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December 12, 2002

All Signs Point To A Degree LGA Offers BA In Sign Language Interpretation

From: Queens Chronicle, NY - 12 Dec 2002

by David Simon, Assistant Editor December 12, 2002

"Sign me up!" is what 30 students have already said to LaGuardia Community College about its new Bachelor's degree program for American Sign Language/English Interpretation, the first of its kind in the tri-state area.

"I had been interpreting for 15 or 16 years before I joined the program but I still felt like I had a need for some formal training," said Mary Madia, a student who is scheduled to graduate next year. "It's given me tools and techniques that I never had before."

The program, which kicked off this fall, was made possible through an agreement between LaGuardia and Empire State College. LaGuardia had already been offering interpretation education since 1995 as a two-year professional certificate program.

But with the new agreement, the certificate courses can be used for credit at Empire to obtain a BA in the field. Students would also be required to take at least 30 credits at Empire College's Manhattan campus to receive the degree.

The degree is designed for people who are already fluent in both English and ASL and wish to gain expertise in the art of interpretation so that they can better serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

Students wishing to gain entry into the program must pass a rigorous admission process that involves a series of interviews and demonstrated proficiency in ASL.

"The field is recognizing, and research is supporting, that interpreters need more than knowledge of ASL and English to be effective interpreters," said Jo Ann Kranis, the program's director. "They have to have a keen understanding of skills such as interpretation theory, the cultural dynamics of the languages and the effects of different settings."

To complete the training, students must go through 11 courses including ones like Sociology of the Deaf and a Discourse on Ethics.

There are also three required internships designed to immerse students in the deaf community. During the course of these, students spend hundreds of hours at hospitals, mental health facilities, schools and other places where interpreters might be needed.

In addition, LaGuardia has a state-of-the-art language lab in which students can videotape themselves interpreting people speaking into headphones. This enables a student to review what he or she is doing wrong and then correct any problems.

They can also use the video system in reverse and watch a person speaking in ASL and then record their own English interpretation of that selection. The program also offers deaf instructors, a feature that Madia says helps with the finer points of translating.

"I feel more in control in terms of my pauses, and I am able to better go for the meaning of what someone is saying rather than a literal interpretation," she said. "Being evaluated by a deaf person is something that is truly stimulating and inspiring to me."

The program is one that the city desperately needed, according to Kranis. "The city's large deaf community has had to deal with a shortage of qualified interpreters for too long," she said. "This offers students an opportunity to learn the process of interpretation that will finally address this issue."

LaGuardia's history of successful job placements of students who have graduated with the two-year certificate leads Kranis to believe that a program in which students can get a BA in the field will be even more successful.

"The people who hire students from this program love them," she said. "They are working in one of the best interpreting towns in the country and when they get out there, they are well ahead of others when they begin to apply what they have learned."

© Queens Chronicle - Western Edition 2002