Selecting the Best ASL Interpreter or Spanish Translator

a man using sign language
Img Source - Smithsonian Institute

The Best Interpreter or Translator

The best interpreter or text translator all depends on your particular language requirements. One-size-fits-all linguistic professionals do not exist, therefore you should be looking for those language professionals with backgrounds that most closely match the needs of your project. If you are seeking a Spanish certified medical interpreter, Conference American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, or a legal translator, following this advice will help you choose the best interpreter or translator for the task.

Define Your Language Needs

If the person speaking will be on stage and energetic, then you want to request an ASL interpreter who is able to closely replicate that tone of discourse. If the English-speaking person being interpreted for is female but the Spanish interpretation is male, then it can be jarring for the conference attendees. You should try to match the gender of the speaker as much as possible. In a similar vein try to find out if there are any regional dialects or other linguistic idiosyncrasies that the person employs because this variance can affect the interpreter’s ability to correctly interpret the message. Even American Sign Language for the Deaf, which is erroneously thought to be universal, can vary not only between regions but significantly between Signed Exact English, American Sign Language, and Pidgin styles. In order to avoid any misinterpretations, inquire as to which style the sign language user relies on before soliciting a sign language interpreter.

Furthermore, professional interpreters may also carry a certification such as NIC, CI/CT, S:CL (Legal), or varying levels of educational certifications. You may need to inquire as to whether one of these certifications is required for the task. If it is a medical (or telemedicine) appointment, you should consider a certified interpreter in order to avoid any potential lawsuits should there be miscommunication that leads to injury. Additionally, if it is a legal issue, especially one that will go on record (e.g., a deposition or sight translation of a legal document that requires a signature), then you definitely want a legally certified interpreter.

If it is something basic like a casual family meeting or wedding, where the consequences of any potential misinterpretation would be benign, then you will likely be fine with a qualified professional Spanish or ASL interpreter. Especially if the communication will be occurring at a relaxed pace and the interpreter will be able to stop and ask for message clarification whenever needed.

ASL & Spanish Interpreters for an Audience

How the interpreters look can be especially important if they are going to be on screen or on stage. You want them to appear sharp. If you’re looking for someone to represent your brand, then you may want to ask for headshots so you can choose the one that best fits your marketing needs. You should advise the simultaneous or consecutive interpreter beforehand that they will be appearing in front of an audience so they can mentally prepare for the gig. Interpreters will usually dress business-casual unless they are directed otherwise. ASL interpreters will work as a team, so expect to book two of them if the assignment is going to last more than 1.5 hours. They will switch out every 20 or so minutes so as to avoid repetitive motion injury. The ASL interpreters also work together to ensure that the message is faithfully conveyed.

Translators – Legal and Medical

Written text translators specialize in a wide variety of topics, so as is the case with spoken language interpreters, it would be wise to select a qualified or certified person that best matches the requirements of the particular assignment. If you are looking to have an employee handbook translated, it would be best to choose someone with a legal background. It would be even better if they have human resources knowledge or experience in the particular industry of your company (e.g., manufacturing or medical). If you need to have a legal document translated then you would be best served by a court certified translator that holds a certification from the state where the documents will be filed. In any case, most translators will be happy to send you a short demo of their abilities, so that you can select the best fit for the job.

Regular Interpreters

Regardless of how well you try to choose the best language professional for your project, working with a new interpreter or translator is “like a box of chocolates.” For this reason, when you find a good one then you should keep their name on file and ask for them the next time you need their services. A language professional that arrives early, is highly skilled, dresses professionally, is kind and flexible is definitely a keeper. You would be smart to ask for them by name for your next project. Furthermore, it is always beneficial to have someone come back that is already up to speed with the procedures, specialized language, and names of your particular company.

When to Book ASL & Spanish Interpreters & Translators

ASL interpreters are in high demand, especially in bigger markets such as Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim, Las Vegas, Orlando, Washington D.C., Sacramento, Raleigh and Chicago. You would be best to reserve an interpreter when you have the date for your event. Booking two or so weeks in advance will give you the best chance at getting the top-notch interpreters. Trying to book someone the same day, will likely end up in no interpreters being available or without many options.

Document translators can typically do around 5-10,000 words per day depending on the complexity of the document. Giving them enough time to complete the job will ensure higher quality work. If you do have a rush job, then you may be able to complete it, but it will cost you more if they have to work nights and/or weekends to finish on time.

Video Remote (VRI) or Over the Phone Interpretation

Same-day Spanish or ASL requests are most easily filled by remote interpreters. Either a Video Remote Interpreter (VRI) or a telephonic Spanish interpreter may be the only options available last minute. These are great options and work seamlessly in most situations as long as you have the right equipment (the same used for Skype or FaceTime) and the meeting or assignment will be largely insitu (i.e., not frequently moving around a conference). VRI and telephone interpreters are frequently used for telemedicine, medical, small-group meetings, interviews, trainings, and virtual meetings.

Preparing the Interpreters

In order to ensure the success of the interpreters, you should get them anything you can that educates them in the particular topic they will be working on. Names, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, programs, acronyms, specialized language and the like will greatly assist the interpreter’s ability to smoothly and efficiently interpret simultaneously. The audience will also appreciate the fidelity of the interpretation.

Ready to Request an Interpreter or Translator?

If you want to go ahead and reserve an interpreter or if we can help out in any other way, feel free to reach out to Spot On Interpreting ( at 855-562-7768 or fill out our request form. We can also be reached via email at We are here to help answer any questions you may have. If you are looking for more information, visit our blog for more advice on working with interpreters and Deaf culture. We have access to a nationwide network of professional and certified interpreters and translators. We offer client-tailored pricing to best meet each customer’s specific needs and budget. As a family-owned 5-star professional language agency, our primary goal is treating our interpreters, translators, and clients as VIPs.