Interpreter Resources: Trilingual Interpreters (Spanish, English, ASL)

This guide points to different types of interpreting and library resources.

What Does a Trilingual Interpreter Do?

This is from the Discover Interpreting website. To be a trilingual interpreter one must have the versatility, adaptability and cultural understanding of all three languages in order to convey all essential elements of meaning and to maintain message equivalency. Special training prepares the trilingual interpreter for the unique challenges of this work. Trilingual interpreting requires more knowledge and skills than bilingual interpreting. As such, trilingual interpreters should, and do, receive greater compensation for these abilities.

With 23 countries speaking numerous dialects of Spanish, and with a high probability that individuals speaking one or more of these dialects reside in the United States, defining what is meant by “Trilingual Interpreting: American Sign Language/Spanish/English” is complicated. It does not refer to any one particular kind of translational act, nor does “trilingual interpreter” currently refer to one particular kind of practitioner. Just as the word “Deaf” is often used in a broad sense and refers to people who may be deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind, “trilingual” alludes to more than its surface definition of English, Spanish, and ASL (NCEIC website).

Bilingual interpreting “is a complex process that requires a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills in both English and American Sign Language (ASL), and while there are a large number of competencies shared by bilingual and trilingual interpreters, there also exist skills that are unique to the trilingual setting. Trilingual interpreters must be competent in three languages and their regional varieties (rather than two), understand and appropriately apply a variety of cultural norms, and seamlessly facilitate communication between three languages in real-time.” Treviño and Cancel illustrate the depth and breadth of the understanding and decision-making that accompanies this specialized work. They note, that while an individual may see the task of trilingual interpreting as “decision making around three languages,” the task actually involves “decision making around seven discreet language factors and multiple registers.” See this illustration of the complexities of trilingual interpreting  (NCEIC website).

For more information regarding the complexities of trilingual interpreting, see Chapter 1 of Toward Effective Practice: Interpreting in Spanish-Influenced Settings (Hacia las Prácticas Efectivas: Interpretación en Situaciones Influenciadas por el Español) (2014) (NCEIC website). Check out Interpreting in Spanish Influenced Settings: A Curriculum Guide. Both articles are also available in Spanish. There is a Directory of Interpreters Working in Spanish-Influenced Settings published by Mano a ManoInformation about working with Trilingual Deaf-Blind consumers is available.

Video Vignettes

The left image shows three Hispanic women. The furthest left woman has chin length dark hair glasses and is wearing a dark jacket. The woman in the middle has chin-lengh dark hair and a black jacet over a beige cami. The woman on the right has cropped dark hair and is wearing a black jacket over a light blue blouse. Interpreting in Spanish-Influenced Settings: Video Vignettes of Working Interpreters (ASL/Spanish/English) demonstrates the complexity of the work of trilingual interpreters and Deaf/hearing trilingual interpreting teams. The vignettes also provide rich educational source material for educators, mentors, and students.

Each vignette includes an introduction to the participants, participant interviews, and an unrehearsed interpreting scenario with a summary of the domains and competencies exhibited in each scenario. A practice version of each scenario is also included.

While Interpreting in Spanish-Influenced Settings: Video Vignettes of Working Interpreters (ASL/Spanish/English can be used as a stand-alone resource, it is intended to be an accompanying tool to Interpreting in Spanish-Influenced Settings: A Curriculum Guide (PDF).

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