American Sign Language Interpreting at the Academy Awards!

Who’s That Interpreter at the Oscars??

It might have been us!

While we know a thing or two about award shows, there’s simply no amount of practice that can ready an interpreter for the Oscars. The last time we saw an interpreter take the stage was 35 years ago when Marlee Matlin first won her Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser God. This year, we dove in to provide accessibility at the Oscars and were thrilled to see talent on the red carpet was well taken care of.

This year was historic and incredible partly due to the incredible interpreting teams that supported projects like CODA & Audible. One of our very own interpreters, Elena Lee was an on-set interpreter for CODA while filming in Glaucester, Mass. Grey Van Pelt, Connor Murray & Richard Loya all contributed to the editing and revisions of Audible with countless other interpreters playing important roles surrounding these projects.

Interpreting on the red carpet!

We had the chance to support some of the interpreting at the Oscars Luncheon, Ted Sarandos’ Oscar toast event and of course the Academy Award ceremony followed by Netflix’s after party at the Bungalows in Beverly Hills followed by Vanity Fair’s afterparty. We truly were everywhere.

HOLLYWOOD, CA – March 27, 2022. Nyle DiMarco and Matt Ogens arrives at the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood on Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

From the red carpet to the stage, it was hard to look anywhere and not see an working sign language interpreter.

Mak McClindon interpreting for Amaree – star of Audible on Netflix & Serena Williams

Our very own Mak McClindon was there every step of the way with the cast of Audible, nominated for Best Short Documentary. Audible is now available streaming on Netflix!

American Sign Language at the Oscars

The interpreters from the 2022 Academy Awards ceremony were truly there to witness history as we saw Sign Language represented in five categories of nominations but also… Troy Katsur winning best supporting actor, making him the second Deaf person to ever win an Oscar and the first Deaf male to ever win an Academy Award.

We saw CODA’s director win best adapted screenplay, based on the French original. A thrilling win for Siân Héder!

We also saw CODA take home the award for best picture, an incredible milestone for the Deaf community.

As Nyle DiMarco has mentioned in numerous interviews – this is a watershed moment. We’re so thrilled to see the landscape of Hollywood begin to shift as more and more Deaf stories are not just being told but being lauded as the incredible content they are.

We’re also thrilled to see an increase in interpreted accessible content in Hollywood. We hope to see more qualified interpreters with an interest in this work, begin to enter the specialty. We also hope more people will learn American sign language from the exciting projects like CODA & Audible.

Become a Certified American Sign Language Interpreter

In order to become a certified American Sign Language interpreter in New York, you’ll need to study the language, the art of interpreting, learn the culture and sit for the certification test. You can do that in 5 steps.

Get an Education

While many folks will insist that a two year program is enough, you’ll need a bachelors if you want to get certified under RID’s current requirements. Four year programs are available through schools like Rochester’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and Gaulladet University in Washington D.C. You can find more on the pricing of these programs here.

Study the Art of Interpreting

You’ll find that a solid program will teach you skills like processing, transliteration, deconstruction and more. With a few years of dedication and hard work, you’ll be able to break down even the most mumbled of messages to produce a clear and effective interpretation.

Learn the Culture

You’ll need to spend time in the Deaf community. You can find Deaf events online and make friends through your program. Within the process, you’ll find a beautiful culture rich with language, artwork and mores unknown to the wider hearing world. While Deaf culture can be incredibly layered and vast, it can also been complex to understand. It’s for this reason we always recommend spending as much time giving back to the community as possible. As we are guests, we always want to maintain a warm and inviting reputation within and without.

Sit for the Test

The newest NIC exam is available through CASLI. You’ll need to pay the fees for the exam which you can read about here, before scheduling the first portion which is the knowledge. Part one of the test is most often referred to within the American Sign Language interpreting industry at the written, followed by the performance exam six months later. While these two exams can be expensive, you’ll see that certified interpreters are able to earn a higher wage along with more respect in the community by many of their colleagues.

