Frequently Asked Questions

What qualities do I need to be successful in the ASL-English Interpretation program?

Ability to invest time in ASL skill development: 

To become an ASL-English interpreter, one must develop competency in both English and ASL. The more adept students become in both languages’ grammar, linguistic features, discourse structure, and prosody, the more comfortable and skilled they will be at interpreting. As with learning any new language, ASL proficiency cannot be attained by attending classes alone; it requires practicing and using ASL with native ASL signers. Just as those who study spoken languages frequently study abroad to immerse themselves in a new language and culture, ASL students must immerse themselves in the culture and language of Deaf people if they wish to become fluent.

To succeed in this program and graduate with a greater level of confidence, students need to commit to spending significant amounts of time outside of class to record videos, meet with Deaf people for feedback, and immerse themselves in ASL and Deaf culture by attending community events. Naturally, this makes Interpreting a very time-intensive program. Students who have limited availability outside of class time often find their progress is not as robust or advanced as those who are able to expend time in those additional extra-curricular activities. The more hours that students spend outside of class interacting with Deaf people, the faster they progress in their ASL skill development and the greater their readiness for the exciting but challenging field of interpreting.

Students interested in pursuing ASL-English interpreting as a career should take into consideration this additional aspect of time commitment before applying to the program.

Other skills needed to be successful in this program:

  • A solid foundation in spoken and written English
  • Basic computer skills
  • Ability to clearly hear the speech of another person (even if the person is behind you or the speech is recorded, and you are listening through headphones)
  • Ability to speak clearly, so others can understand
  • Ability to concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task over a period of time
  • An interest in different cultures
  • An interest in working with people
If I graduate from the ASL-English Interpretation program, will I be a certified interpreter?

An academic degree is different than professional certification. When you graduate, you will have a Bachelor of Science degree in ASL-English Interpretation. Certification is a credential that interpreters obtain from professional organizations. Generally, professional certification is obtained after students have completed their education and have 1-2 years of work experience. There are two organizations that certify sign language interpreters: the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and Boys Town National Research Hospital.

Sign Language interpreter certification typically includes a written test, which must be passed first, followed by a performance test. In a recent survey of graduates from the NTID ASL-English Interpretation program, more than 60% of the graduates took and passed the written test within a year after graduation. Most will go on to obtain professional certification.

Can I begin the ASLIE program at RIT/NTID any time during the academic year?

The American Sign Language-English Interpretation program follows a sequential course plan, including ASL I-VII and core interpreting courses. Because this course sequence begins in the fall semester, you are not permitted to begin the program during the spring or summer semesters.

When should I apply?

If you’re interested in applying to the American Sign Language-English Interpretation (ASLIE) program, there are two application deadlines for you to consider:

  • Early Decision: If you submit all application materials by November 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-January. (Early decision is available to freshman applicants only)
  • Regular Decision: If you submit all application materials by January 15, you will receive notification of an admission decision by mid-March. (Regular decision is available for freshman and transfer students)

Note: The Regular Decision deadline is January 15. Incomplete applications after January 15 may not be reviewed for admission.

Can I enter NTID's ASL-English Interpretation program if I don't know sign language?

To enter the program you need to demonstrate beginning-level competency in ASL. For most students this will mean the completion of a course titled ASL I or Beginning ASL. We will assess your ASL ability to verify you satisfy the entry requirement.

I've already taken ASL courses. How will they transfer to NTID?

You will submit an ASL sample as part of the application process,You will then be placed in the appropriate course for your ASL ability. Any previous ASL coursework will then be transferred to NTID. Most previously taken ASL courses will be transferred to the major or as general education electives.

It is important to note that the ASL courses and the interpreting courses are sequential. Regardless of how many transfer credits you bring in,if you start the program at ASL I,II or III, it will be a 4-year program; if you start the program at ASLE IV or V,it will be a 3-year program.

As a student in the American Sign Language-English Interpretation program, will I qualify for RIT/NTID’s reduced tuition rate?

As a student in the ASLIE program, you will receive a substantially reduced tuition rate. Because RIT/NTID receives support from the federal government, students in the ASLIE program pay less than one-half of RIT’s regular tuition. At RIT/NTID, you receive a world-class private university education at a public university price.

As a transfer student, do I need to submit SAT or ACT scores or a high school transcript?

Typically, students with 30 or more college credits with grades of “C” or higher do not need to submit ACT or SAT scores or a high school transcript. Keep in mind, this may be a case-by-case decision, depending on courses taken, grade point average and other academic factors.

I've been accepted into the program. What can I do to get ready before I arrive on campus?

Some accepted students ask us what they can do to begin learning about Deaf people and Deaf culture before they begin the program. Here are a few resources you may be able to find in your local library, online, or at a movie rental store:

Websites:

Books:

  • Bragg, Bernard. Lessons in Laughter:  The Autobiography of a Deaf Actor. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 1989.
  • Fletcher, Lorraine. Ben’s Story:  A Deaf Child’s Right to Sign. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 1988.
  • Greenberg, Joanne. In This Sign. New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970.
  • LaCross, Blair, and Michelle LaCrosse. Silent Ears, Silent Heart:  A Deaf Man’s Journey Through Two Worlds. Roseville, MI:  Deaf Understanding, 2003.
  • Lang, Harry. Moments of Truth:  Robert R. Davila, The Story of a Deaf Leader. Rochester, NY:  RIT Press, 2007.
  • Lang, Harry. Teaching From the Heart and Soul:  The Robert F. Panara Story. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 2007.
  • Madan, Vasishta. Deaf in Delhi:  a Memoir. Washington, DC:  Gallaudet University Press, 2006.
  • Matlin, Marlee. I’ll Scream Later. New York:  Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2009.
  • Padden, C., and T. Humphries. Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture. Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press, 1988.
  • Spradley, Thomas and James Spradley. Deaf Like Me. Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Press, 1985.

Videos:

  • Movie synopses on the Terp Topcis website designed for interpreters
  • Sound and Fury
  • Sound and Fury Six Years Later
  • Through Deaf Eyes
  • Mr. Holland's Opus: 1996, Rated PG. Stephen Hereck, director. Hollywood Pictures

    The story line involves an aspiring composer whose dreams are thwarted by life getting in the way. For financial reasons he must take a job teaching music appreciation and band at a high school, putting his career as a musician on hold. When his son is found to be profoundly deaf, he retreats into his work, isolates himself from his wife and child, and refuses to engage with the silent world to which he feels his son has been consigned. The oral method of communication is attempted, and then the frustrated mother turns to a school for the deaf and sign language to unlock her son's mind. Mr. Holland must learn to reconcile what he wishes were so with what reality has presented him.

  • Hear No Evil: 1993, Rated R. Robert Greenwald, 20th Century Fox

    The main character is Jillian, a personal trainer and athlete, who inadvertently becomes involved in a heist that has her under investigation. She becomes a woman hunted by the police and by the actual thief, who believes she is in possession of what he wants. She is befriended by an investigator who is introduced to sign, TTYs, and what the world of a deaf person might be like in terms of awareness–or lack of awareness–of sounds.

  • Four Weddings and a Funeral: 1994, Rated R. Mike Newell, director. Polygram Filmed Ent.

    The deaf character in this movie is the brother of the hearing protagonist. He functions as a normal member within his brother's circle of friends, and along the way he meets and falls in love with a young woman who learns sign because she admired him from afar. The climax of the story occurs when he intervenes in his brother's life in a most surprising way, and there is a fun twist on the idea of a hearing person having to “voice” for a deaf person who is really signing what the hearing person wants to say and can't.

  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter: 1968, Rated R. Robert Ellis Miller, director. Warner Brothers

    The main character of the whole novel, and film, is a deaf man who is ironically named “Singer.” Everyone he meets feels that because he can read lips they can come to him with all of their problems and anguish and share their innermost feelings with him. He has one signing friend in a hospital far away, and his inner life is never explored or connected with in any way. He is a metaphor for the loneliness within us all, and even though many in the deaf world objected to a hearing actor playing this role, the film does show a slice of 40's and 50's American South and what an intelligent, sensitive deaf man's life might have been like.

  • The Family Stone: 2005, Rated PG-13. Mike Bezucha, director. 20th Century Fox

    The deaf man in this film is also gay, with a partner who is of a different race, and plans to adopt a baby in the near future. His family is full of strong characters, and he has always been treated equally and with as much access as they could muster (bad signing by all, but at least it is attempted). He is presented as a contrast to the upscale, uptight fiancée of his brother, who points out how hard it must be for him to be hit with the double whammy of deafness plus being gay. It becomes apparent very early in the story that she is the one who is the misfit in this situation, and his “afflictions” have not kept him from being “normal.”

