[Sw-l] Question for English to ASL translations

Valerie Sutton signwriting at MAC.COM
Sun Aug 21 14:02:18 EDT 2016

SignWriting List
August 21, 2016

I received this question on August 19...see my answer below:

> On Aug 19, 2016, at 6:46 AM
> Hi !
> I have a question --   How do you translate from English to ASL ? What is the best answer for me to give to an interviewer?  or a person who asked me that question? I am struggling with that trying to come up with the best answer as best as possible. 
> Hope to hear from you today!
> Thanks so much!


Thank you for this question. 

There are two words to know: "translate" and "interpret".

Usually, "interpret" means spontaneously interpreting what someone says, in person, while the person is speaking one language, the interpreter listens or sees that language and immediately repeats what the person said in the other language...it is "on-the-spot" interpretation.

Usually "translate" means "in writing"...looking at a text in English for example, and then writing that in a sign language such as ASL. In the past there was no way to write in ASL, so most people assumed you would need to make a video of the ASL - so that is not a real "written translation"... But now, because of SignWriting, we can write the written ASL translation and place both languages side by side.

But to answer your question..."How to translate from English to ASL?" That depends on the person doing the written translation document.

If the translator is skilled in both English and ASL, and also skilled in SignWriting, and also skilled in writing the full grammar of ASL, then the document is written in SignWriting software, such as SignPuddle or SignWriter Studio, and then the two languages are placed side by side, using different programs, like Microsoft Word, DocumentMaker Pro or other text editors.

If the translator doesn't know ASL well, they will need to ask a skilled ASL signer to make a video of the interpretation, and then transcribe that video into SignWriting...making it a written document.

Hope this answer helps!

Val ;-)

Valerie Sutton
sutton at signwriting.org



Valerie Sutton
SignWriting List moderator
sutton at signwriting.org

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