A Good Sign Language Interpreting Agency & all the rest.

The difference between a good sign language interpreting agency and all the other ones aren’t always clear.

The search for American Sign Language interpreting or spoken language interpreting services shouldn’t be a difficult one. Yet, plenty of companies currently in business market their translating services as quality enough to hold up in a court room. The reality is, those services are cheap, they’re often well reviewed by their own staff and simply don’t have the quality customer service clients require.

Of course if you’re not a member of the interpreting industry you’re probably not familiar with much of the nuance involved in sourcing high quality and professional services. At Flamingo Interpreting, we like to support our clients in finding services even if they choose another more cost effective provider. While we’ve seen many clients return over the years, we’re never thrilled to hear they’ve had a sub-par experience elsewhere. If you’re looking for the right agency and just not sure what to look for, check out our five top categories to pay attention to. 

Communication

Are they proactive in meeting your needs? While it’s common to submit a request with information, it’s more common they follow up with asks for more information including the names of the service users. You don’t have to provide any of this information of course but a good agency will keep an open line of communication with you to ensure that when something does come up, it doesn’t fall through the cracks. 

As an example, we typically get a full idea of what the request specifically will retire before touching base the client when the interpreters is confirmed to exchange contact information. This way, if something comes up specific to the interpretation – you can ensure the party that will be involved is answering the questions. We provide the referral and let you communicate how you see fit. Once confirmed we check in again the day before services are scheduled to double check any changes. 

Prep work

You should expect a great agency to ask you for materials the interpreter can use to prepare their interpretation. If you’re booking a board meeting, they should ask for the agenda. A PTA meeting may call for questions surrounding the topics and relevant notes. A job interview would be best served with the interpreter meeting the interviewer or candidate ahead of time. Most agencies will ask you to always book a couple books out for best results but truly, prep work is king. 

While interpreters are incredible at what they do, they do best in supported environments where all the tools they may need are a their disposal. Often, the best tool in their arsenal is the ability to prepare and embody an interpretation that is clear and effective. 

How do they talk about their interpreters? 

Do they have a personal relationship? 

As an interpreter run company, we only work with colleagues. We’re certainly not the norm. More often than not, the people operating the business are not interpreters. Many coordinators are former interpreters without an active tie to the community. In our world, we focus on fit and comfortability. We work with top quality interpreters, so really we could send anybody but we don’t. We’re not in business to send interpreters to jobs that don’t make sense.

We’re in business to change the industry and help our clients see that when you have the right fit and not just a warm body with an interpreting degree, real magic happens. You can tell this by the way we talk about our people. We’ll ask you questions and give you context for who you’ll be working with in such an intimate capacity. They’re not just another contractor, they’re a colleague with a specific skill set and we’ll help you see how beneficial it can be in your board room. 

What do they specialize in?

Agencies love to service requests for any niche possible. That’s impossible without a massive pool. While generalists do exist, I don’t want a generalist in a speciality they’re not tenured in. To illustrate, imagine having a family physician performing your neurosurgery. You’d absolutely ask for a specialist who has studied the specific arena. Even a neurosurgeon would tell you that within their surgical spectrum there are multiple specialties. We do the same thing with interpreting. While a small insignificant meeting for you may feel like anyone could do it, we care that your best impression is always made with us.

A great agency will be honest and tell you “we don’t do that” and hopefully offer a referral. We work with a handful of partnering agencies we trust and often will refer clients to them for areas we simply don’t work in. We’ve found those clients to be far more successful and retuning to us at a later time because we’ve built a reputation of sending interpreters they can trust. 

Who are they? 

Agencies are made up of people, but their websites are often just icons of the world or a corporate building’s shimmering facade. Find an agency that has people you can talk to and get to know. Those people should be in your corner with every new request and support you long term, a website can’t really do that. When you don’t see any human presence behind the website or social media you’re seeing, it’s a major red flag that they don’t connect with their people, their contracting interpreters or their clients.