Sign Language Interpreting Program

Frequently Asked Questions

ABOUT: Sign Language | Interpreting Profession | GPC's Sign Language Classes | GPC's Sign Language Interpreting Program | Finances | Getting Involved

About Sign Language

1.   Is sign language universal?

It would be nice if that were the case, but sign language is no more universal than spoken languages are.  American Sign Language is the language used by many people within the Deaf communities in the United States and most of Canada (LSQ is used in Quebec).  Certain Caribbean countries and areas of Mexico also use ASL.  England uses British Sign Language and Australia uses Australian Sign Language.

2.   What is the difference between ASL and English-based signing?

American Sign Language (ASL) is a distinct visual-gestural-kinesthetic language.  While it borrows elements from spoken English and old French sign language, it has unique grammatical, lexical and linguistic features of its own.  It is not English on the hands.  Because ASL is not English, educators have developed a number of signed codes which use ASL vocabulary items, modify them to match English vocabulary, and put them together according to English grammatical rules.  These codes have various names including SEE and MCE.  Additionally, when native speakers of English and native users of ASL try to communicate, the “language” that results is a mixture of both English and ASL vocabulary and grammar.  This is referred to as PSE (Pidgin Signed English) or contact signing.  Here at Georgia Perimeter College we teach ASL.

3.   How long does it take to become fluent in ASL?

How long does it take to become fluent in Japanese?  Russian?  Language fluency, be it spoken or visual, requires time, study, immersion in the language community, and constant practice.  After taking several classes, you may be able to handle communication of simple concepts of daily life.  To be comfortably fluent in native conversations at normal rates discussing complex topics may take years.

4.   Is ASL accepted for foreign language credit?

Many colleges and universities accept ASL to satisfy requirements for a foreign or second language.  Currently, ASL does not satisfy foreign language requirements at Georgia Perimeter College, but that may be reconsidered for the future.  It is best that you check with the program to which you wish to transfer.

5.   Where can I take classes?

Sign language classes are offered throughout the community at schools and colleges, churches and recreation departments.  Some of these are excellent, and some are very poor. The classes may be ASL, PSE, SEE or some mixture of all.  Instructors may be experienced, professional educators, or people who have only taken a few classes themselves.  Buyer beware!

Sign language instructors should have native or near-native fluency in ASL.  (Remember that it takes years to become highly fluent in any foreign language.)  Fluency in the language could be evidenced by RID certification or NAD or state QA ratings in interpreting, or by an advanced or superior rating on the SLPI (Sign Language Proficiency Interview).  Be wary of instructors who just recently took classes themselves.

It is very beneficial if the instructors have formally studied the language and the teaching profession.  They should be involved in the Deaf community and with professional organizations.  Credentials to look for include membership in the American Sign Language Teacher Association (ASLTA) and/or the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) as well as organizations such as the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, National Association of the Deaf and Black Deaf Advocates.

Other considerations in choosing a class may include:

•    The organization offering the class: Do they have someone in charge of the classes who knows about sign language, Deaf people and education: What is the history and reputation of the organization in regards to sign language education?

•    Resources:  Can you get additional materials on sign language? Are you provided with information on what is happening in the Deaf community?  After the basics, where do you go?

•    The Deaf community: People who are native ASL signers and involved in the Deaf community see “graduates” from various classes.  Which classes do they recommend?

•    Graduates of the class: what have they accomplished since they finished their studies?  Has the class been helpful?  Do they feel they learned what they needed?

The Georgia Perimeter College Sign Language Interpreting Program has been nationally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education.
We offer basic ASL classes at our Clarkston campus. See the GPC Course Catalog for a schedule.

6.   There are no classes close or convenient to me.  Can I learn on my own through books, videos, etc.?

It is almost impossible to learn ASL on your own.  There is not a one-to-one correspondence between English words and ASL signs.  ASL is four-dimensional.  It has height, width, depth, and movement over time.  ASL consists of more than hand movements.  It involves the face and the body as well.  ASL has its own unique grammar and structure, different from English.  Like all languages, ASL has a cultural component.  Feedback and interaction with other ASL users is crucial to becoming fluent.

Videos and books may be useful reference materials as you learn ASL in classes or in the Deaf community.  Many county libraries have sign language materials.  The Georgia Perimeter College Media Center has an extensive collection.

