An interpreter is the bridge between you, your message, and your Deaf audience. An interpreter is not simply repeating your words in another language.
They are bringing your words into a new cultural context, communicating nuance, and representing every auditory cue to engage your audience.
Only a professional, practiced, and passionate interpreter can do all of those things and do them well. Excellent interpreters for Christian events have certain qualities.
• Experienced. Your interpreter should never struggle to find the right signs, but should spend their energy bringing your message to life.
• Understands and agrees with your mission. An apathetic interpreter may not express your message as you intended. When an interpreter knows your heart, he or she will better communicate it to your audience.
• Screened for quality. Use an agency who will interview, screen, and arrange for the best interpreter for your function. Listen to the feedback that comes from the Deaf audience.
To stay on budget, many ministries use volunteers (sometimes an ASL student) to fill this role. Volunteers can be noncommittal and are sometimes not qualified.
Do not do this!
A Deaf audience can detect a bad interpreter. What is your ministry communicating with an amateur interpreter? You’re saying to your Deaf audience “Your understanding of our message is not our problem.” Or, in other words, “You’re not welcome here.”
You can send a better message.