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Hiring Sign Language Interpreters

Two women are pictured. One of the women is showing the other how to form a particular sign.
Two women are pictured. One of the women is showing the other how to form a particular sign.

What skills and qualifications should you consider when hiring an interpreter for a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual?

As you prepare to hire an interpreter, remember that interpreters typically work in a team of two to ensure full communication access for a Deaf/Hard of Hearing exchange participant, a practice that is considered an industry standard. You’ll want to investigate the needs of the exchange participant and the logistics of the exchange program in determining support staff that will enhance programmatic access.


All sign language interpreters should have National Interpreter Certification (NIC) or an equivalent level of certification. If an interpreter will be accompanying a participant from their home country to the United States, does that interpreter follow similar ethical and professional guidelines as is expected in the U.S. or for what is needed during the exchange program?

Previous Interpretation Experience

Some interpreters may be more flexible in negotiating a contract and rate in exchange for valuable international and professional experience. Experienced interpreters may be more qualified for the demands of the position.

Travel Experience

Does the interpreter have previous international travel experience, particularly in the host country? Experienced travelers may be able to better adapt to changing and unpredictable conditions abroad. They may also already have a passport and required immunizations in the destination.


Does the interpreter work well with the individual? In-person or videophone meetings between the interpreter and the individual should be arranged before the program to determine whether the interpreter is a good fit for the participant.

Foreign Language Experience

How much experience does the interpreter have to interpret spoken English with a foreign accent or at the speed of a native English speaker? If the program will be conducted in a language other than English, the interpreter will need to know that language.
See the Table of Contents for how to find sign language interpreters both within and outside of the U.S.

This article is part of the International Education Professional Pathway.

Previous: Locating Sign Language Interpreters in the U.S.

Next: Developing an Interpreter Contract

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