The field of signed language interpreting in the U.S.A is relatively young, having first professionalized in the 1960s (Ball, 2013). The field of teaching signed language interpreters is even younger. In the early 1970s, the demand for signed language interpreters in public, mainstreamed schools grew exponentially overnight. This was the result of IDEA passing through legislature ensuring that every child be able to be schooled in their local school and/or the least restrictive environment (About IDEA, n.d.). There were not enough interpreters to meet this demand, so the federal government established rehabilitation training grants to get interpreters trained, and in a hurry (About NCIEC, n.d.). The teachers for these training programs were largely pulled from the existing pool of working interpreters who had not had any formal training, but rather had learned how to interpret alongside colleagues and Deaf consumers.
Throughout the years, rehabilitation training grants have been offered, funded, and designed in various ways to achieve the desired number of interpreters. Eventually, these programs migrated more and more to academic institutions and programs and became degree-granting pathways for interpreters. This not only increased the quality of interpreters (from one standpoint) but it also changed who could provide the training. Now trainers had to meet academic institution requirements of degrees and other credentials to be hired.
These programs were responding to an immediate need that seemed impossible to meet, and with little to no resources to figure out how to do it. So, each interpreting teacher was left to their own devices and those of their local community. Over the years, these pioneers have embarked on research to the point that we can now have evidence-based curriculum and yet there is still not enough shared resources available. Many of the resources we rely upon to teach and/or prepare for national exams are outdated (see, for example, Stewart, Schein, & Cartwright 1998; Frishberg, 1990; Solow, 2000) and/or difficult to access due to broken links (NMIP, 2000; NCRTM, 2019).
When the opportunity for developing an open education resource (OER) came about, we are thrilled to invite current and emerging scholars to speak into the development of new signed language interpreters. Not at the exclusion of long-established scholars, but rather in conjunction with them. We are excited to offer this resource and to see it grow and evolve in real time with the profession.
Textbooks for signed language interpreting are not available as open educational resources. A search of CORE, Open Textbook Library, BCcampus OpenEd, OpenOregon Educational Resources, OER Commons, Open Suny Textbooks, MERLOT, Open Course Library, and Open Michigan yield no textbooks on interpreting. There are four traditionally published introductory textbooks about signed language interpreting. They were published and reprinted (not significantly revised) between 1981 and 2007 (Frishberg, 1990; Humphrey & Alcorn, 2007; Neumann Solow, 2000; and Stewart, Schein, & Cartwright, 2004). These textbooks are dated, out of print, expensive, and/or difficult to obtain.
Goals for this resource
Interpreting Studies faculty at Western Oregon University conducted a longitudinal research project from 2009 to 2016, evaluating the perceived gap between graduation from an interpreter education program and readiness-to-work/certification. In response to the findings, the BA in Interpreting Studies: Theory has been redesigned. As a result of the redesign, we are developing free or low-cost educational resources to WOU students, as well as to students and faculty in other interpreter education programs worldwide. We already provide current research via the Western Oregon University Digital Commons, where action research, thesis, and professional projects are published.
Open Educational Resources (OER) provide authors and readers with open access to current, relevant, easy-to-access, free or low-cost materials. Our intent for this project is to create a space where emerging scholars in the field of signed language interpreting will make contributions and be able to retain, reuse, remix, revise, and redistribute as the interpreting studies discipline and the scholars develop and change.
The purpose of this OER project is to develop current materials targeting newer scholars as authors who have conducted current research, but have not had an opportunity to publish. In this project, each of the five editors will develop and/or compile a collection of reading and ancillary materials on a specific content area. Contributions will be made in written English or digitally recorded American Sign Language (ASL). All contributors retain rights to their own work and may reuse in traditional and transformative ways as OER approaches continue to advance. As authors continue to grow, they are encouraged to remix (create new content over time) and redistribute materials they have developed.
The goal of this OER is to offer faculty and students readings and practical application experiences that connect program specific coursework and concepts across the interpreter education curriculum emphasizing the holistic nature of the field of interpreting.
Additionally, there are different needs for those students who are native English speakers and those who are native/primary users of ASL. We also envision other interpreter educators using the materials. Thus, we expect that the readings and activities will be revised (adapted) as needed.
Courses and topics for this project include interpreter mindset, pre-interpreting skills and knowledge, technical skills, reflective practice, linguistics, cultural intelligence, multicultural competencies, meaning transfer, and coaching.
Our goal is to open conversation and dialogue around important issues and ways of knowing. We are interested in engaging around these topics, not merely providing input and information, but really sparking deep dialogue and reflection in the work we do as interpreters, interpreter educators, and scholars.
We invite you to reach out to us and to one another in continuing to explore, expand, and enrich this text. Please let us know what is needed, what you would like to contribute, where you are stuck and what you want to know!
Navigating the text
Each section has an introduction from the editor casting the vision for that section. Pointing out the potential for future contributions and showing the connections among current contributions to their sections. Within each section may be readings or resources that could include:
- Practical Application
- Connections to the Whole
At the end of the text is a glossary of terms used throughout. There may also be particular definition of terms within sections or contributions but our intent is to have a comprehensive glossary at the end. This glossary will also be a living element of the text; we need to know what words need definitions and what definitions need clarification.
In future iterations of this text, we will unpack our vision for interpreter education and how we think about our growth as interpreters throughout the life-long, fun, and hard journey.
About IDEA. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sites.ed.gov/idea/about-idea/#IDEA-History
About NCIEC. (n.d.). History. Retrieved from http://www.interpretereducation.org/about/
Alcorn, B. J., & Humphrey, J. H. (2007). So you want to be an interpreter. An Introduction to Sign Language Interpreting, 4.
Ball, C. (2013). Legacies and legends: History of interpreter education from 1800 to the 21st century. Interpreting Consolidated.
Frishberg, N. (1990). Interpreting: an introduction. Silver Spring, MD: Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
National Clearinghouse of Training Materials. (2019). Gateway to RSA technical assistance (TA) and training. Retrieved from https://ncrtm.ed.gov/
National Multicultural Interpreter Project. (2000). Multicultural curriculum overview for instructors: A curriculum for enhancing interpreter competencies for working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities. El Paso, TX: National Multicultural Interpreter Project. Retrieved from https://pdf4pro.com/view/training-of-interpreters-for-individuals-who-are-270eb.html
Solow, S. N. (2000). Sign language interpreting: A basic resource book. Linstok Press.
Stewart, D. A., Schein, J. D., & Cartwright, B. E. (1998). Sign language interpreting: Exploring its art and science. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Wiley, D. (2015). Defining the “open” in open content. Retrieved from http://opencontent.org/definition/