Tyler Junior College

Sign Language Interpreting


How many deaf and hard of hearing people are there in Texas?
No census of deaf and hard of hearing persons has ever been carried out in the State of Texas primarily due to the cost of such a monumental effort. The "Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2005", U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics found: "Overall, 17% of adults 18 years of age and over experienced some hearing difficulty without a hearing aid (defined as 'a little trouble,' 'a lot of trouble,' or 'deaf'). Men were more likely to have experienced hearing trouble than were women."

Again, based on figures from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey and 2005 U.S. Census Bureau population figures for Texas, indicate DHHS's total service population in 2005 was estimated to be more than 3.8 million people. (From DARS Website)

Must I have a college degree in order to become a certified interpreter?
Yes. The applicant is required to have at least 60 semester hours completed or hold an associate's degree. In addition, consideration is being given to require new applicants to hold a bachelor's degree beginning in 2016 due to state laws possibly requiring the certification to become a license. (From DARS). To become nationally certified, one must have a BA, BS, or BAAS to take the performance test.

Isn’t sign language a universal language?
No, in fact there are variations in various parts of the U.S. and even in TX, just like there are different spoken accents and slang. Most countries use sign language native to their country’s language. The majority of Deaf in the U.S. use American Sign Language. Some Caribbean islands and parts of Mexico also use ASL.

How long does it take to become fluent in ASL?
To become fluent in any language it takes cultural immersion, time, practice with native ASL users, and training. People learn at different rates. Do not become discouraged if you are in ASL I and some people are ahead of you. Some students may have learned sign language before, have deaf family members, or just simply learn language more quickly than most. However, even students who have never been exposed to sign language can learn! To become comfortable in complex situations may take years. The most important thing is to keep practicing!

How long does it take to become a sign language interpreter?
Becoming a sign language interpreter is a different skill than communicating in ASL. TJC’s program requires at least 6 full semesters. Proficiency depends on the individual’s ability to acquire a second language and the interpreting process. Each class in the curriculum is structured to build upon the course before. Therefore, the courses in this program must be completed in order. (You also have 5 years to finish a degree once you declare your major).

Will I be a certified interpreter when I graduate?
The curriculum includes a mid-program exam and an exit exam. A graduate should be able to take the BEI exam to become a certified interpreter, but it is dependent upon the student’s ability to perform under pressure while videotaped and the student’s individual proficiency. We cannot guarantee a student will pass the BEI exam as there are many variables that affect one’s performance. TJC does not require a student pass the performance portion of the BEI to graduate so that the student can continue to work on an upper level degree. However, the student is encouraged to keep connected to TJC for support through the BEI or NIC exam process.

I have already taken non-college credit courses or have sign experience; can I be exempt from some classes?
If a person has previously taken ASL classes and/or grew up “signing” it is recommended they take the Department examination. Once the examination is scored and you meet with the Department Chairperson a recommendation will be made. If you are placed in ASL II or ASL III and want to obtain the AAS degree you will be required to pay the appropriate fee for “credit by examination”.

Is my associate degree transferable to a 4-year university?
Yes, however, most of the technical courses offered within the ITP curriculum will not transfer towards a traditional Bachelor degree program. Should you decide to pursue a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences, TJC ITP has an articulation agreement with TX A & M Texarkana which is mostly online, UT Tyler and Stephen F. Austin University. Other universities and colleges may accept the ASL classes SGNL 1401, 1402, 2301 and 2302 as foreign language credit. Please check with the 4-year institution of your choice.

What are the job opportunities for a sign language interpreter?
Sign Language interpreting is a rapidly expanding field, and there is a strong need for qualified interpreters with credentials. Traditionally many interpreters found work within the education system, either K-12 or the post-secondary setting and with the recent legislative change requiring educational interpreters to hold certification the need for certified interpreters continues to grow. Some interpreters work for non-profit, or privately owned agencies where they find themselves working in a variety of situations throughout any given day, including, but not limited to, community, medical, legal, and governmental agency settings. Video Relay Interpreting is another option for sign language interpreters who hold advanced levels of certification. Advanced certification is required for Tri-Lingual and Court interpreters.  Locally, Tyler Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center (TDHHC.org), East Texas Center for Independent Living (ETCIL) hires community interpreters and the school districts, colleges and universities hire interpreters. Check the area where you live or plan to live for more information on the available jobs for interpreters.