  • Johnny Belinda: 1948, not rated. Jean Nagalesco, director. Warner Brothers

    This is an old movie that is interesting to watch. It shows what life might have been like for a deaf girl who was isolated in a small island community in Nova Scotia, and how her family and others communicated with her in a rudimentary way. When a new doctor takes up residence, bringing his "modern" attitudes and philosophies, he takes notice of Belinda. Suspecting she is intelligent, he teaches her sign language, thus unlocking her mind and ability to communicate. Tension escalates as a local bad boy lusts after her, and a crime occurs which drives the rest of the plot and allows the audience access into Belinda's heart and mind. So many people have this film as their only reference to deafness that it's important to be aware of it as a cultural touchstone.

  • Children Of A Lesser God: 1985, Rated R. Randa Haines, director. Paramount Pictures

    THE deaf movie - and usually the only one folks of a certain age know about. It shows the oral/manual controversy in all of its glory. A rebellious deaf girl goes head to head with the speech teacher at a school for the deaf, and as they fall in love they exchange banter and arguments about the merits of speech only or sign only as communications choices for the deaf. Shows schools for the deaf in the 80's and the political polarization that is exemplified by other characters who represent the signing or oral point of view.

  • Ridicule: 1996, Rated R. Patrice Leconte, director. Miramax Films

    A minor deaf character in the film is discovered and entered into Abbé de L'Epée's school for the deaf in France. A wonderful scene occurs when the Abbé conducts one of his exhibitions to show French nobles how well deaf people can function with sign and how intelligent they are once they are given the gift of sign language. Historically accurate, as he did travel all over France to garner funds for his school by means of these show-and-tell events to impress the well-heeled. This occurred just prior to the French Revolution.

I'm thinking of buying a computer. What kind should I buy?

Having your own laptop computer makes it much more convenient for you to record your video assignments. If you choose to use a laptop, smartphone, or tablet computer, you will need either a built-in camera or an external web cam. You will need internet access to view and submit files. Wi-Fi is available throughout campus, but if you live off campus you will have to arrange for internet access.

Your device needs software (or apps) that allow you to:

  • View and print PDF, PowerPoint, and MS Word files
  • Record video and audio
  • Play videos in MP4, QuickTime (.mov), and Windows Media Video (.wmv) formats
Should I buy my computer now or wait until I arrive on campus?

You can purchase your computer now or wait until you arrive at RIT. You may want to check out the RIT Digital Den, which offers competitive pricing on both software and computers.

What if I don't have a computer?

Although not recommended, you can complete all your assignments using computers that are available in the NTID and ASLIE Department computer labs, which offer daytime, evening and weekend hours.

What else do I need to bring with me?

You will want to have a USB flash drive to save some of your work. We recommend one that has at least 2 GB of memory.

What ASL classes can I take if I am not an Interpreting major?

Students who have no previous knowledge of ASL, and are in associate degree programs in the College of NTID, can take American Sign Language I (4-credit course). ASL I includes core vocabulary, the grammatical features, and Deaf cultural protocols for students to function in basic ASL conversations that include ASL grammar for asking and answering questions while introducing oneself; exchanging personal information; telling where they are from and living; talking about family, friends; class schedules and routines; discussing college related topics; giving directions; and describing surroundings.

Students in bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs who do not know ASL can take Beginning American Sign Language I (4-credit course) or Introduction to American Sign Language and Deaf Culture I (2-credit course). Beginning American Sign Language I includes linguistic features, cultural protocols and core vocabulary for students to function in basic ASL conversations that include ASL grammar for asking and answering questions while introducing oneself; exchanging personal information; talking about family, friends and surroundings; and discussing activities. Introduction to American Sign Language and Deaf Culture I Iincludes students being introduced to approximately 300 basic conversational signs and linguistic features needed to engage in survival-level conversations with deaf people. Fingerspelling and background information on Deaf culture and community are included. Each class period will have small group, large group and pair interactions.

Students in bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs who know some ASL should contact Sandra Bradley for a course placement interview.