3 Reasons Why Sign Language Interpreters Make Faces

why do sign language interpreters make faces

Communication is widely known as the means of conveying, sending, and receiving information through speaking, writing, or using some other form or medium.

It can be verbal and nonverbal.

Verbal communication is the use of words to relay or share information with other people either through spoken or written form.

Nonverbal communication is the use of signs, eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, body language, and postures.

The main types of nonverbal communication include sign language (like gestures and facial expressions) and body language (like movement and posture, eye contact, touch, and space).

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What to Know about Sign Language

Sign language is a type of language that is not spoken but rather communicated using visual-manual expressions that help to convey meaning.

It is a type of nonverbal communication expressed through hands, faces, and movements.

Sign language is mainly used by hearing-impaired individuals and is also used to communicate with the deaf.

It is made up of hand gestures, movements, body language, and facial expressions.

Amazingly, sign language shares a huge part of communication, which is made of 55% facial expression, 38% tone, and 7% verbal.

Pedro Ponce de León, a 16th century Spanish Benedictine monk, is credited as the first person to invent a formal sign language for the hearing impaired.

Each country has its own unique sign language code and meaning, thus, it is not universal and can’t be easily understood.

What this means is that a sign language code of a particular country or region may not easily be understood by the user of another country’s sign language code.

Moreover, these codes were developed within the communities of the deaf in each region.

This makes the differences logical as opposed to if the codes were actually based on spoken languages.

There are different sign language codes across the globe.

Amongst the common ones are the Chinese Sign Language (CSL), the American Sign Language (ASL), the British Sign Language (BSL), and the Australian Sign Language (Auslan).

Related: Best ASL Story Ideas for Your Next Story

Facts about American Sign Language

why do sign language interpreters make strange faces

American Sign Language (ASL) is a language expressed by the movements of the hands and face, which is considered a complete and natural language that has the same linguistic features as spoken languages.

Its grammar differs from English and it is the primary language of most Americans who are hearing impaired.

Hearing Americans find delight in learning it.

Another interesting fact about ASL is that it expresses meanings and not English words.

For example, a single ASL sign can express an entire English sentence of varied length, say a sentence of three to five words.

Contrary to misconceptions that ASL is not grammatical because it differs totally from English grammar, language experts have been able to prove that it has its unique grammar.

This is so because it originated within the hearing impaired community in America and did not base its code on the English language.

Learning Sign Language

As said earlier, sign language is used for effective communication with a hearing-impaired person.

You can also learn sign language as a hearing individual.

Learning sign language can tend to be a tedious task if you’re unserious about it. It could take a duration between 3 days, 3 months, or even 3 years to learn.

It requires seriousness, dedication, constant study, and practice to become fluent in it.

Sign language can be learned from specialized schools, universities, apps, online platforms, or organizations (like NAD – National Association of the Deaf).

Teaching Sign Language

Teaching sign language requires having vast and sound knowledge of the alphabet and codes.

It also requires having a mutual understanding with the one you’re teaching.

For instance, when teaching a child, let the child choose his/her own vocabulary and always have a reason to learn together.

Overall, you have to learn to constantly exercise a great deal of patience no matter the individual you choose to teach.

Related: Sign Language Puns: Everything You Should Know

Who Is a Sign Language Interpreter?

A language interpreter is a qualified language professional who has the ability to bring about clear and effective communication between two people that don’t share a common language.

Just like a language interpreter, a sign language interpreter is also a qualified professional who is fluent in two or more sign languages.

This person has the ability to interpret between a source sign language and a target sign language.

Possessing this skill will enable easy diplomatic relations between two or more hearing impaired societies across different regions.

The interpreter will be able to help bring about communication in an unbiased setting, and also ensure an even approach to information and participation.

Why Do Sign Language Interpreters Make Faces?

why do asl interpreters make faces

Facial expressions are an integral part of sign language that result in effective communication between users.

Sign language interpreters make faces for the following reasons:

  1. To communicate emotions and linguistic information
  2. To give tone to the message being passed
  3. To add emphasis to words

Making faces provides more meaning to the signs being expressed so that the person being addressed can have an easier and better understanding of what is being communicated.

For example, you cannot underestimate the importance of lip-reading when communicating with a hearing-impaired person.

These facial expressions may include mouthing, raising the eyebrows, lowering the eyebrows, and sniffing the nose.

Related: Can Deaf People Hear in Their Dreams (Answered)

Why Do Sign Language Interpreters Wear Black?

The behavior and appearance of a sign language interpreter will determine the way a person understands what is being communicated.

There are three basic reasons why sign language interpreters wear black or dark-colored fabrics. Each one is discussed below.

Training Requirements

To become a sign language interpreter, you’ll be required to wear black or dark-colored clothes (basically tops or shirts) during training.

Dark-colored clothes like black, navy blue, dark grey, and green.

The reason is that it commands decorum, focus, orderliness, and seriousness. 

Dark Clothing Drives Away Distraction

Black or dark-colored clothing minimizes distraction, unlike colored fabrics.

This way, the viewer’s attention is glued to the interpreter’s face and chest region. And the message is grabbed comprehensively.

Consideration for Low Vision Individuals

Individuals with poor eyesight and low vision can see dark and solid colors better than bright and wavy colors.

Thus, an interpreter will not hesitate to wear a black or dark-colored fabric to minimize the burden of communication on the viewer.

3 Reasons Why Sign Language Interpreters Make Faces


My love for the disabled community started when I helped a blind man cross the road at around age 6. Fast forward to decades later, I became the caregiver of my grandma, who lost her ability to speak in her 90s. This blog helps me to produce helpful content that aligns with my passion.

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