USM offers a comprehensive Interpreter Training Program (ITP) that is unique in being equally geared to both Deaf and hearing interpreting students at all levels of study, with an emphasis on team interpreting. We offer a model-based curriculum focusing upon the Integrated Model of Interpreting (IMI) and emphasize not only skill development and cultural awareness but also students’ abilities to reflect upon and talk about their developing understanding of the interpreting process. Since our inception in 2000, we have been committed to meeting or exceeding national standards and have been accredited since 2009 (re-accredited 2020) by the Commission for Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE). Our goal is to provide students with the academic preparation, community involvement, and supervised interpreting experience needed to ready themselves for national credentialing. This program will prepare students to be eligible for licensure within the State of Maine. Visit the UMS State Authorization and Licensure page to learn more about the licensure requirements in other states and territories, and for contact information to inquire further about the licensure requirements associated with this program. Upon completion of this program, combined with consistent interpreting experience, graduates are typically ready to stand for and achieve national certification within two years.

Click here to learn more about degree requirements.
Click here if you have previous ASL experience.
Students discuss ASL club and ASL and interpreting programs, with video
Click here if you are interested in USM’s accelerated pathway for students pursuing a Law degree which includes Linguistics — ASL/English Interpreting Concentration as one of the B.A. options.

Information about Graduates

Graduates of the ASL/English concentration of the linguistics major have completed their training in the context of a BA in linguistics. As a result, they are prepared to not only partake of continued professional development as students of ASL and English, to keep abreast of the developments in the interpreting field, but also to engage in continuing self-directed analysis of the languages to which they are exposed. As a result, each interpreting assignment and encounter provides data for better understanding the structure of the languages they work with as well as exploring the cognitive processes that underlie the processing and production of each language as well as the more complex cognitive activity of interpreting between users of these mutually unintelligible languages.

Since the inception of the major and concentration in 2000, 21 cohorts (76 students) have graduated with this specialization. Most have moved directly into entry-level work in the interpreting field as staff interpreters working with schools and agencies, and others work as freelance interpreters. With a few exceptions, other graduates have moved into careers directly working with Deaf individuals: teachers of the Deaf, social work, advocacy, direct service providers to Deaf individuals with intellectual and medical challenges, job coaching, working as intervenors with DeafBlind consumers, graduate programs in linguistics, as well as referral and administrative positions within interpreting agencies. Many of those have subsequently transitioned to interpreting full- or part-time after continued immersion in the Deaf Community.

As a foundation for interpreter training, USM offers an intensive curriculum in American Sign Language (11 language courses—beginning (2), intermediate (2), advanced (2), conversational (2), as well as four academic ASL courses in linguistics; literature; art, film, and theater, and women’s studies) and Deaf culture, which also offers a minor in Deaf Studies. All instructors have or are working toward their American Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA) certification.

The required interpreting curriculum is supplemented by a series of special topics courses as well as field experiences and placements. Special topics courses in Demand-Control Schema, Medical Interpreting (3), Educational Interpreting, and a six-part series in Foundations of Interpreting focused on working in the Integrated Model of Interpreting are offered, from which students are required to complete 6 credits. Field experiences and placements beginning with Deaf-mentored experiences interpreting in low-risk settings that would not otherwise require an interpreter; an observational internship (60 hours) where students observe and journal about their observations, as well as a capstone course and 142-hour practicum placement under the supervision of certified interpreters. A second 120-hour practicum is offered and strongly recommended, but not required for graduation. A six-credit course preparing students for practicum is also offered, but not required. Students generally take a second practicum six months after their first practicum, once they have gained some work experience as interpreters. This second practicum involves supervised placement within an interpreting agency or, alternatively for those with medical interpreter training, placement with Designated Interpreting, an agency that specifically serves Deaf healthcare professionals in their professional education, medical rotations, or residency.

Entry into Advanced ASL courses and intermediate-level courses in the concentration requires completion of a fourth level of ASL as well as level 2 or greater on the American Sign Language Assessment (ASLA) or the ASL Proficiency Interview (ASLPI). To enter practicum, students must pass a professional and ethical practicum interview, present a portfolio of competencies, achieve a 3 or better on the ASLA or ASLPI, as well as pass the RID Knowledge Assessment exam offered by the Center for the Assessment of Sign Language Interpretation (CASLI). Upon graduation, to qualify for licensure in Maine, graduates must currently either be certified or to fulfill Conditional Licensure requirements must additionally achieve a 3+ or higher on the ASLPI.

Mission Statement and Program Philosophy

Mission Statement

The mission of the Concentration in American Sign Language/English Interpreting is to provide students with training in the substance and process of interpreting in the context of a strong Liberal Arts education in linguistics. Via a three-pronged approach involving student-centered approaches to teaching, a balanced emphasis on both practice and research, and a collaboration with the Deaf community and the agencies serving them, our goal is to produce graduates who after two years of consistent work in the field post-graduation will be ready to stand for the national credentialing examinations in this field.  We consider the substance of interpreting to include not only familiarity with critical thinking, decision making, and the cognitive task of interpreting, but with the linguistic and multicultural context in which interpreting occurs. Our program is committed to offering a full curriculum that is equally geared to both hearing and Deaf interpreting students at all levels of study and to making ongoing efforts to provide training opportunities for working educational and community interpreters throughout the state and beyond.

Program Philosophy

Our philosophy is that interpreting is a linguistic and cultural negotiation among all parties involved and is always framed in a social context.  As a result, the interpreter must be linguistically competent and culturally aware as well as ethical and professional.

We believe that if the interpreter puts a premium on message equivalence (in both a linguistic and cultural sense), the interpreter’s path is clear. Do anything it takes to achieve that goal.  Interpretation is a complex cognitive task fraught with errors.  The interpreter’s primary task is to control the process in ways that allow for processing of the message and its expression in a target language form that is understandable and culturally appropriate to the target audience. It is the interpreter’s responsibility to be candid about the fact that interpreters are fallible, to correct substantial errors whenever possible, to inform all parties involved when interpreting is not happening, and to use discretion in accepting assignments.

We believe that the ideal interpreting situation provides native-level services in all target language output.  Since ASL/English interpreters are often not native in both their languages and cultures, we advocate for extensive training in the use of native language/native language teams to allow us to strive for this ideal whenever feasible, and certainly in matters of great importance to our consumers. For this reason, we strongly encourage the training of hearing and Deaf interpreters together because interpreters who train together are more likely to seek to work together as professionals.

We believe that the ability to reflect upon the process of interpreting in a meta-cognitive way allows for both continued self-analysis and productive dialogue between and among interpreters.  For this reason, while we expose students to many approaches to the interpreting process, we intentionally spiral an incremental analysis of a single model of interpreting throughout all classes in our interpreting curriculum from beginning to advanced.  In addition, our faculty are committed to this model of interpreting and exemplify it in their work and in their dialogues with students. 

We believe that interpreting requires maturity, self-respect, and respect for all participants in the process. For this reason, we advocate a healthy separation between the work product and the interpreter who produced that product.  We advocate for the use of descriptive and non-evaluative language in discussion of this work product.

For more information or to report problems with this page, please contact Jeanne Heil: