ASL and Interpreting
Interpreters are qualified individuals who can effectively transmit information between at least two language pairs - in this country, spoken English and American Sign Language (or other signed English modes).
Someone who knows ASL is NOT necessarily an ASL-English Interpreter. They know ASL as a foreign language (some may know it as a first language, if one or both of their parents are Deaf). Becoming fluent in ASL may take 2-8 years, depending on the immersion and instruction that you can access, your passion and motivation, and your opportunities to use it as a second language.
Knowing another language doesn't automatically qualify a person as being able to EFFECTIVELY INTERPRET between that language and spoken English. Learning the Interpreting Process can be an additional 2-5 years of daily dedication and commitment. Polishing all those skills into a Qualified Professional is a life-long task.
In America, Professional ASL Interpreters recognize the complex and varied settings that people need communication access, and strive to better themselves through National Certifications and Assessments/Evaluations, continued education/workshops/trainings, formal mentorships, academic degrees, and a firm rooting and acceptance with their local Deaf and Interpreting Communities. These Professional ASL Interpreters will be proud to announce that they are Nationally Certified, the name of their Certification(s), and how long they have possessed them.
They will be able to discuss current trends in ASL-English Interpreting Research, concerns amongst Deaf Community Members, and available professional development opportunities for Interpreters. They will be highly involved with the world around them, seeing every development in every field as an opportunity to gain more wisdom and understanding that will one day be applicable to a job situation. This may include cutting-edge research, emerging technology, ancient civilization studies, computer/medical technologies, pop culture, the arts, global geopolitical issues, and even other world languages/cultures.
Since they hold themselves to higher standards, and typically possess more knowledge, overall experiences, and have invested in their own personal and professional development, they will be more highly sought after. They will demand and receive higher fees. And their overall communication product will be light years ahead of the mediocre "Interpreters" who do not invest in themselves or their hearing and Deaf consumers and the world around them.
Remember - someone with a slick website, a cultured voice, seemingly "smooth ASL", a nice car, impeccable dress, and a punctual appearance may not always be a consummate professional. That person may just be an average practitioner, out to scam you and charge exorbitant fees, without the skills and experience of the Deaf and Interpreting Communities behind them.