6:46 PM, 10/29/17:
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At the Idaho Association of the Deaf Conference that Cliff and I attended a few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Deaf youth about interpreters and interpreting services. Part of our conversation was focused on them identifying characteristics of both ideal and problematic interpreters. I thought their insight was valuable, interesting, and worth sharing:
The Ideal Interpreter:
- Remains very engaged in the process with the Deaf person
- Works with the student to develop appropriate signs for the class
- Willing to be a friend
- Signs clearly
- Is willing to adjust and accommodate requests and needs
- Shares knowledge of other sign languages
- Has good ASL skills
- Asks the teacher questions if the information is not understood to ensure an effective interpretation
- Is friendly
The Problematic Interpreter:
- Does not maintain eye contact while interpreting
- Stops interpreting abruptly without a clear reason
- Shows up late resulting in the Deaf student being unable to understand what’s going on and participate
- Signs too fast so that the information is incomprehensible
- Does not acknowledge my efforts to communicate my needs
- Does not know the subject matter
- Gets distracted by other stuff while interpreting
- “Too SEE”
- Does not receive feedback well
- Defends self when getting feedback, “Well I learned that way!”
- Knowing ASL is not enough- need to be able to interpret
There are some key themes that emerged in their descriptions of ideal and problematic interpreters. Good interpreters, according to the Deaf youth of Idaho, are the ones who have linguistic fluency in ASL as well as interpreting competency. They are constantly engaged in the interpreting process and interaction with the Deaf students to ensure needs are met. Positive rapport is a key value for those Deaf youth. Extralinguistic knowledge is essential. One student commented on the importance of having an interpreter who knows and understands Chemistry.
The Deaf youth in the discussion vary in how much they use interpreting services. Some attend the school for the Deaf without needing interpreting services. Some are mainstreamed full-time. However, they all agreed on what makes an interpreter ideal. Their insights are in line with things I have heard from Deaf adults over the years. What can you do, as an interpreter, to incorporate the wisdom of those Deaf youth in your practice?
Feel free to comment below.
Cliff and I just attended the Idaho Association of the Deaf conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The conference focus this year was on interpreting. I presented to several different stakeholder groups about interpreting. In my interactions with Deaf people over the years, I have heard the same story about how they did not know they had a voice pertaining to their own interpreting services. In my workshop with Deaf consumers at this conference, my goal was to remind them that they do, indeed, have a voice.
The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) was originally established for maintaining a registry of American Sign Language-English interpreters. RID’s purpose has evolved to include testing, certification, and ongoing training of interpreters (Fant, 1990). Professionalization of sign language interpreting within the United States began with the founding of RID. Typically, the process of developing a profession becomes dominated by those within the majority group, disregarding insights from the population they intend to serve, namely the Deaf community, and this practice further promotes political and cultural tensions between the Deaf and interpreting communities (Kent, 2007). One result of the professionalization of sign language interpreting in the United States was the exclusion of Deaf perspectives in the testing and training of interpreters (Cokely, 2005) as well as in interpreter education programs (Cokely, 2005; Witter-Merithew & Johnson, 2005; Forestal, 2013; Shaw, 2013). It is important to note, however, that this is not only happening nationally. The Deaf voice is minimized in other countries as well (Leeson & Foley-Cave, 2007). While some Deaf people continue to fight for participation in the profession (Kent, 2007), many Deaf people have accepted the status quo.
When interpreters do not receive feedback from Deaf consumers about their services, they may make the erroneous assumption that Deaf consumers are satisfied with services received. It is very common for Deaf people to discuss amongst themselves their own assessments of interpreters’ hard and soft skills, as well as their level of involvement in the Deaf community (Bienvenu, 1987; Corker, 1987; Napier & Rohan, 2007).
In my conversation with the Deaf consumers at the Idaho Association of the Deaf conference, many of them did not realize they could offer feedback directly to the interpreters and/or communicate their feedback to organizations scheduling interpreters. In addition, many were unaware of the RID’s Ethical Practices System (EPS) that allows them to file grievances against RID members for any violation of the Code of Professional Conduct. Regardless, the RID EPS does not have the teeth to push for appropriate consequences. The establishment of the interpreter license law makes the quality of interpreting services legally binding, which could mean a future that will entail stricter consequences (Andrew & Snow, 2017).
I emphasized to those present that if they want interpreting standards to improve, they have to speak up; otherwise interpreters will continue doing what they have been doing. I also believe that interpreters need to begin asking Deaf consumers for feedback and checking for their preferences. If interpreters are proactive in this manner, it will help the Deaf community understand that they do have a voice in the provision of interpreting services.
Andrew, L. & Snow, S. (2017, August). HB46 Interpreter Law: What is it. Presentation at the
Idaho Association of the Deaf Conference, Post Falls, ID.
Bienvenu, M.J. (1987). Third culture: Working together. Journal of Interpretation 4, 1-12.
Corker, M. (1987) Deaf people and interpreting: The struggle in language. Deaf Worlds
Cokely, D. (2005). Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in
the relationship of interpreters and the Deaf community In. M. Marschark, R. Peterson & E.A. Winston (Eds.). Sign language interpreting and interpreter education: Directions for research and practice (p. 3-28). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Fant, L. (1990). Silver threads: A personal look at the first twenty-five years of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Silver Spring, MD: RID Publications.
Forestal, E. (2013). Foreword. In S. Shaw Service learning in interpreter education: Strategies for extending student involvement in the Deaf community (p. ix-x). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Kent, S. J. (2007). “Why bother?” Institutionalization, interpreter decisions, and power relations. In C. Wadensjö, B. E. Dimitrova, & A. Nilsson (Eds.), The Critical Link 4: Professionalisation of interpreting in the community. International Conference on Interpreting in Legal, Health and Social Service Settings (p. 193-204). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Leeson, L. & Foley-Cave, S. (2007). