Department of Linguistics

Linguistics: ASL/English Interpreting

Thanks to start-up support from the Maine Dept. of Education, USM has a B.A.-level interpreter training program in ASL/English Interpreting as a concentration within the Linguistics major. Dr. Judy Kegl, a well-known and highly respected interpreter, educator and signed language researcher, directs this program.  This program has been nationally accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education since December 9th, 2009. Click here to learn more about degree requirements.

The goal of the ASL/Interpreting concentration is to provide students with the academic preparation needed for the certification exam offered by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and/or the ED: K-12 certification, which involved passing the EIPA written test as well as a Performance test at a level of > 4.0. For example, we expect that students will be able to pass the written portion of the RID exam upon graduation, and that they will be able to pass the RID performance exam after they have gained about two years of further field experience while working on a "Limited Interpreter" license from the State of Maine. The interpreting program and our offerings in ASL are described on the Degree Requirements page (see link at right) and in the USM undergraduate catalog, which you can access by following the Catalog Listing link, also at the right.

Our interpreting program is unique in offering a full curriculum that is equally geared to both hearing and Deaf interpreting students at all levels of study. The ASL/English Interpreting Program also provides a variety of in-service training opportunities for working educational interpreters throughout Maine. The program is making on-going efforts to provide training opportunities every year for working educational interpreters throughout the state.

If you have previous experience in ASL, click here for more details.

For students interested in pursuing a Law degree, USM offers an accelerated pathway that includes Linguistics -- ASL/English Interpreting Concentration as one of the B.A. options.


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 on-going 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 linguistics 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 Dana McDaniel: