Interpreting Services FAQ's


If you have a question regarding sign language interpreters/interpreting services that is not listed below please contact NCDHH at 402-471-3593

Questions Relating to Sign Language Interpreters/ Interpreting Services

General Interpreting Questions



Questions a Paying Entity or Agency Might Ask



Sign Language Education (Learning) Questions



Providers of Services That Know Sign Language



Questions from Interpreters for Interpreters



What is a sign language interpreter?

Answer -- The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a qualified interpreter as “an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary.” A sign language interpreter is a skilled professional who facilitates communication between individuals who do not share the same language. The sign language interpreter must be able to understand the signed message to properly articulate the message into a spoken language and produce signs most readily understood by the deaf consumer in a manner that keeps the content and intent of the spoken message.


Could an agency use a family member or friend to interpret?

Answer -- While using a deaf person’s family member may seem logical and convenient, it is not advisable for several reasons:

  • The relative may have emotional issues that could affect objectivity and impartiality, and could prevent accurate communication. The deaf patient may not feel comfortable to express feelings freely with a relative present.
  • Using a relative could compromise the patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • There is no assurance that a family member has adequate language skills for communicating effectively in various settings outside the home. It is essential that the agency hire a certified and/or licensed interpreter. This way the agency and deaf consumer know the communication will be interpreted both accurately and impartially abiding by the interpreter’s Code of Ethics.


If an assignment is 60 minutes or longer do I need to hire two interpreters?

Answer -- Depending on the length and complexity of the interpreted assignment it is considered best practice to hire more than one interpreter if the assignment lasts more than 60 minutes. Interpreting requires physical/mental stamina and endurance. It is proven that an interpreters “production” weakens after 20 minutes due to the challenging task of interpreting. Often times when using teams, they will work in 15 to 20 minute increments. The team of two interpreters is broken into the primary and supportive interpreter. The primary interpreter is interpreting and the supporting interpreter is monitoring the overall setting, prompting the primary interpreter, and ensuring message transmission.


What is the difference between a person who knows sign language and an interpreter?

Answer -- A person who knows sign language from a relative or has learned sign language through taking a few basic sign courses is a “signer”. This is a person who knows sign language and can communicate with people who are deaf on a basic or fluent level but has not received adequate interpreting training. A majority of professional interpreters have received formal training through Interpreter Training Programs, advanced interpreting classes, and/or interpreting workshops. A professional interpreter has also been evaluated with skill and knowledge assessments and/or evaluations.


When would I need to use an intermediary interpreter?

Answer -- An intermediary interpreter is an interpreter who is deaf or hard of hearing and is qualified to interpret. There are circumstances when an interpreter who can hear may be unable to access the message of the deaf or hard of hearing consumer due to one of the following reasons:

  • The deaf or hard of hearing consumer may have minimal or limited communication skills.
  • Use foreign sign language.
  • Have not been taught sign language and have created gestures that are used at home therefore only understood by the family but not by someone unfamiliar to this mode of communication.
  • Deaf-Blind individuals.

The benefits of using an intermediary interpreter would include clear and accurate communication, clarification of linguistic and/or cultural confusion and misunderstandings. Overall the intermediary and hearing interpreter work as a team to ensure effective communication for all participants.


Does a deaf or hard of hearing person have the right to request a specific interpreter?

Answer -- Often times when a deaf or hard of hearing individual feels comfortable or finds an interpreter they like they will request that interpreter for future assignments. 


Does each interpreter have his or her own billing rates?

Answer -- Yes, interpreters charge a fee for the services they provide and bill according to the type and complexity of each assignment. Level of education, experience and certification also play a factor when the interpreter determines cost. Rates for interpreter services are negotiated between the interpreter and the service provider. NCDHH does not become involved in any negotiations or communications regarding costs or policies set forth by independently contracted interpreter service providers.


Does an interpreter need to be licensed to interpret?

Answer -- Nebraska Statutes 20-150 to 20-159 require all interpreters working in Nebraska for compensation must obtain licensure. Interpreters must meet a required level of competence before obtaining this license. This ensures qualified interpreters are being used in these specific settings.


If written communication has been used in the past, do I have to provide an interpreter if one is requested?

Answer -- Yes, written communication may not be the most effective auxiliary aide for every deaf or hard of hearing person. The native language of deaf individuals is, typically, American Sign Language. The linguistic structure is very different from the English language. If a person has used written communication in the past, it may have been because they were not aware of their rights to an interpreter, or because they felt comfortable with the subject matter and situation at that time. In most situations it is best to use a sign language interpreter to ensure effective communication and lessen the chance for misunderstandings for all participants.


Where can I take Sign Language Classes?

Answer -- Sign language classes are offered at several colleges throughout the state; class schedule and fee information is available by going to college web sites. For parents who have a child with a hearing loss, the Nebraska Statewide Regional Programs for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children may offer classes specifically designed for your child. Churches in Nebraska may offer a community sign language class for congregational members and open it to the community.


What levels of sign language classes are available?

Answer -- Generally the colleges offer classes ranging from beginning, intermediate to advanced levels; in addition, to courses related to the theory and practice of interpreting. Colleges may also offer adult or continuing education classes to become more proficient conversationally with children and adults.


Where can I find instructional materials/videos to help me learn sign language?

Answer -- The Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDHH) houses Nebraska's most extensive Media Center covering all aspects of hearing loss and deafness. Check what’s available on our web site, or visit the Lincoln office. A maximum of two videos and/or two books may be checked out for up to three weeks.


Where may I find information on working with deaf and hard of hearing children in a educational setting?

Answer -- A NCDHH Advocacy Specialist in your area will have the name and contact information of your local regional program coordinator.


How can I become a sign language interpreter in Nebraska?

Answer -- Nebraska recognizes national certifications from both the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and the National Association of the Deaf. NCDHH also recognizes levels 4 & 5 of the QAST. Nebraska legislature has passed a law that requires interpreters have a minimum certification level to qualify for licensure. View our rules and regulations. Licenses are issued and maintained from the NCDHH Lincoln office.


I've taken sign language classes and would like to offer my services to baby-sit deaf and hard of hearing children. How do I get started?

Answer -- Contact the deaf organization in your area, regional programs, and your local NCDHH Advocacy Specialist to let them know your services are available.


What is the average salary of an American Sign Language Interpreter?

Answer -- Interpreters may work in various settings like schools, colleges, for private companies or even themselves. An interpreter who works in a school will be paid a set wage that has been pre-arranged. Private practice interpreters or free-lance interpreters are interpreters that work for themselves. Each of them will set their own hourly wage depending upon the job and their qualification. Someone who is employed by a company and is a certified interpreter may interpret for their employer on or off the job and their wage would be something contracted between the interpreter and the employer. A private practice interpreter tends to have a higher hourly wage than someone who works in the educational setting. The reason for this is because a private practice interpreter is responsible for their own health/dental insurance and is not allotted sick time or vacation days. So, in conclusion, there is not a set amount an American Sign Language interpreter will make per year. It is on a case-by-case basis depending on what type of interpreter they are and how qualified they are.