What are some of the factors in the cost of interpreting services?
There are a few specific factors:
First Factor- The number of Qualified, Certified, Professional Interpreters is so low. The 2010 census lists America's total population as over 308 million. The number of Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons is estimated to be around 36 million. Approximately 8.5% of America's 308 million (about 26 million) depend on Sign Language for their communication or clarification needs. Comparatively, throughout the United States, the number of persons who hold certifications and are Qualified to interpret is estimated to be around 18,000.
Texas has an estimated 6 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons. Approximately 2.5 million depend exclusively on Sign Language for their means of communication with approximately 1.5 million more who depend on it for clarification. Once again, comparatively, Texas has an estimated 1,525 Certified Interpreters.
That equates to approximately one interpreter for every 2,600 Deaf persons.
Locally, Dallas/Fort Worth and the seven surrounding counties are home to approximately 300,000 persons who depend on Sign Language communication. This area has:
Approximately 300 Certified Interpreters who live in or drive to this area to provide services.
Approximately 42% work in the public schools
Approximately 20% work for the various video relay companies
Approximately 10% work for corporations in adjunct positions
Approximately 25% work for Interpreting Agencies or free-lance
Approximately 3% are inactive
Second Factor- The Interpreter's qualifications. This could be dependent on the certification level, number of certifications, knowledge, skills and years of experience an Interpreter may bring to the setting.
Interpreters don't "just sign" what is said... Interpreters must:
-Assess their Deaf clients to attempt to match their linguistic style, personality, and regional dialect/accent
-Determine whether the Deaf Client communicates in American Sign Language- a concept based language with a
grammar and syntax that is very different from English, OR any of the numerous signed English systems that were
created across the U.S. for teaching English reading and writing from the 1960's forward (although many of those
systems are no longer taught, some may still be in use), OR Cued Speech, OR Oralism, OR a combination of any/all
of the above.
-Listen, think, process, and produce two languages simultaneously...often up to a paragraph (or two) behind the
speaker. American Sign Language (ASL) is not English. It is a visual language based on concept. (i.e., the English
word "r-u-n" has 118 different meanings in the Websters Dictionary. There are numerous ways to convey this word
-Culturally mediate...the Deaf Culture experience is VERY different from that of the mainstream hearing culture and
that effects the communication process... Facial expressions and body language don't always carry the same
meanings and must be mediated as well as language. Religion, Gender, Ethnicity, and Sexual orientation may also
factor into the cultural mediation process. If the Deaf client is from a foreign country, signs from their country may
also be interspersed in their communication process. Many interpreters are skilled in multiple sign systems, but
few are skilled in multiple (foreign) signed languages. In some instances a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) may be
required to interpret between foreign signed languages. American Sign Language is NOT universal.
-Typically contract with an agency, very few are staff. Interpreters rates are commensurate with their responsibilities.
As Contractors, they pay their own taxes, health and liability insurances, workshops, certification maintenance, and
wardrobe that must be professional and yet appropriate to the various specific interpreting situations they
Third Factor- Interpreters are often on call 24 hours a day- 7 days a week- 365 days a year for a wide variety of situations including: Daily business interactions, k-12 education, College classes, Theater, Medical appointments, Medical emergencies, Social Services, Mental Health/Counseling sessions, Political functions, Legal situations/Court, Job training, Corporate meetings, Factory/Shop settings, Weddings, Funerals, other religious venues, various home business "parties," and any other setting that life has to offer.
Interpreters must be prepared to work in these situations as they arise. However, Interpreters are not "know it alls," instead, they are "reference it alls." With the exception of Theater, they must use their own time to research, study and prepare for the assignment that you are requesting them for today.
Are Interpreters worth what you pay for them? NO... They are worth more.
Finally, the last factor built into the cost of Interpreting. There must be support personnel to: take calls, schedule appointments, handle accounts payable and receivable, manage the office, handle compliments and complaints, set up advertising, and coordinate certain pro bono community service activities. Add to that, a lawyer for necessary business and normal business operating costs and the rates begin to make sense.
There's a lot involved in what we do, but we do it... because we LOVE IT!