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How to Work with an Interpreter

As you prepare to work with an interpreter for the first time (or even if it is not your first experience) there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  1. Provide information
    Be sure to share the syllabus, meeting topics, or lecture plans you have available so the interpreter can adequately prepare ahead of time. This will help ensure they are interpreting the information in the best way for the student to learn. This also gives them time to research signs that are popular in the D/HH when discussing a certain topic.
  2. Foster a professional environment
    The interpreter is there in a professional capacity, feel free to speak with them as you might a new colleague, but keep in mind that they are there to provide a professional service to allow communication access.
  3. Positioning
    The interpreter should be placed (sitting or standing) near the D/HH person that will be using them. If there are multiple D/HH people, it will likely work best for them to sit near each other so they can access the interpreter equally. Do not place the interpreter beside or behind the D/HH individual(s).
  4. Address the D/HH person directly
    While it can feel strange at first to have an outside person facilitating your conversation, keep in mind that you are speaking with the D/HH individual, not the interpreter. Do not fall into the habit of speaking in third person (he/him or she/her), rather, be sure you use second person (you/we), just as you would when speaking with a hearing person. Speak directly to the D/HH individual and make eye contact with them, not the interpreter for the duration of the conversation.
  5. Speak clearly
    While an interpreter may ask for clarification, it can get frustrating to have to pause your lecture to repeat yourself. You can help prevent this by speaking clearly and avoiding mumbling, shouting, or over-enunciating words.