What else can I do with a degree in sign language interpreting or an ASL Skills Certificate?
A degree in sign language interpreting can enhance any career you choose. Some students go on to get degrees in Education, including Deaf Education, psychology, counseling, nursing, or social work.

What is meant by "qualified"?
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires the provision of ‘qualified’ interpreters in a variety of settings. One important measure of an interpreter’s qualifications is professional credentials. These are obtained by taking and passing an assessment test of your skills. The National Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) provides such testing on a national level. It consists of a written examination to test knowledge of Deaf culture, history and interpreting protocol; a performance evaluation to test interpreting skills; and an interview discussion pertaining to ethical dilemmas. The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services also offer the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) certification system. The purpose of the BEI interpreter testing and certification process is to ensure that individuals working in Texas as certified American Sign Language (ASL) and/or English interpreters and transliterators meet the minimum proficiency standards established by the Board for Evaluation of Interpreters (BEI) for successfully discharging the responsibilities of a state-certified interpreter. To this end, the BEI has developed a two part certification test, the Test of English Proficiency and the Performance Test.

Will the ASL classes count as foreign language credit?
It is crucial that you check with the educational institution you intend to pursue your 4-year degree with, and ascertain which classes will transfer and which will not. Currently UTSA, Texas State, UT Austin, and Texas Tech all accept ASL as a foreign language. Typically, you must complete all 4 semesters of ASL for other institutions to count it as foreign language credit.

What is the difference between SGNL and SLNG classes?
It is important to understand that regardless of the label both of these classes will offer the same course content, will be taught by the same instructor, and will be held at the same date and time. However, SLNG courses are listed in the state Workforce Education Course Manual and are designed for those students wanting to pursue a degree in Interpreting or Deaf Support. SGNL courses are listed in the state Academic Course Guide Manual and are designed for those students planning to have ASL courses satisfy the foreign language requirement of a four year institution.

What are some of the qualities or skills needed to become an interpreter?
It is necessary to have a strong command of both ASL and English in order to work effectively between them. In addition an Interpreter should have:

  • A non-judgmental attitude
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • Flexibility
  • Diplomacy
  • Objectivity
  • Self-discipline
  • Strong auditory and visual skills
  • Good memory

I learned Signed English, can I take ASL classes?
Yes, but understand that the two are not the same. Signed English is a manual representation of spoken English and is not a true language. ASL, however, is a language, and has grammar, structure and linguistic rules that govern it as do all other languages.

Do I need to meet with an advisor every semester?
Yes. We work to ensure that you work through the program in a way that best utilizes your time and offers you the greatest benefits, without taking any classes that are not required. Our program is designed to build upon each class; therefore classes cannot be taken out of order. To be sure you meet all the necessary requirements for graduation we have made consultation with an advisor mandatory. The program has group advising sessions every Fall and Spring before online early registration begins. The dates/times and sign-up sheets are posted in the ASL Labs and our faculty emails the information to our students.

Should I take all my general education courses before taking program courses?
We recommend that you take an ASL class every semester in order to develop your sign skills, but also to avoid delaying your graduation. The ASL classes must be taken in order, one after another, and as such, several classes cannot be taken together in one semester. Each semester you do not register for an ASL course you delay your graduation by a semester. If you have to re-take a course, understand you will also delay graduation. In addition, the other department courses must be taken in order and may not be offered every semester. If you are under the requirement to take at least 12 semester hours for financial aid, plan accordingly. Otherwise, it is recommended you take the most difficult general education courses early because the program courses require increasingly additional time in homework and practice.