Working With an ASL Interpreter – Do’s and Don’ts


Working with an ASL Interpreter | Interpreters Unlimited Blog

Getting to Know the Deaf Community

When we hear and think about the Deaf com­munity, we must remember that’s exactly what it is—a community. Like any community, there are “do’s” and “don’ts” of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. There are cultural differences, customs, and interests that are common to one group of individuals versus anoth­er.  If you’ve never worked with American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Deaf community. Understanding the expectations of the community and the interpreter’s duties and expectations will enhance the communication process.

Here are a few tips from our Director of Sign Language Services, Lisa Campbell to keep in mind next time you need an ASL Interpreter


  1. About 30% of spoken English is visible on the lips! –Many Deaf people are skilled lip readers, but most are not. This is because the speech sounds of English have identical mouth movements, making it hard to decipher what is spoken.
  2. American Sign Language is not universal. Every language has its own sign language and some even have regional dialects!
  3. ASL is very expressive and often misunderstood as the Deaf person yelling, but that’s not necessarily the case.


  1. Ask the Deaf person their preferred mode of communication. Don’t assume ASL or English Sign Language is the standard.
  2.  Do speak directly to the Deaf person, not the interpreter. Do not yell at the Deaf person-they will not hear you!
  3. Do speak at a normal pace and tone for the interpreter.
  4. Interpreters typically interpret in the first person. Understand that the interpreter is voicing the words of the Deaf person and not their own.
  5. Don’t address or ask questions to the interpreter while they’re interpreting. They cannot respond during the interpretation process because they are trained to remain neutral and do not interject their opinions.

Interpreters Unlimited is a nationwide language services provider with a dedicated Sign Language Services Division, Accessible Communication for the Deaf. For more information about ASL interpretation services or to schedule an interpreter, please call 800-726-9891 or visit our ASL Division website at

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