Justice

This Sign Language Interpreter Upstaged Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg performed in New Orleans on Sunday — but it was sign language interpreter Holly Maniatty who stole the show.

Video of Maniatty signing Snoop classics like "P.I.M.P." went viral, garnering more than 12 million views. She's also signed at shows for the Wu-Tang Clan, Killer Mike, and the Beastie Boys. 

Signing rap and hip-hop lyrics presents a different set of challenges for interpreters, Maniatty told Vice in a 2013 interview:

"[Y]ou have to do all the research and figure out what they’re talking about and put it all into sign language, and make it look as amusing as it sounds. Rappers are using metaphors all the time, so you have to create that moment metaphor, and you know when the Beastie Boys drop that beat, you have to drop that beat at the same time. It’s a big challenge, and I love challenges, and I love music so it sort of works together."

Though you don't usually find them at hip hop venues, sign language interpreters are commonly hired in government, legal, medical, and education roles. In fact, several states — including California, Arizona, and Michigan — have been working to address interpreter shortages in those fields.

That high demand is going to get a lot higher.

The market for American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and translators is expected to grow 42 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2014, there were about 61,000 jobs in the industry.

asl

Becoming a translator requires training and, in most cases, certification — and a lack of access to ASL education programs in the U.S. is one reason the industry is overstretched. There are only 52 colleges that offer degrees in ASL, according to CollegeBoard.

"Another reason for the shortage is that interpreting is an extremely difficult task and interpreters either burn out or are not qualified," Dr. Cindy Volk, the project director of the University of Arizona's Educational Interpreting Program, said in a 2013 report.

For advocates for the deaf, Maniatty's viral signing might be exactly the kind of publicity needed to drive interest in interpreter careers. There's certainly a growing demand for interpreters in specific sectors, but one of the job's appeals is that there's no limit to where interpreters can work.