Heritage learner to professional interpreter: Who are deaf-parented interpreters and how do they achieve professional status?

June 9, 2015


Individuals who have one or more deaf parent can be considered heritage learners of a signed language (Compton, 2014; Valdes, 2005). These individuals have had language brokering experiences (Napier, in press) before entering a formal program or attending any training to become an interpreter. Despite the experiences and skills they bring to the classroom and the profession of ASL/ English interpreting, deaf-parented interpreters anecdotally say that educational opportunities do not account for their specific needs and skill-set. The relationship between demographic characteristics of ASL/English interpreters who have one or more deaf parent, including their linguistic environments during formative years, routes of induction into the interpretation profession, and their professional status as an interpreter is examined in this mixed-methods exploratory study. This study of 751 deaf-parented interpreters’ survey responses finds that they are achieving national credentials and education and training as an interpreter through some coursework, formal and informal mentorships, and workshops. Degree and certification requirements along with state licensure before working as an interpreter may serve as a xi barrier to deaf-parented interpreters who, for the most part, have been entering the field through informal induction practices within the deaf community. The results of this research can benefit the field of signed/spoken language interpreting by influencing curriculum design and teaching approaches so that the unique demographic of deafparented interpreters are recruited to and retained within the profession.


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Citation: Williamson, Amy, “Heritage learner to professional interpreter: Who are deaf-parented interpreters and how do they achieve professional status?” (2015). Master’s of Arts in Interpreting Studies (MAIS) Theses. Paper 22.

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(New York)