Using Consistent Sign Language Interpreters

Sign Language Interpreters find themselves in different settings frequently especially if working as a community interpreter.  Because of this they are often called upon to hop from topic to topic throughout the day, and they may need to stop and ask for clarification if they are not as familiar with a topic.  This is why we encourage using consistent sign language interpreters in your business, hospital, school, or other setting.  If an interpreter is able to get familiar with a specific setting and client(s), they will be able to build on experiences and use their knowledge to more smoothly navigate each ongoing situation.Using Consistent Sign Language Interpreters

Benefit to Interpreter

People and settings vary and the more frequently you experience the same situation or similar situations, the more comfortable you get.  This is the same with interpreters.  An interpreter will feel more comfortable and will interpret more accurately each time they work with the same people in the same situation.  This is called ongoing assignments.  For example, counseling sessions build on themselves.  A psychologist gets to know a patient better each time they have a visit with them.  If the same interpreter is used for each visit, they will have the same experience as the psychologist and will be able to give the most equal communication access possible since they have context from previous appointments.

Benefit to Deaf Person

Sign language interpreters each have their own language idiosyncrasies, often called an accent.  Whether in a college class, a medical appointment, a counseling session, or work training, Deaf people often see the same teacher, doctor, counselor, or trainer but they see different interpreters.  No matter how qualified or skilled the sign language interpreter, it is challenging to have a consistent interpreted message when interpreters are switched in and out.  Using consistent sign language interpreters means the Deaf person receives the closest possible equal access experience.

Benefit to Hearing Person

It is often thought the only one who benefits from a sign language interpreter is a Deaf person.  This is a misconception.  It goes two ways.  As with other languages, both sides (English and ASL users) benefit from using a consistent sign language interpreter who is familiar with topics and specific settings.

Benefit to Business

Businesses, hospitals, doctors offices, court rooms, schools, and any other business types will save time and will get better reviews when the same interpreter is used for ongoing situations (link blog).  This can only be good for business and will make clients and professionals happier because communication is kept consistent and smooth.  It is important to recognize it will not always be possible to request the same interpreter every time due to conflicting schedules.  It is, however, a huge plus if there can be two to three repeat interpreters in repeat appointments.


Always have the goal of a consistent sign language interpreter.  But if this is not possible, use a reputable sign language interpreting firm to help with passing on information for any future interpreters to prepare them as much as possible.  This will allow for a smooth transition from interpreter to interpreter so that meetings, appointments, and events run as smoothly as possible.

Therefore, when feasible, sign language interpreters should not be switched around for ongoing services.  An interpreter not familiar with a setting will be unable to provide equal services as someone with background knowledge.


Additional Resources:

How Do You Know What Interpreting Agency to Work For?


Photo Credit:

MT & Associates | Sign Language Interpreting Practice BBB Business Review