Common Situations

We believe that Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in any classroom deserve equal access to information. One way that we provide this access is through the use of a team of interpreters, when possible and appropriate.



"Team interpreting" refers to "the use of more than one interpreter to effectively provide communication to and from all participants." (Frishberg, 199 1, p. 164)* "On time" refers to the time that the interpreter is actually transmitting information, either sign to voice or voice to sign.

"Off time" refers to the time that the interpreter is not actively interpreting, but is observing/supporting the "on" interpreter and taking notes for feedback on performance.


Once student schedules have been secured and instructors have been oriented, the interpreter coordinator makes up an interpreter schedule for the classes. Either one interpreter or a team of two interpreters will be assigned to each class that requires interpreting.

In order to determine if a class will require a team, there are several factors to be considered. The first, and most important, is the length of the class. It is the policy of the Disability Resource Center that a class meeting for longer than an hour generally will have a team of interpreters. However, for the normal fifty minute classes, other factors come into play. One important consideration is the number of classes/deaf and hard of hearing students the Disability Resource Center is working for that semester. If there is only one interpreter available during the time slot for a particular class, then that class will not have a team.

If there are two available interpreters, then perhaps the class will be teamed. This policy also applies on the occasion that freelance interpreters are hired, especially if there is more than one class that requires a team of interpreters meeting at the same time. Another important factor is the level of the class to be interpreted. One interpreter, for example, could easily interpret a 1000 level English or History class. However, a 4000 level Psychology class, simply due to the level of complexity and course content, would probably require a team of interpreters.

Studies have shown that after about 25 minutes of voice to sign interpreting, the performance level of the interpreter begins to suffer. This is due to both physical and mental fatigue. Sign language interpreters are not merely coding English into a visual medium on the hands, but are actually working between two distinctly different languages. Therefore, especially in a higher-level class, a team can insure that the material and information are being transferred to the deaf student in the most clear and precise method possible.

The team is not only beneficial to the student, but also to the interpreters themselves. As is stated to the instructors before the semester starts, the interpreters are observed by the coordinator approximately twice during the quarter for skill building and feedback. These observations insure that the interpreters are providing the highest quality of interpreting to the students. In addition to this formal feedback, the interpreters take notebooks with them to class and take notes on their teammate's performance when in the "off time seat." This provides immediate feedback on sign choices and overall performance that can be utilized during the next "on time" session.

*From Interpreting, an Introduction by Nancy Frishberg


Sign of the Times

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