A white woman with short salt and pepper hair wears a black shirt in front of a grey background speaking in English. The CATIE Center logo is in the lower right corner of the screen.Developed by ASL Flurry 

Competencies Addressed:

  • message coherence
  • spatial structuring/discourse mapping
  • depiction in ASL
  • Use of Space
    • Structure space accurately in relation to the environment that is referred to in the communication event (especially geographic locations) (Taylor, 2017: 5.1)
    • Use referencing accurately when the referent is not present (Taylor, 2017: 5.2)
    • Use accurate spatial agreement (Taylor, 2017: 5.4)
    • Use accurate non-manual signals when structuring space (Taylor, 2017: 5.6)
    • Use as much space as the interpretation requires (Taylor, 2017: 5.7)
  • Grammar
    • Use prominalization in dialogue accurately (Taylor, 2017: 6.4)
  • Interpreting
    • Reflect speaker’s attitudes, preferences, and emotions (Taylor, 2017: 7.5)

Time Required for Activity: 60 mins


Interpreters will:

  1. Use space correctly when interpreting geographical locations.
  2. Use space correctly when referencing more than one person.
  3. Use space correctly when interpreting reported speech (conversations).
  4. Accurately convey the speaker’s tone and affect.


Taylor, M. (2017) Interpretation Skills: English to American Sign Language. Edmonton:  Interpreting Consolidated.

Step One: Preparation

In this video, the speaker recounts an experience she had on her trip from the United States to South Africa. Be sure you are familiar with the geographical locations of these two countries. If you need to learn the signs for the countries, check out ASL Resource: Country – Name Signs.

Do you know the sign for margaritas and other common Mexican foods? Spend some time thinking about what might be discussed in this story.

Step Two: Interpret into ASL

Interpret the South African Margaritas video cold, without watching it first, and record your work.

Prepare for the interpretation by getting centered. For example, you may want to take a deep breath, get calm and determined and ready to do your best. Visualize yourself demonstrating the skills you are working on. You can do it!

Whenever possible, you are encouraged to interpret for a live person. When you work with real people, you are able to adjust your interpretation in real time based on cues you get from the person you are working with and do your best work. If you are not able to interpret for a live person, visualize a Deaf individual with whom you are comfortable. In your mind, your goal is to make sure that this person comprehends the story as easily as someone who uses the same language as the speaker.

Get Feedback:

Whether you were able to interpret for a live person or not, you are encouraged to ask for feedback form a Deaf person (friend or mentor). Either show your listener your recorded work or request feedback upon completion of the live interpretation.

Ask your listener to look for specific features, especially about the features you are working on for this interpretation, rather than just overall feedback. Some questions you can ask are:

  • Where in the interpretation did you feel confused?
  • Could you tell who was doing what?
  • Were there terms that weren’t clear?
  • Were enough facial expressions/vocal inflection used?
  • Could you read the fingerspelled words?
  • Were classifiers used correctly?

You can also ask comprehension questions specific to the interpretation, or ask your listener to summarize the information from the interpretation to find out if your message was clear. If you are asking a Deaf friend rather than a trained Deaf mentor, be sure to explain that this is a way to measure the effectiveness of your interpretation, not an evaluating of their understanding.

Step 4: Assess Your Work

This step consists of several parts.

Assess your ASL:

  • First, view the recording of your interpretation. Do an initial assessment based on the following:
    • Are subjects and pronouns present in each sentence (Overtly stated or incorporated spatially into the verb, or in another way)?
    • Are classifiers included to the extent possible? Are they correctly produced and used?
    • Is space structured accurately and to the extent possible?
    • Is depiction used to convey action and conversation?
    • Are facial expressions used in conjunction with classifiers and depicted action to convey meaning?
    • Do facial expressions accurately convey the speaker’s tone and affect?
    • Was all information conveyed? If not, what impact do these omissions have on the message?
  • If you had difficulty understanding the source video, re-watch it as many times as you need to fully comprehend the content.

Step 5:  View the interpretation

View the sample interpretation that is provided. In the sample, look for the key features you are working on for this assignment to see how they are produced. Consider the following questions when watching the interpretation.

  • How is space used for referencing people, places and things? For geographic locations?
  • How is space used for referencing concepts?
  • How are non-manual markers used to portray affect or tone?
  • What examples of depiction do you see? How are non-manual markers used in these examples?
  • How are non-manual markers used grammatically?
  • How are sentences structured?
  • How is culture-specific information conveyed?
  • When is fingerspelling used?

Pay especially close attention to areas that you had any trouble with, as well as the features that are the focus of this activity: use of space for geographical locations and to convey information about people and conversations, as well as conveying the speaker’s affect and tone. What features would you like to incorporate into the re-do of your interpretation?

Step 6: Re-do Interpretation and Re-assess

Now that you have reviewed your work and received some feedback, try the interpretation again and incorporate as many of the desired features from the sample interpretation that you can. Don’t forget to record your work.

Finally, review your work one last time. Were you able to incorporate features that resulted in an improved version? If you can do it even better, try it again. Repeat until you are satisfied with your work.