Review by Carol Patrie
Effective Interpreting, Inc.
Anna Witter-Merrithew
Director, MARIE Center at University of Northern Colorado
Book coverLegacies and Legends: History of Interpreter Education from 1800 to the 21st Century, Carolyn Ball. Edmonton, Alberta: Interpreting Consolidated, 2013. 232 pp. ISBN 978-0-9697792-8-5 (pbk) $34.95
Legacies and Legends: History of Interpreter Education from 1800 to the 21st Century represents over ten years of work by the author, Dr. Carolyn Ball, and it fills a significant void in signed language interpreter education. Reading this work brought to mind a quote from Claude G. Bowers (1956), “History is the torch that is meant to illuminate the past, to guard us against the repetition of our mistakes of other days.”
Until now, the history of ASL-English interpreter education in the United States has been largely undocumented. Understanding the history of our profession achieves at least three important outcomes. First, history helps us understand the origins of our profession and how it has evolved. Second, history helps us understand the role of change in advancing our vision of the profession. Finally, becoming familiar with our profession’s history brings into clear focus the very specific things that we need to accomplish in our future.
In this work, Carolyn Ball has captured the significant dates, events, and names of people who contributed to the establishment and evolution of interpreter education. She brings to the work her experience as an interpreter educator at Salt Lake City Community College and at William Woods University, as well as over twelve years of service on the Board of the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT), six of which were as president. In her work as the Executive Director of the VRS Interpreting Institute, she has further deepened her understanding of how the past informs the current status of interpreter education and needed changes. Since the 1990s, Ball has wanted to document the history of interpreter education before it was too late to talk with the people who were actually involved in its earliest years. Her passion for the topic led to her 2007 doctoral dissertation.
Legacies and Legends is organized chronologically, starting with the roots of interpreter education in the establishment of Deaf education in the United States.
Chapter 2 discusses the beginning of interpreter education in 1948 at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. This chapter introduces three individuals who had an enormous impact on the field of interpreter education: Lottie Reikehof, an ASL and interpreter educator; William Stoke, a researcher in linguistics who established that ASL was truly a language; and Boyce Williams, a Deaf leader working in the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Administration.
Chapter 3 discusses the advancement of interpreter education during the 1960s. Federal legislation, passed during the administration of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, improved services for the Deaf community. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) were established. The Babbidge Report provided recommendations for improvements to Deaf education, including the need for providing more interpreters for deaf people enrolled in higher education classes. Five national workshops were held during this time to develop admission requirements and curriculum for interpreter education programs.
In Chapter 4, Ball points out that the rapid growth in the number of interpreter training programs during the 1970s created a demand for more interpreter educators. The first Conference on the Preparation of Personnel in the Field of Interpreting was held at Gallaudet College in 1972. Following the conference, the first published curriculum was written for interpreter training programs in colleges and universities. Interpreter educators began to work together to enhance program quality, and the growing professionalization of interpreter education was marked at the end of the decade with the inauguration of the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT).
Chapters 5 and 6, covering the period from 1980 to 2013, focus on the efforts of the field to create program standards and to develop an accreditation system for programs in interpreter education. Initially, the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) worked with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) to develop an endorsement package and the federal government’s Department of Education Fund for Improvement in Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) funded a pilot study of the endorsement package. The Collegiate Commission on Interpreter Education (CCIE), the official accrediting body for programs in interpreter education, was established in 2006. Four other significant accomplishments and milestones for the profession were: the establishment of the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers (NCIEC), the establishment of the VRS Interpreting Institute (VRSII), the publication of the International Journal of Interpreter Educators (IJIE) and the implementation of the requirement of an earned bachelor’s degree for NAD-RID National Interpreter Certification.
Legacies and Legends is brought to a conclusion in Chapter 7 with an analysis of patterns in the history of interpreter education. Ball’s analysis reveals issues and concerns that have repeatedly come up for discussion and study. She completes her analysis with recommendations for the stakeholders (educators and administrators in interpreter education programs and professional associations as well) involved in improving and enhancing interpreter education.
Dr. Ball’s work makes an important contribution to the field. Through her research, she has been able to show us what it was like to be an interpreter educator in the early days of our profession, what challenges were faced, what happened at those foundational meetings, and how decisions were made. Throughout the book, photographs and personal stories of early educators allow us to become ‘acquainted’ with these important people. At the end of each chapter, there are thought provoking questions that challenge the reader to think deeply about the issues described. A detailed index and four appendices (a timeline of the history of interpreter education and lists of CIT board members, CIT national conventions, and Mary Stotler award recipients) add to the usefulness of the text.
We as interpreter educators have often been so busy simply finding ways to get students from entry to graduation, that we have not had time for reflection, to consider how we have arrived where we are, or if we are even moving in the right direction. As we look through the significant events for each decade, we see many of the same ideas regarding improvement in interpreter education being put forth but, time after time, implementation has never come to fruition. This text clearly indicates the need for the profession of interpreter education to become more cohesive and make fundamental changes that will lead to lasting improvement. Improvements in interpreter education will undoubtedly benefit current and future students. Ultimately, however, it will be Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who receive services from competent and well-educated interpreter practitioners who will be the greatest beneficiaries of this work.
In this text, Carolyn Ball has found the pulse of the profession and shone a spotlight on work we have begun many times but have not completed. Her work clearly shows that well-intentioned people have been reinventing the same wheel for decades. Reading this compelling work as a whole, we see that it is time to take what we have learned from the past and move forward with implementing real change rather than re-treading old tires.


Ball, C. (2007). The history of American Sign Language interpreting education (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3258295)
Bowers, Claude G. (1956). Introduction. In F. Jay Taylor, The United States and the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939. New York, Bookman Associates.