Improv & Interpreting: 14 Benefits for Professional Sign Language Interpreters
by: Brooke LaTurno EIPA 4.0 - NIR Interpreter Coordinator
When I first started interpreting, I was struck by how many skills were needed beyond language mastery. We take for granted, but ultimately rely on, life skills like thinking on our feet, staying calm under pressure, and going with the flow. As professionals, it would be useful to have a low-stakes way to practice and refine such essential abilities.
The benefits of improv have been recognized by presenters and performers for millennia. From the Atellan Farces in ancient Rome to Stanislavski in the 19th century, from Whose Line Is It Anyway? to your local improv group, generations have honed their confidence, emotional intelligence, and storytelling through theatrical improvisation.
Practice with improvisation can develop the following skills:
- Staying calm under pressure
- Trusting your instincts
- Going with the flow
Thinking on your feet
- Attention to detail
- Storytelling with body language, facial expression, and gesture
- Creativity and imagination
Working with a partner
- Listening to your partner’s cues
- Developing mutual trust with your scene partner
- Receiving feedback
- Getting comfortable with being vulnerable
- Emotional intelligence
In addition to skill building, improv will make you laugh, loosen up, and cultivate a more playful mindset.
Many newcomers worry about making a mistake or not being funny. The goal of improv, though, is not to debut a comedy routine, but to listen, develop trust, get comfortable with being vulnerable, and have fun.
As time goes by, improvisers are taught the classic motto “Yes, and…”, which means that they should always strive to accept and build on each other’s suggestions. A lot of local improv troupes take this to heart and work hard to create an environment of respect for others, where ideas are embraced instead of rejected.
As you overcome the fear of performing in an improv troupe, you will find that confidence extending to your interpreting work.
An improv class might be the perfect low-pressure environment to nurture your professional growth. I recently participated in an improv event and had a wonderful time. If you decide to look up a local troupe and join one of their sessions, I hope you have a great time too.
If you do experiment with improv and find it benefitting your professional life, please let us know in the comments below!