Rita’s expressive vlog

From my Hands to your Hearts…

Things People Say to Interpreters

Why did you learn sign language?

What’s your full-time (or real) job?

What do you do for a living?

Are you a volunteer?

What’s the sign for (curse word/dirty word)?

Are your parents/siblings/spouse deaf?

Are you their (deaf client’s) friend/relative/spouse?

Do you follow him/her (deaf client) all day?

Have you interpreted for him/her before?

How long have you known him/her?

How long did it take you to learn to sign?

Where can I go to learn to sign?

Puzzled look meaning: Who are you and why are you here?

Do they (deaf client) understand?

Tell him/her….

I’ll explain it to you and you can tell them….

We don’t need an interpreter, we understand each other fine.

This is really nice of you.

Is sign language universal?

Do you paraphrase? I noticed you didn’t sign everything.

I guess you really learn a lot from interpreting this class/meeting, training, etc..

Are you hearing or deaf?

Can he (deaf client) lip read?

Can you lip read?

Who do I speak to, you (interpreter) or them (deaf client) ?

Do you read Braille?

For team assignments: Why are there two of you?

I bet your hands get really tired doing this.

Who do you work for?

You brought/came with them (deaf client) right?

So, how long have they been deaf? (Or other background info on Client)

Am I talking too fast?

Could you sign that again?

If you want to see something “funny” watch the interpreter sign this.

Can he/she (deaf client) drive?

I know how to sign, can you read this? (fingerspelling H-I)

How did he/she go deaf?

So, what kind of job will he/she be able to do?

Did you know there is an operation now that can cure deafness?

Aren’t you worried that your job will be made obsolete by computers?

You spell a lot of words, don’t you know all the signs?

It must be very fulfilling to work with deaf people!

Wow, you really did a great job…I watched you much more than I watched the speaker.

From kids: How come you were dancing on stage?

From kids: Aren’t you the guy who was making all those faces?

(After flailing their arms and fingers about) What did I say?

God must have blessed your hands.

You must find this job very rewarding/satisfying.

Educational setting: When will you get promoted to a teacher?

When signing to include everyone in a conversation: You don’t have to sign for me. I can hear.

Do they let you people do that?

Are you the minister?

Can you hear?

“Bobby” knows sign language — he learned last week at church!

That is the most special thing I have ever seen.

I don’t know sign language, but you are the best I’ve ever seen!

Did you get that?

Let me see how you signed that.

Oh, you’re the first male interpreter we’ve had.

You’re not So and So (another interpreter)

Don’t tell them this….

Why are you still here?

We’ve never needed an interpreter before!?

You stay here while they take him into Triage in preparation for surgery. And later when taking him into surgery: You go out into the waiting room, we’ll get you when they’re done.

How much do they pay you to do this?

Do you get paid to do that?

Do you mind working voluntarily?

Oh, he’s deaf?…What a shame…he’s so good looking.

“Books for the deaf must be really thick.” Perplexed I asked him why. “Because the authors would have to draw pictures of all those signs.”

Will he grow out of it?

Hearing: We’re going to show a video, so you’ll have a break. Interpreter: Is it captioned? Hearing: I don’t think so.

Where’s your little friend (meaning the deaf client)?

Aren’t you tired? or Aren’t your hands tired?

That’s so precious.

Here are his discharge papers; you can sign right here on this line.

You should see if you can get credit for this class.

Wow, you sign fast.

Wow, that must be hard to learn.

Wow, it must be hard to interpret.

I don’t know how you can keep up with the speaker.

My son/daughter/niece/etc.. knows sign language.

I had/have a deaf friend.

My brother/nephew/aunt….is deaf.

Can he (deaf client) lip-read?

I knew a deaf person. Boy, could they lip-read well.

I know a deaf person.

What you do is a real blessing/ministry.

I’m envious of what you do.

I took a sign language class years/months ago.

That’s the neatest/coolest thing.

I have to learn that (sign language).

I find what you do fascinating.

How long have you been doing this?


7 Responses to “Things People Say to Interpreters”

  1. This is great – just wish more hearing people would read it!

  2. isabella said

    Hah! This is so great!
    its like one long poem…
    Smile at you – isabella

  3. Lauren said

    Hi Rita,

    I found your vlog on youtube this week while i was just kinda surfing around. Your vlogs make me smile 🙂 This list is great and it is strikingly similar to things that people say to me when i’m working. I work as a developmental services worker (yes i know, no one ever knows what that is), I support people who have a developmental disability, mostly out in the community. So people often speak to me “about” the person i’m supporting, rather than “to” the person i’m supporting. The one thing people say that gets under my skin the most is ” oh you must be such a special person to do that work” or ” you must have the patience of a saint!” heh… anyway, keep up the great vlogs, and hopefully as i watch my ASL will improve, as it’s fairly weak and rusty right now!

    Take care,

  4. Denise said

    Great list! Many of the same things are said to those of us who are teachers of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing…As an aside, I’m a Southerner who currently lives in the Southwest. When people hear my accent, and ask where I’m from (TN) they will inevitably say something like, “oh really? I have a cousin who lives in Florida!” My answer is…”Oh, is it Bill?? Not Bill?? Well, then I don’t know him.” LOL

    Have fun and thanks for the laughs!!


  5. Deaf Pixie said


    I have seen the blog you wrote about “Things People Say to Interpreters.” One time I was in the bar with friend over 20 years ago. the man from Aussie drank a beer. We were chat with one interpreter who was trained to be interpreter..he asked interpreter about me.. she say you asking her if I can hear.. I said “No, I am deaf the reason why 200 deaf come here every friday. The guy say wow.. so many.. he drank empty bottle of beer. we were talked about Kangroo have a two different breed cannot share in two different mate. it will impossible breed by someone to fixed.. The kangroo have different behavior. I said That’s interest.. Then, he slam on the counter by beer bottle. I said “Hey, you hurt my hear!” He say What? Can you hear?.. I said “Yes, I barely can hear.. My right ear is hard of hearing .. Left is deaf.. but you slammed the glass on the counter.. it did scared me!
    Trained Interpreter did not say a words.Actually she freaked out! her lip finally sealed.

  6. bob said

    hello rita,
    it never ceases to amaze me. the lack of sensitivity, compassion & the stupidity of some of us in the ‘hearing’ world. i am working/going to school now, to be an interpreter, even with a hearing loss, and am starting to be more involved in the complex structure of the deaf community. your list left a few questions i have heard, but it covers the most common. even my teacher asked me “why are you doing this?”
    to all those who aren’t ‘involved’ with us – – get a life ! i/we don’t think of it as a handicap, we [the deaf community] just look at and appreciate things differently than those who hear ! we have greater attention spans, are just as intelligent and love just as deeply as you. be happy with who you are . . and don’t let the ignorance get you down.

  7. Terp said

    One I get a lot is “are you his/her mom?” Even when I’m not nearly old enough to be their mom!

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