1.3 Essential Functions of a BEI-Certified Interpreter

A BEI-certified interpreter is a person who provides sign-language interpreter services. To work as a BEI-certified interpreter, a person must have the skills, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the position. The person must also be able to perform the essential job functions.

1.3.1 Essential Abilities and Attributes of Nonintermediary or Nondeaf Interpreters

A BEI-certified nonintermediary interpreter must have the following physical, cognitive, cultural, linguistic, and professional abilities and attributes.

Essential Physical Abilities

The essential physical abilities of a nonintermediary interpreter are described below.


the ability to hear, identify, and understand the speech of another person without relying on visual assistance


the ability to speak clearly so that the speech is understandable to a listener


the ability to see details of another person's hand shapes, hand movements, and facial expressions from a distance of three to six feet

Facial expression

the ability to control the muscles of the face in order to manipulate the eyebrows, cheeks, mouth, and nose

Manual dexterity

the ability to quickly make coordinated movements of one hand, a hand together with its arm, two hands, or two hands together with arms

Finger dexterity

the ability to make precisely coordinated movements of the fingers of one or both hands

Wrist-finger speed

the ability to make fast, simple, repeated movements of the fingers, hands, and wrists

Limb movement

the ability to move the arms to place the hands slightly above the head, and to extend the arms away from the front of the body and to the sides of the body

Limb movement speed

the ability to quickly move the arms

Dual-limb coordination

the ability to coordinate movements of both arms while sitting or standing


the ability to control the head in order to nod and to turn it from side to side

Physical stamina

the ability to endure moderate physical exertion without getting winded or out-of-breath for at least 30 minutes

Essential Cognitive Abilities

The essential cognitive abilities of a nonintermediary, nondeaf interpreter are described below.

Critical thinking

the ability to use logic and analysis to assess communication in order to make adjustments in approaches to interpretation


the ability to monitor and assess the interpretation during and after a task

Selective attention

the ability to concentrate and be undistracted while performing a task, and to sustain that attention over a period of time

Auditory attention

the ability to focus on a single source of auditory information in the presence of other distracting sounds

Visual attention

the ability to focus on a single source of visual information in the presence of other distracting movements in the surrounding area

Mental stamina

the ability to sustain a significant amount of mental processing without fatigue or breakdown for at least 30 minutes

Working memory

the ability to remember information such as concepts, words, and numbers for a brief time while interpreting

Information ordering

the ability to track and arrange information in a certain order

Pattern inference

the ability to quickly make sense of information even when parts of that information may appear to be missing

Time sharing

the ability to efficiently shift between two or more activities or tasks, and between two or more sources of information

Problem sensitivity

the ability to recognize when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong

Fluency of ideas

the ability to generate a number of ideas about a given topic (This concerns the number of ideas produced and not the quality, correctness, or creativity of the ideas)

Breadth of knowledge

an acquaintance or understanding, at the introductory level or higher, of a broad variety of topics and fields of interest

Essential Cultural Knowledge and Linguistic Abilities

The essential cultural knowledge and linguistic abilities of a nonintermediary, nondeaf interpreter are described below.

English language

  • knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar
  • the ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words
  • the ability to communicate information and ideas by speaking so that others will understand

Written English comprehension

  • read and understand information and ideas presented in writing
  • communicate information and ideas in writing so that others will understand

American Sign Language

  • knowledge of the structure and content of American Sign Language including the meaning of lexical and phrasal items, rules of grammar, and articulation
  • the ability to watch and understand information and ideas presented through signs, gestures, classifiers, and finger spelling
  • the ability to communicate information and ideas through signs, gestures, classifiers, and finger spelling so that others will understand


A BEI-certified interpreter must have an in-depth understanding of the cultural norms and mores of the American English-speaking and the American deaf communities.

Essential Professional Attributes

The essential professional attributes of a nonintermediary, nondeaf interpreter are described below.

Social perceptiveness

the ability to be aware of and sensitive to others' reactions, and the ability to understand why others react as they do


the ability to develop independent approaches to doing things and to work with little or no supervision

Interpersonal relationships

the ability to develop constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and to maintain them over time

Adaptability and flexibility

the ability to adapt to considerable variety in the workplace and be flexible and accepting of positive and negative change

Emotional well-being

the ability to exercise emotional control and stability in order to fully use intellectual abilities and good judgment


the ability to maintain composure, keep emotions in check, control anger, and avoid aggressive behavior, even in difficult situations

Professional decorum

the ability to show respect and act in a professional manner during all interactions

Problem solving

the ability to make complex decisions, including the ability to identify problems, collect information, establish facts, and draw valid conclusions

Organizing, planning, and prioritizing work

the ability to develop specific goals and plans, and to prioritize, organize, and accomplish goals

Conflict resolution

the ability to identify and resolve conflicts related to the meanings of words, concepts, practices, or behaviors

Time management

the ability to manage time well and to respect the time of others

Ethical standards

the ability to follow the *Code of Professional Conduct as set forth by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. The seven tenets of the code are as follows:

  1. Interpreters adhere to standards of confidential communication.
  2. Interpreters posses the professional skills and knowledge required for the specific interpreting situation.
  3. Interpreters conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to the specific interpreting situation.
  4. Interpreters demonstrate respect for consumers.
  5. Interpreters demonstrate respect for colleagues, interns, and students of the profession.
  6. Interpreters maintain ethical business practices.
  7. Interpreters engage in professional development.

*For a complete explanation of the Code of Professional Conduct, see www.RID.org.