For over a hundred years Sinclair has been home to a variety of innovative programs available to students. The interpreter education program is one of these, established in the early 1980’s.
The interpreter education program trains interpreters to facilitate communication between deaf and hearing people. Phyllis Adams has been the chair of the department for 21 years, and is a graduate of the program herself.
According to Adams, students enrolled in the interpreter education program work in a variety of settings throughout their education at Sinclair. Including two different practicums that involve going out in the community and gaining real world interpreting experience.
Many students even work on interpreting on campus. They interpret many Sinclair Talks, and all the plays put on by the theater department.
According to Adams, this is not only a great experience for the students, but has also helped to build a better relationship with the theater department and with the deaf community.
Students go on to a variety of work after graduation, including interpreting in educational settings. Graduates of the Sinclair interpreter education program are eligible for a statewide interpreting license from the Ohio Department of Education, which enables them to the go on and work in classrooms and other similar settings.
Interpreter education students complete a variety of course work, and gain many skills beyond learning American Sign Language. Students take classes to learn about the deaf culture and community; they learn to be cultural mediators.
The program takes a bit longer to complete, due to the different levels of ASL and the way the program is taught. Students learn the language before they begin learning how to interpret. This is one of the ways Sinclair’s program is unique.
There are three levels of ASL classes; basic, intermediate and advanced. Each have two sub levels, it takes a semester to complete each sub level.
Interpreter education students don’t start learning the basics of interpreting until they reach intermediate signing levels. This gives them a chance to begin signing, and already be somewhat immersed in the language and culture before they begin trying to interpret.
The bulk of the interpreter specific classes often don’t begin until the student is starting to take advanced signing classes.
All levels of ASL are taught from an across the board interpreting perspective. Even though some students in these earlier classes, may be taking it simply due to interests or to fulfill a language requirement. However, according to Adams many students start out in ASL classes and then realize they have a passion for interpreting.
Another unique part about the program is the departments language lab. Located on the first floor of building 9, the EDU lab is a “voices off” environment for ASL students.
The lab offers students a place to come study, work on homework and projects, be immersed in an ASL community, and get help from hearing and deaf tutors or mentors.
Adams said one of the great things about the lab is the fact that there are native signers working there, and having deaf faculty offers interpreting students a lot of insight into how the language and culture works.
There weren’t always interpreter education programs. Before schools and state boards decided who could interpret, ASL interpreters were vetted and chosen by the deaf community. The deaf community did their own interpreter education, as they chose who they wanted in their lives; as interpreters are often mediators in person situation such as doctors appointments.
According to Adams, having deaf faculty in the lab helps preserve a part of that.
Adams also said that having students go into the deaf community while they are still in school helps them start to build relationships within deaf culture.