As a Deaf person, the Deaf Interpreter starts with a distinct set of formative experiences described extensively by Deaf interpreter focus group participants (NCIEC 2009a). The formative experiences of Deaf interpreters include:

  • Exposure to American Sign Language and/or another signed language, and a wide variety of other communication forms used by Deaf people through life-long interactions with Deaf family members and friends, Deaf peers within the education system, and Deaf people in the community;
  • Early experiences of interpreting for family, friends, and peers;
  • Experiences of personal challenges in comprehending situations, interpreters, and various communication styles;
  • Personal experiences of discrimination, oppression, and frustration with lack of access to communication and information.

Those Deaf individuals who become effective Deaf Interpreters are instilled by these life experiences with linguistic and extralinguistic knowledge (Gile, 1995) rarely, if ever, found in hearing interpreters. This requisite knowledge is an essential foundation that can be honed — though not taught — through interpreting education. The reader is encouraged to review the more in-depth description of Deaf Interpreter formative experiences provided in the analysis of Deaf Interpreter focus group discussions conducted April-July 2007 (NCIEC 2009a).