From the Archives: 1981

In 1981, the year I was born, Sharon Neumann Solow published a book through RID press called Sign Language Interpreting: a Basic Resource Book. 


The small, brown book predates most of what is available now, include the Baker-Shenk and Cokely green book of ASL linguistics. Sharon’s simple and direct language provides practical guidance to working interpreters on matters of interpreter placement, ethics, and special situations. I loved the fact that she included a list of discussion questions and citations at the end of each chapter. But perhaps my favorite part is the series of sketched images that appear throughout the text, such as the following:

FullSizeRender (1)I especially love the “fabric background” idea. I imagine interpreters carrying around black smocks, fabric backgrounds, and foldable partitions.

Even though some of the suggestions in the book appear dated 34 (!) years later, I’m moved by how relevant and current the format is. For instance:

  • The chapters are short and uncomplicated, which means people might actually read it. The entire book barely cross 100 pages, perfect for interpreters on the move.
  • The book actually contains citations – a crucial part of tracing the development of thought over time.
  • Most of the suggestions are nuanced and still accurate, such as: “[Sign-to-voice interpreting] is probably no harder than voice-to-sign interpreting, but hearing audiences, being generally less exposed to interpreters, rely differently on the interpreter than the average deaf audience.” (51)
  • The typesetting and hand-sketched images is simple but effective, especially when compared to the design catastrophe that is So You Want to Be an Interpreter? 

Ideas do not necessarily get better over time, nor do the quality of books improve with technology. Sharon’s book is a great example of this.


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