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Assignment Prep Ideas for Sign Language Interpreters

Oct 4, 2022 | Interpreter Education

by: Brooke LaTurno, EIPA 4.0 - Interpreter Coordinator

Our work as interpreters requires that we develop some degree of comfort going into unknown situations. Since we can never perfectly predict the future, we must use our best judgment and report to work knowing that we will encounter many curveballs before any assignment ends. 

Interpreters can cope with uncertainty by planning in advance to ensure that we set ourselves up for success. 


We can prepare for in-person assignments by looking up the following information online ahead of time:

  • Check driving directions at different times of day to get a sense of traffic flow, to make an educated assessment about how much time to budget for a commute. 
  • Look up what kind of parking is available (metered, visitor, valet, etc.).
  • Check the location’s COVID-19 policy.


For remote assignments, consider:

  • Testing the link to the remote session ahead of time.
  • Checking for software updates for whichever platform you will be using.


Other ways you might prepare vary by assignment type. Below are a few specifics to search for based on common settings that interpreters work in. 


  • Names of key staff members (Principal, AP, etc.)
  • Upcoming events
  • School mascot
  • School motto



  • Campus map

    • Locate the building and room where you will be working.
    • Locate amenities like restrooms and food.
    • Locate points-of-contact like the ADA Office.
    • Familiarize yourself with the campus in general in case there is a last-minute location change.


  • Professor or Presenter

    • If you do a quick web search you can usually find academic information about the client(s) you will be working with, which can help you to predict what they might share during their introduction about their background, research, or various roles on campus.


  • Syllabus



  • Official website for the practice

    • Read the “about us” page to get a sense of the facility.


  • Institution’s medical focus

    • If you know the specialization of the practice, you can do a web search to familiarize yourself with common ailments in their field along with current treatment options and review relevant terminology and practices. 


  • Doctor/Nurse/Therapist specialties

    • Find out about the staff’s background to get a more specific idea of topics that may come up during the appointment. 



  • Mission statement
  • Key players
  • Current events and company news


Think about other settings where you work that are not listed above. What sort of preparatory work is possible prior to an assignment in those settings? 

Questions to consider:          

  • What kind of preparatory work could you do before a legal assignment? 
  • How might your search change depending on whether you were preparing for a:
    • Hospital shift
    • Theatrical performance
    • Political rally


It might be helpful to look up more specifics for special occasions. If you are interpreting a graduation ceremony, you could research the school’s alma mater, as well as any guests or members of the graduating class who have been announced as speakers for the event. If you are interpreting a religious ceremony, you could look up information about the traditions, rites, and texts that may be relevant. 

Prediction will always play a role in our work. The more information we have in advance, the better equipped we are to bring a client’s message to life with greater accuracy. 

One last tip: read the job details ahead of time just in case any special instructions were included.

I hope this post is helpful to you when considering what kind of preparatory work is possible before interpreting assignments. Please let us know in the comments below if you have any go-to strategies that help you prepare to do your best work. 

Stay tuned for a future blog post about a closely related topic – preparatory materials!

If you are an interpreter in the Southeast Florida area, interested in freelance work and have availability days, nights, or weekends, please contact us! We have a variety of assignments throughout the community (medical, evening/overnight hospital shifts, day/evening college classes, school districts, legal, etc.). Visit our website and submit our New Interpreter Questionnaire (https://interpreterresource.com/freelance-interpreters/new-interpreter-questionnaire/).

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