Sign Language Resources, Inc.

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Conference Interpreting

Signing Hands
Sign Language Resources, Inc. provides coordination and consultation services so that Deaf, Deaf and Blind, and Hard of Hearing persons can attend conferences, workshops, meetings, and trainings and find your programs accessible for communication. Our interpreters are highly skilled and experienced in this kind of interpreting.

At SLR we have the expertise to plan communication between the Deaf and hearing persons at your conference so that all may benefit to the fullest extent. Before the event SLR can help you with a host of services such as determining the best room set up, devising breakout logistics, create a schedule for the interpreting team that is efficient and well organized, and coordinating the distribution of presentation materials. During the event, depending on its size, we provide either on site or telephone support. After the event SLR goes through a briefing with you to document what worked best as well as determine areas of improvement for the next time.

Conference interpretation enables participants to communicate with one another in a seamless fashion, making the language barrier almost imperceptible. Most of the time conference Sign Language interpreting is generally performed in simultaneous mode, or the interpretation is provided at nearly at the same time as the message is delivered.


At a conference, the Sign Language interpreters usually need space in the front of the room to do their work. If the speaker is hearing and delivering a message in spoken English, and some of the conference participants are Deaf, the interpreters will sit or stand in front facing the audience. If the speaker is Deaf and delivering a message in Sign Language, and if the attendees do not follow Sign Language, the interpreters will also sit up front but facing the speaker, often using a microphone to carry voice interpretations to all participants seated in the back.


The interpreter renders all of the messages in the first person. Usually the same interpreters who are currently providing the interpretation will voice or sign questions or comments from the floor, or in some conferences where there is a high number of attendees, other interpreters may be responsible for floor comments. Depending on the needs and size of the audience, there may be 2 to 4 interpreters working together as a team, each with their own roles, but also working collaboratively.



A highly demanding activity

A conference interpreter must be physically and mentally robust, and must

  • have complete mastery of source language and target language, plus be well versed in the topic vocabulary in both languages

  • be a bridge for language and cultural differences

  • have superb analytic capacity to be able to follow the content of a message coupled with great prediction skills in order to be prepared for what may be coming, hold the thought at bay, and draw upon it at just the right time

  • possess the ability to put himself in the minds of the people for whom he is interpreting

  • by careful observation of a presenter's tone be able to portray the presenter's affect, emphasis, attitude, bias, and general personality

  • be able to make instantaneous choices for equivalents when handling nuance, passive language, and humor

  • The flow goes something like this: concentrate, listen, think, decide, sign, concentrate, listen, think, decide, speak, and then while signing and/or speaking, continue to concentrate, listen, think, and decide - a very challenging intellectual loop, all while being engaging and pleasant.


    A professional conference interpreter is always well-prepared, reviews materials in advance allowing for research when necessary, and arrives early to meet with speakers and attendees to gain an understanding of dynamics.




    For more information, also see RID Standard Practice Paper on Conference Interpreting