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About the Profession

1.   What does an interpreter do?

American Sign Language/spoken English interpreters are highly skilled professionals. They must be able to listen to a person's words, inflections and intent and simultaneously render them into the visual language of signs using the specific mode of communication preferred by the deaf consumer. The interpreter must also be able to comprehend the signs, inflections and intent of the deaf consumer and simultaneously speak them in articulate, appropriate English.  They must understand the cultures in which they work and apply that knowledge to promote effective cross-cultural communication.

2.   What is the job market for interpreters?

Sign language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field. Interpreters are employed by schools, government agencies, and private businesses. Part-time, full-time, freelance and salaried positions are available in Atlanta, in Georgia, and across the country.

3.   Is there much demand for interpreters?

There is a strong need for qualified interpreters with credentials. Many of our graduates find jobs in the school systems where they receive a full-time salary and benefits. Others work with interpreter referral agencies as independent contractors. This offers them flexibility in hours and job settings, but may not provide 40 hours per week in billable time. In general, the demand for interpreters is best in medium-to-large cities. The more mobile you are, the more likely you are to find an interpreting job.

4.   What is meant by “qualified” or “credentialed?”

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the provision of qualified interpreters in a variety of settings. One important measure of an interpreter’s qualification is professional credentials.  Credentials are obtained by taking and passing an assessment of your skills.  The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) in conjunction with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) provide testing for national certification. The test consists of a written examination to test knowledge of Deaf culture, principles of ASL and English linguistics, ethical practices and the interpreting profession; an interview that tests knowledge and application of the RID Code of Professional Conduct; and a performance evaluation to test interpreting skills. You must provide proof of a bachelor's degree in any major in order to take the RID/NAD assessment.

Additionally, taking the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA) and earning a rating of 3.5 or above qualifies interpreters in Georgia for employment in K-12 educational settings.

5.   Will Georgia Perimeter’s Sign Language Interpreting Program prepare me to get my credentials?

The background, skills development and theory learned at Georgia Perimeter's Sign Language Interpreting Program are extremely beneficial in getting your national certification or EIPA qualifying rating. Prior to the completion of this program, most graduates are able to pass the RID knowledge test.  If you are active in the field and continue to advance your knowledge and skills, you should be able to earn credentials within one to three years of graduation.

6.   What kind of salary can I expect to earn?

Salaries will vary depending on many factors.  These include a) geographical area, b) education, c) amount of experience, and d) credentials.  Some interpreters work as independent contractors and earn from a $18-$70/hour, but they generally do not schedule a full forty hours per week.  They do not get employee benefits.  Other interpreters work full-time for an agency, business, video relay service, government organization or school system.  Depending on many factors, these staff employees may earn anywhere between $15,000-$50,000+ per year.  You may want to call interpreter referral agencies, video relay providers or school systems to get specific information about the area of interpreting that interests you.

7.   I am interested in a specialty area of interpreting, such as legal, medical, religious or performance interpreting.    How do I pursue that?

These specialty areas require skills and training beyond general interpreting and language skills.  You must first develop strong general skills in interpreting.  Then, workshops, courses and mentoring are available around the country.  In some specialties you may earn higher salaries and be highly in demand.  Other specialties may offer no full-time employment and little payment.  In any case, get a good solid base in general interpreting first.

8.   Who else can I talk to about the field of interpreting?

Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (GaRID

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf  (RID)  703-838-0030

National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers

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About GPC’s Sign Language Classes

1.   How do I enroll in a beginning ASL course?

Our college level beginning ASL courses are available to all enrolled GPC students.  These beginning courses are designed for those who want to become conversational in ASL and for those interested in the profession of interpreting.   To enroll, you must apply to the college for admission and complete all entrance requirements.  Enrollment and Registration can be reached at 678.891.3535 or the admissions process can be completed online.

2.   I have already taken non-credit courses in sign language, or I have experience with signing.  Can I exempt courses?

We want you to be challenged and excited about your education.  If you know the material, we do not want you to have to repeat it. If you would like to exempt any of the ASL courses, we will offer you a skills assessment that consists of an informal signed conversation with one of the members of the SLIP faculty. You may schedule an assessment by calling 678.891.3600.  There is no fee for the exam.

Is the exam right for you?  Consider that each of our ASL courses includes over 60 hours of instruction, plus homework, projects, videos, and outside activities.  If your class was less intensive or shorter, or you took it over a year ago, you probably need to start from the beginning.  If you have sustained or improved your skills through regular use with native signers, you may be able to exempt.

