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General Interpreting Skill Development:

Improving Semantic Awareness

This guide enhances general interpreting skills by providing activities to build ASL and English vocabulary. Resources are provided below.


  • Engage in text analysis activities of ASL and English texts where you isolate concepts that present a unique challenge for the interpretation process. Consider the meaning of the concept in context and write down a list of all of the possible signs or synonyms for the concept. You may find a dictionary, thesaurus, and a good sign language dictionary useful in this process. Practice interpreting the text inserting the various possibilities from your list and evaluate each in terms of its effectiveness in conveying the meaning and intent of the original text. If you are unsure what the sign or word means, record it in a journal and seek input from interpreting colleagues or a Deaf mentor. As you become aware of possible ways in which the concept could be conveyed, record them in the journal for periodic review and discussion.

  • Maintain a journal that you can use to record challenging concepts and vocabulary as it arises in your day to day interpreting work. Later, use the journal as the foundation for a study group with other interpreters (who are also maintaining a journal). The study group can explore how the concept would be conveyed differently in a variety of contexts.
  • Crossword puzzles in the daily newspaper and the vocabulary building in the Reader’s Digest are simple, yet effective ways to continue building your English vocabulary.


NOTE: These resources were last updated March 2021.

  • Free Online Materials

    ASL Storytime from the Department of Sign Language and Interpretation at Gallaudet University

    The series included three volumes, each containing stories with a broad variety of ASL features. The series is available on YouTube.

    Expansion Techniques by Shelley Lawrence 

    • This article, in the proceedings of the 1994 National Convention of the Conference of Interpreter Trainers edited by Elizabeth Winston, details seven strategies used in ASL to elaborate ideas. 

    TerpTalks from the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC)

    The series includes diverse ASL and English texts available for practice interpreting. The series is available on NCIEC's website. There is no charge for accessing these materials, although you may be required to register to access.

  • Purchasable Materials

    The following resources may be available for use from your local interpreter education program or through your public library. If the library does not have them, request that they purchase them for community use.

    Interpreter Practice Materials from Sign Media

    A set of 33 DVDs including 12 simultaneous texts, 12 consecutive texts, 7 one-to-one situations, 2 small groups, 6 ASL texts and 6 English texts.

    This resource is excellent for individual, study group, or classroom skill development exercises. 

    Semantic Awareness Test Kit from Sign Media

    • This kit helps viewers to understand multiple-meaning English words and the corresponding ASL sign. They are based on selected contextual meanings of English words that have more than one meaning and the ASL signs that most accurately convey those meanings.  
    • The kit consists of 3 ASL multiple choice stimulus videotapes, 3 English multiple-choice stimulus videotapes, 1 practice videotape, and an administrator’s manual which contains directions, reproducible test forms, and instructor answer keys.

Grant Recognition

The contents of the Project CLIMB website was developed under a grant (#H160D160001) from the Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education. Do not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

As of December 31, 2021, this grant project is no longer active or soliciting applications.
This website will remain available as a resource.

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