Interpreting the Miranda Warnings Review

Warning: Interpreting is No Simple Matter

Video Review by Chris Wixtrom     © 1999

Interpreting the Miranda Warnings
VHS videotape
Sign Media, Inc.  1992

Distributed by Sign Media, Inc.
4020 Blackburn Lane, Burtonsville, MD 20866-1167
Phone: 800.475.4756 (voice/tty)
; Fax: 301.421.0270
URL:; E-mail:

If you've been fascinated with American Sign Language (ASL) and have had the idea that it might be "fun" to become an interpreter, this video will make you think twice. Certainly, the work of interpreting can be very satisfying, and a job well done gives a good feeling. But watching this video will banish forever the misconception that sign language interpreting is a simple matter, easily mastered.

Before questioning a suspect, a police officer must read aloud the Miranda Warnings. Hearing people are usually pretty familiar with this warning, if only from hearing it on television police shows: "You have the right to remain silent ..." but some less-well-educated deaf persons may not have any knowledge of the legal system that gives meaning to this message. The sign language interpreter may have to work beyond the words, providing a background context for the critically important ideas contained in these seemingly straight-forward sentences. In this video, three world-class sign language interpreters - Sharon Neumann Solow, Theresa Smith, and Anna Witter-Merithew - offer demonstrations of signed versions of the Miranda Warnings.

In addition to the demonstrations, these three experts discuss the complexity of the work they do, and the many skills which must be polished in order to smoothly transfer meaning from one language and set of background experiences to another. So many factors add to the challenge - such as the possibility that communication needs may require far more time in some circumstances than in others. In such a case, it is up to the interpreter to convey this situational demand with confidence, and without apology. Lou Fant, well-known for sign language interpreting skills of the highest caliber and for his warm personal style, moderates this hour-long discussion. By gently encouraging these experts to analyze the specifics of each of their performances, he draws out clues to the wisdom that guides their interpreting choices.

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