Suggestions for Effective Use of Interpreters

Speak at your natural pace, but be aware that the interpreter must hear and understand a complete thought before signing it. The interpreter will let you know if you should repeat or slow down. Turn taking in the conversation may be different from what you are used to. This is due to the lag time required for the interpretation process.

  1. Should I look at the interpreter?
    Look and speak directly at the Deaf person. Please do not say, “tell him” or “tell her.” The Deaf person will be watching the interpreter and glancing back and forth at you.
  2. What about group situations?
    Semicircles or circular seating arrangements are best for discussion formats. Encourage students to take turns during dialogue. For large group situations such as conferences or performances, be sure to reserve a “Deaf Participants and Their Friends” seating area near the front for clear visibility of the interpreter.
  3. Do I need any special visual aids?
    Visual aids such a Xeroxed handouts or writing on a chalkboard can be a tremendous help to both the interpreter and the Deaf person, insuring correct spelling of technical vocabulary or names. Remember to pause before giving your explanation of the visual aid so the Deaf person has time to see it, look back at the interpreter and still “hear” everything you said.
  4. Classroom accommodations:
    In normal movements around the classroom, teachers should take care not to come between the interpreter and Deaf students. When moving to another part of the room to lecture, allow time for the interpreter to follow so that the student’s attention is not split.

For classroom with windows facing the sun, adjust the blinds to minimize glare. Neither professors nor interpreters should stand before open windows.

When using media, such as video tapes or slides, it is essential that there be enough light for the student to follow the interpreter’s signing.

If the classroom teacher asks the class to look at a passage in their textbooks, he/she should allow the student time to read the material before continuing the lecture. Deaf students cannot read and watch the interpreter at the same time, and valuable information can be missed if this happens. The same applies to test instructions.