MAI Student Research - Spring 2019

Masters students in the Department of Interpretation and Translation (DoIT) take a sequence of three research courses in their program of studies. The result is an in-depth study on a specific aspect of signed language interpreting or translation. The students present their results during the DoIT Annual Student Research Forum that takes place each Spring. Many MAI students go on to publish their research findings in professional journals. A description of the 2019 MAI student research projects are given below.


Sarah Batoon-Hughes
Expanding the deaf Asian Pacific Islander narrative: Exploring healthcare experiences of deaf patients
In terms of ethnicity, one of the most diverse settings in which ASL-English interpreters work is in healthcare. How deaf individuals from minority ethnic groups (e.g., Asian Pacific Islanders) interact with the healthcare system may vary greatly depending on their cultural perspectives.  In this research, I explore narratives about healthcare experiences from three individuals who have dual minority status both by being deaf and being in an underrepresented ethnic group. Documenting these stories may provide better preparation techniques and awareness for both interpreters and medical professionals for working with deaf patients of diverse backgrounds.


Mel Gardner
Identifying salient features in communicative events with deaf students who have disabilities. One challenge faced by Deaf students in mainstream education who have disabilities is working with interpreters. This study explores the strategies used by educational ASL-English interpreters who work with Deaf disabled students that support inclusiveness. In this study, I conduct observations in educational settings followed by interviews that examine the motivations behind strategies used. The results will expose a wider population of interpreters to the current practices being used by interpreters who work with this Deaf population and provide information to interpreters who work in mainstreamed education settings.


Shannon Morrison 
Linguistic patterns in novice interpreters’ work when rendering an ASL business lecture into English – A Case Study. The challenges surrounding Deaf professionals and qualified interpreters in the workplace are well-known and have been deeply explored in a variety of studies. This case study examines the linguistic patterns in two novice interpretations of an ASL business lecture from the perspectives of hearing, non-signing professionals. The results of the study may serve as key points of focus for newer interpreters to further develop their abilities when rendering text from ASL to English.


Whitney Reese
An Examination of Filler Words Found in Interpreted Interactions Compared with Natural Speech.
Filler words, such as um, uh, like, so, and y’know, can serve a variety of discourse functions for both the speaker and listener during an interaction. The function of such fillers depends on their placement and frequency in the discourse. In this study, I examine and contrast ASL-English interpreters’ uses of filler words in both a non-interpreted, natural conversation and in an interpreter-mediated ASL-English interaction. I observed and recorded two interpreters first having a conversation with each other and then recorded and observed them interpreting a conversation between a Deaf person and a hearing person to examine if and how the interpreters’ use of fillers changes between the two interactions. By examining these aspects, this study aims to provide a better understanding of fillers in hopes of improving interpreter performance, specifically when interpreting from ASL to English.  


Catriona Revell
Disfluency in Sign Language Interpreting: What’s the, Uh… Problem? Prior research has found that when ASL-English Interpreters work from American Sign Language into English, their English ‘voicing’ is perceived by listeners as a direct representation of what the Deaf signer has said. Anecdotally, many Deaf consumers therefore place great value on an interpreter’s ability to accurately voice for them. In English, fillers such as um and uh have been found to indicate mental processing or uncertainty, and cause listeners to view speakers as less confident and knowledgeable. This study examined the use of um and uh in 22 voice interpretations of one 8-minute ASL video, where these fillers were added by the interpreter. Interpretations were transcribed, and each instance of um or uh was coded and tallied. Results were then compared both across interpretations and against interpreters’ own perceptions on their use of these fillers, as reported in a post-interpreting questionnaire.


Billy Sims
The Influence of Language Modality on Novice Interpreters’ Preparation for ASL to English Interpretation. This study examines whether the language modality of preparation influences the target language production of novice ASL-English interpreters when working from ASL into English. Interpreters often prepare prior to interpreting assignments to become acclimated to the major points, learn key vocabulary, and identify the speaker’s goals. Novice interpreters were provided preparation material in either ASL or English prior to rendering an ASL to English interpretation of a biology lecture. The preparation material was a summary of key points that would appear in the source lecture. This study aims answer the question of whether preparing in ASL or English influences the production of novice ASL-English interpreters. 


Randall Stacy
ASL-English Interpreters’ perspective on the challenges and best practices during a police interrogation.
 ASL-English interpreters are often called upon to mitigate language barriers for Deaf participants in legal situations; however, various challenges may arise in such high-stakes communication. If an interpreter is unable to construct common ground between participants at the scene of an arrest, for example, there could be critical consequences. In this study, I use Demand Control Schema to analyze interpreters’ work within the time frame that they are initially requested for services through the preliminary process of an interrogation. The results suggest interpreters should place an emphasis on explaining their role to both the police officer and the Deaf individual in question; before, during, and after the interpreter-mediated interaction. The aim of this study is to document interpreters’ decision-making processes and suggest common controls to effectively render information between participants in a sensitive legal situation.


Tess Wenderski
Lost in Translation?: The Cultures of Signed Language-English interpreting programs in the United States. In the United States, approximately 140 postsecondary programs currently train individuals to become ASL-English interpreters. Prior to the development of interpreter training programs (ITPs), interpreters were vetted into the profession by members of deaf communities. The cultural shift in selecting interpreters moved from Deaf-centric, collectivist norms to individualist norms, which marked a transition in the interpreting profession. Using a survey approach, I collected information from deaf instructors nationwide who work in ITPs about their experiences. The results suggest that ITPs become a conglomerate of collectivist and individualist values and norms. This study offers perceptions of cultural differences by instructors regarding their experience in interpreter education.

MAI Student Research - Spring 2018
MAI Student Research - Spring 2017
MAI Student Research - Spring 2016
MAI Student Research - Spring 2015

MAI Students Peer Reviewed Publications
Many MAI students in the Department of Interpretation have published the research they conducted as graduate students. Below is a sampling of MAI student publications.

Knodel, R. K. (2018). Coping with vicarious trauma in mental health interpreting. Journal of Interpretation, 26(1), Article 2.
Available at:

Bower, K
 (2015). Stress and burnout in video relay service (VRS) interpreting.  Journal of Interpretation, 24(1), Article 2. Available at:

Lang, C. (2015). Language use at RID conferences: A survey on behaviors and perceptions.  Journal of Interpretation, 24(1). Available at:

Ganz Horwitz, M. (2014). Demands and strategies of interpreting a theatrical performance into American Sign Language.  Journal of Interpretation, 23(1). Available at:

Sforza. S. (2014). DI(2) = Team Interpreting. In R. Adam, C. Stone, S. Collins, & M. Metzger (Eds),  Deaf Interpreters At Work (pp. 19-28). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. 

Marks, A. (2012). Participation framework and footing shifts in an interpreted academic meeting.  Journal of Interpretation22(1), Article 4. Available at:

Spingarn, T.  (2001). Knowledge of Deaf community-related words, symbols and acronyms among hearing people: Implications for the production of an equivalent interpretation.  Journal of Interpretation, 69-84.