Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Educational Interpreting: Understanding the Rural Experience

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Educational Interpreting: Understanding the Rural Experience

Article excerpt

The present study examined the experiences, preparation, and perceptions of 63 educational interpreters employed in two rural states, using surveys and subsequent in-depth interviews with selected subjects. Only 10 of the 63 interpreters had completed interpreter preparation programs, with 5 of these having no course work related to education. None of the interpreters working in elementary or secondary schools held certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf or any other certifying body. Of the 63 interpreters, 43 were assessed using the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), which uses a scale of 0-5. Test takers who score 3.5 or better are considered "coherent." The mean score on the EIPA for the 43 educational interpreters was 2.6. Respondents reported concerns about their limited understanding of American Sign Language (ASL), their ability to interpret from ASL to English, and their salaries, training, and professional status.

For students who are deaf who are attending school in general education settings, the provision of an educational interpreter is an important accommodation. The demand for educational interpreters has soared in recent years and has paralleled the increase in the number of students who are deaf who are attending local schools (Beaver, Hayes, & Luetke-- Stahlman, 1995; L. Johnson, 1994; Jones, Clark, & Soltz, 1997; National Task Force on Educational Interpreting, 1989). Rapid growth in the field of educational interpreting has resulted in a shortage of wellprepared interpreters (Dahl & Wilcox, 1990), a situation that is even worse in rural settings. Many individuals employed as interpreters have not completed formal preparation through interpreter preparation programs (IPPs), and fewer still have had appropriate training for employment in educational settings (Hayes, 1992). The paucity of interpreters, coupled with concern about the quality of interpretation (Winston, 1994), raises many questions regarding the field of educational interpreting.

Qualified Interpreters

Far too few interpreters demonstrate adequate skills for the positions for which they were hired (Colonomos, 1982; Schein, Mallory, & Greaves, 1991). Winston (1994) described the shortage of qualified educational interpreters:

[A] very important concern must be the nationwide lack of skilled, qualified interpreters to work in educational settings.... The skills, knowledge, and experience of interpreters working in educational settings are often much less than required to provide even minimally satisfactory interpreting for deaf students. Interpreters in educational settings should be more skilled than community interpreters, but most often education attracts inexperienced, unskilled interpreters. (p. 61)

Many interpreters employed in educational settings have had little or no formal preparation for this work (Powers & Elliot, 1996; Schick, Williams, & Bolster, 1999; Winston, 1994). In the 1999 annual reference issue of the American Annals of the Deaf, only 3 of the 73 interpreter training programs listed identified themselves as specifically providing training for schoolbased interpreters ("Programs for Training Interpreters," 1999). This lack of preparation is disturbing, particularly in light of the fact that more than 50% of graduates of IPPs seek schoolrelated employment (National Task Force on Educational Interpreting, 1989). Hiring highly qualified individuals to interpret in school settings is critical, since educational interpreters function as language facilitators for students who are deaf (Bowen-Bailey, 1996; Calvert, 1996; Schick et al., 1999; Winston, 1985). Yet schools are most often the setting where new interpreters gain their first experiences in the field (Bowen-Bailey, 1996).

The shortage of educational interpreters has led some administrators to substitute teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing in the role of the interpreter (Stewart, 1988). …

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