3.   I took sign language courses at Dekalb/Georgia Perimeter College, but that was a while ago.  Where should I start?

ASL is not like riding a bicycle.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.  Therefore, if it has been a while since your last class, you need to take our placement test to assess your current skills.

4.   Can I transfer my ASL courses taken at another college?

Under certain circumstances, yes.  If your ASL course was of equal length, had similar objectives and experiences, used a comparable text, and was taken less than a year ago we will accept it.  Other situations are handled on a case-by-case basis, but we usually ask you to take the placement exam.

5.   When and where are classes offered?

The Sign Language Interpreting Program is based at the Clarkston campus.  We typically offer day and evening classes. ASL classes are held on Monday/Wednesday. Interpreting classes are offered on Tuesday/Thursday. For a current schedule go to the Student Information System (SIS) https://sis.gpc.edu/PROD/twbkwbis.P_GenMenu?name=homepage and click on Class Schedule.

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About GPC’s Sign Language Interpreting Program

1.   What are the requirements to get into the Sign Language Interpreting Program?

The following are excerpts from the program’s admission requirements:

·      Complete the application process for Georgia Perimeter College.

·      Complete English 1101 and 1102 with a “C” or better.  These courses can be transferred from any accredited college or university.

·      Attend an SLIP program orientation (held in May of each year). 

·      Complete an application to the Sign Language Interpreting Program.

·      Pass an assessment of ASL conversational skills.

·      Pass an assessment of visual-motor integration and sign recall.

·      Pass an assessment of spoken English skills.

Students with skills credentials (national RID/NAD certification, state QA, EIPA, SLPI) may be able to exempt the interview portion of application by submitting their credentials.

2.   I already know sign language.  Do I still have to take American Sign Language I, II, III, IV? 

You do not have to take ASL classes prior to getting into the program.  However, you must pass an assessment of your ASL conversational skills. If your skills are not sufficient, we may suggest that you take ASL classes. If you are uncertain of your current skill level, we suggest taking a free skills assessment before applying to the program. 

3.   Should I enroll in the Associate of Arts degree, the Bachelor's degree, or the Certificate of Completion program?

Students who have not yet earned a degree should begin in the Associate of Arts: American Sign Language degree. Once screened, a change of major can be submitted for the Bachelor of Arts: Sign Language Interpreting program.

New students who hold a Bachelor's degree in another field may enroll in the Sign Language Interpreting Certificate of Completion program.

If you already hold an Associates degree in another field, please contact the Sign Language Interpreting Program for advisement. Email our department secretary.

4.   Will my previous college coursework transfer?

Probably.  Georgia Perimeter College accepts course transfers from any accredited college or university in the country.  There is no limitation on how long ago the courses were taken.  Occasionally, we have students who have degrees from small private or religious colleges that may not be or may not have been accredited when the degree was awarded.  Unfortunately, there is no way for us to accept any of that coursework.

Georgia Perimeter College will only accept courses for transfer that correspond to courses taught by GPC.  That means, if you took a graduate course in advanced Boolean algebra, we are duly impressed, but cannot substitute it for Math 1101. 

5.   Does Georgia Perimeter offer job placement assistance?

While we do not have a formal placement service, throughout the program we will help you network with the agencies which hire interpreters. When you have graduated, you should have the information you need for your job search.  We also post job announcements regularly from within Georgia and around the country. We may contact graduates if we hear of an opening.

6.   Will I be a certified interpreter when I finish the program?

NO!  In this field, if someone is “certified” that means they have passed the RID/NAD knowledge test, and the performance test and interview.  We want to stress that finishing the five semesters provides only the minimum skills and foundational knowledge required to do the work of interpreting. If someone told you that in just five semesters you could learn Arabic and become a United Nations interpreter, you would not believe them. Completion of the program is more like a driver’s permit, which lets you operate in certain protected situations.  We can prepare you for the RID knowledge test, but the subsequent performance test and interview requires EXPERIENCE as an interpreter.

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Finances

1.   How much will it cost me to complete the program?

The most current academic fee schedule can be obtained at http://facstaff.gpc.edu/~vhope/schedule_of_tuition_and_fees_student_accounts.htm.  Books are materials are not included in the fees listed here.

