC.

A NIC can only be obtained through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, or RID. The process of certification has changed dramatically through the years. In 1972, RID began evaluating interpreters for the first time. The test contained three parts: an interview with five interpreters and Deaf individuals, two interpreting segments and two transliterating segments. In 1989, RID’s examination process was significantly changed. A two-part exam was administered, consisting of a written portion and a skills demonstration. An applicant must pass the written portion to become eligible to take the signed portion. If an individual successfully passed the skills exam, they were given a Certificate of Interpreting (CI) and/or a Certificate of Transliterating (CT). If a person received both these certificates, they were considered fully certified. Today, three types of certification are offered: The NIC, the NIC-Advanced, and the NIC-Masters, based on the individual’s level of skills in both ethics and decision-making. Beginning in 2008, candidates were required to possess an AA degree in order to take the performance exam, and beginning in 2012, applicants are now required to have a BA degree.

The performance segment of the NIC is now offered in San Diego, provided by CLIP Interpreting. To take your NIC test, email CLIP at

Source: So You Want to be an Interpreter?  Janice H. Humphrey and Bob J. Alcorn. 2007.

Pursuing a career as an ASL Interpreter is an excellent career decision. There is a genuine need for interpreters who are well qualified, not only in San Diego but across the country. American Sign Language interpreters translate between ASL and English, in order to help a Deaf or hard of hearing individual communicate with a hearing person who does not know sign language. These people are hired in various walks of life such as hospitals, medial facilities, law firms, technology companies, government agencies and corporate offices.

The most important job of an interpreter is to help people in communication. Such persons must demonstrate adequate patience and confidence. They are known to be diplomatic in nature and possess a great attitude. If you enjoy helping others in various matters and want to make a difference in society, then a job as an interpreter will be very rewarding in nature.

Certification is very important to become an interpreter and work in this field. If you are from another type of employment then a certificate may not be necessary but it must be remembered that a certificate holder always gets a priority over someone who does not possess a certificate.

A person who aspires to become an ASL interpreter must get the necessary certification after passing the qualifying test which consists of two stages. One must pass the written stage which will test knowledge on Deaf culture, history and interpreting protocol. Once the written test is over, the performance test begins for the candidate. The candidate must exhibit sound interpreting and ethical decision making skills in order to pass the test and get the required certification. There are various types of certifications available for specific settings, such as the legal system. It is very important to pay the annual membership dues and other fees on time otherwise the certification will expire. Certification ensures the quality of interpreters remains high, which is essential to the effective communication of Deaf individuals in a hearing world. Interpreting is a highly rewarding field that provides many opportunities for growth and new experiences. Consider becoming an interpreter in San Diego!

Are you looking for a skilled sign language interpreter in San Diego? If you are, you are at the right place. CLIP is here to serve the Deaf community. Our main objective is to ensure that we provide the public with quality services. We have a panel of qualified sign language interpreters who are willing to assist the Deaf in San Diego. Therefore, feel free to contact us and we will respond to your specific need. You can contact our customer support desk at any time, which operates around the clock.

At CLIP, we work with professionals in the field of ASL interpreting. Our interpreters have exceptional knowledge on how to conduct interpretation services. They are usually requested in situations where the presence of Deaf people requires communication assistance. These situations vary widely, and can include meetings and seminars. At CLIP, you can find an ASL interpreter who will exceed your expectations. We provide interpreters who have all the necessary qualifications.

Our interpreters are extremely punctual. They report on time and leave after completing their assignment. They never cause inconveniences and adapt well to any situation they are placed in. We prepare our interpreters in advance to avoid unpreparedness during the actual assignment. We do so by providing them with all the information possible, including client information and type of event. For this reason, we advise our clients to contact us in advance so we have the opportunity to collect the necessary information and provide them with the best fit for an interpreter.
Our agency charges less for our quality services. We do so in order to accommodate various financial classes. Our commitment to providing high quality interpreting services at an affordable rate demonstrates how much we value serving the Deaf. With our competent interpreters present at your events, you can be assured that effective communication will occur. Let’s work together to ensure the Deaf community in San Diego is provided with quality interpreting services.

Contact CLIP Interpreting today to learn about pricing for an interpreter for your events.

Sign language has been around for as long as there have been Deaf individuals in the world. Contrary to popular belief, sign language is not a universal language. In fact, hundreds of different forms of sign language exist all over the world. In San Diego, as well as across the United States, the form of sign language used is American Sign Language. Sign language is a complete language that uses hand motions, facial expressions, and posture to communicate. Learning this language requires basic knowledge about the principles governing sign language.
When using sign language, it is necessary to look straight into the eyes of the instructor or the person signing. In Deaf culture, breaking eye contact is taken as an insult. Even though extended eye contact can feel uncomfortable at first, it is essential that you make and maintain eye contact to show the Deaf person courtesy. In addition, looking away will cause you to miss information since many signs are reinforced by facial expressions that vary in meaning. These small gestures are referred to as non-manual behavior.
While studying ASL, you will come across the terms “base hand” and “dominant hand.” During many signs, the dominant hand moves while the base hand does not move. Either the right or left hand can be used as your dominant hand, however you have to be consistent. It is recommended that you use your right hand as the dominant hand to make the signing easier.
For you to learn ASL effectively, it is mandatory that you practice. Regular meetings – at least one per week – and strictly using only signs during practice sessions will greatly improve your signing skills. Many schools teach ASL classes and provide online courses that can help you master this beautiful language of signs.

Contact CLIP Interpreting today to find out about costs for scheduling an ASL interpreter for your next event.