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Aircraft pilots have a saying, “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.” That is, keep the plane in the air; make sure you know where you are going; only then tell others what is happening. There is a proper order of priorities. The pilot must never panic or he will crash. He must do the most important thing first! Sign language interpreting can be similar. No matter what happens, the church interpreter must maintain focus and communicate clearly.

Anticipate – Predict words and terms that will be used. Get a good knowledge of the Bible, the verses being used, and signs that will help communicate the meaning of that passage and message.


Authenticate – Make sure you understand the meaning of the message. Also, make sure the Deaf person understands your signing. You signed it, but did they understand it?

Innovate – Be creative with visual communication. There is often no need to sign all the words, especially when a pantomime is more clear. If they can see it, don’t try to sign it!

Accommodate – Confirm that everyone involved has appropriate access to the message. Consider the lighting, seating, sound (for the interpreter), people involved, audio-visuals, and more.

Communicate – Clearly convey the message. Confirm that the interpreter is understood. “If they do not understand the way you sign, then change; sign the way they understand!” (Bob Himes)

Educate – Always be willing to teach or inform those who may not be aware of the unique communication needs of a deaf ministry. At times the interpreter must kindly lead hearing people to awareness and understanding of Deaf participants.

Recuperate – Interpreting can be described as a communication miracle. After a particularly difficult interpreting session, people ask if the interpreter’s hands are tired. The answer is often, “No, but my brain is exhausted.” Proper self care is essential.

Learn from pilots. Focus. Do your ministry. Communicate!

Advice: Pray that ye may interpret! (Adapted from 1 Cor. 14:13)

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