Our program strongly encourages you to get involved with Deaf and interpreting organizations which may have additional membership fees of $25-$50 each.

Since you are required to take the RID written test as a part of your portfolio, we encourage you to be prepared for this financially. This test costs approximately $300.

2.   Is financial aid available?

Financial aid is available through the Financial Aid Office, located on the Clarkston Campus (678) 891-3505. You will need to fill out the FAFSA to qualify for financial aid. Please contact the staff of the Financial Aid Office for advice on the availability of grants or loans. 

Additionally, the GPC Foundation administers college scholarships. You can contact their office to get a list of the currently available scholarships. The Christine Smith Scholarship is one that is available for SLIP students. Each year applications are reviewed, and a stipend is awarded to the winning student. For information on the Christine Smith Scholarship, please contact the GPC Foundation.

3.   Can I work while attending the program?

We recognize that many interpreting students must also work full-time.  Therefore, all of our courses are offered both daytime and evening.  While we acknowledge that working while attending school is difficult, our instructors have the same high expectations for all students.  We suggest you consider all the demands on your time before committing to the program.

Unless you have interpreting credentials, we strongly recommend you do not work as an interpreter while a student in the program.

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Getting Involved

1.   I’d like to have more opportunities to use my sign language.  How can I get connected?

Good for you!  We encourage your involvement in the Deaf community in order to improve your language skills, learn more about the culture and get to know some wonderful people.  We strongly discourage you from volunteering to interpret until having the proper credentials assures that you are qualified.

Here are some organizations that sometimes utilize volunteers:

Association of Late-Deafened Adults

The Association of Late-Deafened Adults is about communication and acceptance of every deafened individual.

Atlanta Black Deaf Advocates
The Atlanta Black Deaf Advocates organization is affiliated with the National Black Deaf Advocates.  They offer a membership newsletter.

Hearing Loss Association of America - Atlanta Chapter
Formerly called SHHH (Self Help for Hard of Hearing), this organization provides support, education, and fun for hearing impaired people and their friends and families.  They have a membership newsletter.

Georgia Association of the Deaf (GAD)
GAD is an advocacy agency for deafness issues.  Chapters are located throughout the state.  GAD publishes a membership newsletter.

Georgia Association of the Deaf-Blind (GADB)  

GADB provides the information, support and advocacy that empowers and improves the quality of life of deaf-blind people. 

Georgia Hands and Voices

Hands and Voices is dedicated to supporting families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing without a bias around communication modes or methodology.

Georgia Parent Infant Network for Educational

Georgia PINES is a statewide early intervention program, begun in 1980, for families of children birth to five years of age with a diagnosed hearing impairment and/or a visual impairment.

Georgia Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (GaRID)

GaRID is the state affiliate chapter of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and is an organization established for, comprised of and sustained by sign language interpreters.

National Alliance of Black Interpreters

NAOBI-Atlanta promotes excellence and empowerment among African Americans/Blacks in the profession of sign language interpreting in the context of a multi-cultural/multi-lingual environment.

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf  703-838-0030 

RID is the national professional association of interpreters.  It offers national certification, continuing education, member services, and a newsletter.

SCHOOLS 
Atlanta Area School for the Deaf (AASD)
890 North Indian Creek Drive 
Clarkston, GA  30021 
404/296-7101  (V/TTY) 
AASD is a day school program (preschool through 12th grade) for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Georgia School for the Deaf 
Cave Spring, GA 30124 
706/777-2200 (V/TTY) 
GSD is a public residential school for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

SERVICES

Georgia Council for the Hearing Impaired (GaCHI)
4151 Memorial Drive, Suite 103B 
Decatur, GA  30032 
404/292-5312 (V/TTY); 1-800-541-0710 
GaCHI provides counseling, public awareness, crisis intervention, workshops, family life education, community education, referrals, advocacy.

2.   How can I find out about what’s happening in the Deaf and interpreting communities?

ABDA, GAD and GaRID all have newsletters you receive as a member.  If you have Internet and email access, you may also subscribe to Epeachy by going to www.yahoogroups.com and searching for “Epeachy.”  Click on the group, and then click on “Join this Group.”  Epeachy has hundreds of members, and the information provided there is quite useful.

Want to know more?  You can call us at 678.891.3600, e-mail us at becky.thurman@gpc.edu, or visit our web site at http://www.gpc.edu/~gpcslip/.