Why Study American Sign Language? and how to start!

ASL had become the third most studied modern/foreign language at colleges and universities in the U.S., after Spanish and French.

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An interpreter’s role is an engaged one, aimed at an overall understanding of the entire communicative situation, requiring fluency in the languages, the ability to know how meaning is constructed, and skills in managing the cross-cultural flow of talk.

There is a great need for highly qualified interpreters in the Indianapolis area and the world beyond. The program for American Sign Language /English Interpreting (ASL) is designed to satisfy that need with a rigorous program that will enable you, as a graduate, to interpret accurately and effectively. Our faculty includes experienced professional interpreters, educators, researchers, and consumers of interpreting services. You will have an opportunity to be part of innovative and leading research in signed language and signed language interpreting.

The program in American Sign Language/English Interpreting offers several on-campus degree options. We do not offer an online degree. You are in the right place to learn more about our programs. If you are just starting your college career, check out what we offer for Majors and Minors. If you already have an undergraduate degree, the Certificate is probably what would be most appropriate.


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Interpreting for people who do not speak a common language is a linguistic and social act of communication. As an interpreter, you will relay messages and manage the process of talking back-and-forth for two people who speak different languages. Our curriculum sequence is designed to teach interpreting as a face-to-face process that is conversational in nature and prepares you to be community interpreters in medical, legal, social welfare, and educational settings.

Certification at the national level requires an exam administered by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Most students can pass the written portion of this exam before graduating. The performance and interview portions of the exam usually require additional experience in the field. The amount of time will vary from individual to individual.

Students who plan to enter this program are expected to have a proficiency in ASL. In addition, knowledge of the Deaf Community and linguistics is required to benefit from the core classes in the Interpreting major.

All students interested in the program in ASL/EI must apply and undergo a screening process to be admitted into the major.

What American Sign Language Did for Me?

Natasha Langford

Natasha signing at Comic Con for William Shatner’s Talk

“I had decided to go ahead with my plans to pursue my degree, even after finding out that I was pregnant with my youngest child before beginning my first semester of college. Reflecting on that time in my life I am glad that I moved forward with my education. I remember others telling me I should put it off until my kids were grown. However, I was able to set an example to them and we held one another accountable with our homework and grades. As a first gen college student I’ve watched how my journey has influenced how my children talk about post-secondary education. They say they are wanting to pursue a masters or doctorate degree. I’ve been able to show my four children that anything is possible if you want something bad enough and you work hard to achieve it.

Studying ASL helped me discover my desired career path as an American Sign Language /English Interpreter. When I was nearing graduation from Ivy Tech, I was searching for a degree program and profession that would complement my existing skillsets while allowing me to continue to grow and challenge myself. My ASL instructor there suggested the program at IUPUI and after looking into the profession it felt like the perfect fit. As an Interpreter many of the professional skills and schema that I acquired in previous professions have benefited my practice in the profession. I wake up every single day loving my career and I feel incredibly grateful for that. I have always considered myself a lifelong learner, an important component of this career path, as it requires a lifelong commitment to professional development.

Through my studies at IUPUI I learned about the rich culture of the Deaf Community. I found not only a career that I am passionate about and love but also a community. Several of my closest friends are Deaf or work within the profession. You truly get to know everyone in your cohort with how the program and courses are structured and it feels like having a second family. Everyone in the program from the other students, professors and director were incredibly supportive and encouraging. As a single parent, it was incredibly rewarding to finish my bachelor’s degree and to celebrate that accomplishment with my four children and my community of support.

After graduation, I passed my NIC written exam and began practicing as a professional interpreter. I had a job immediately upon graduation as a freelance interpreter, within a year I began interpreting in video relay service at Z/Purple. In the time since graduation, I have started grad school. I’m in the process of working on my Masters in Interpreting Studies with a certificate in Educational Interpreting at Western Oregon University with a goal of becoming a mentor and professor at an interpreter training program. I am planning on pursuing national certification and my doctorate. I want to continue my research, contribute to the profession, and improve the experience of the deaf consumer. I’ve been given my career by the community, and I want to give back in a meaningful way through research. Working in this field is a privilege and an honor as the trust that it takes to be invited and included in such a private and sacred part of someone’s life isn’t to be taken lightly.

I’m grateful for the foundation that IUPUI gave me in the interpreting field and the continued support I’ve had even after graduation from faculty and the community.”

— Natasha Langford, B.S. in American Sign Language / English Interpreting (2020)
Natasha is currently working on her master’s in Interpreting Studies at Western Oregon University.

More Info

Contact Vera Masters, Coordinator of ASL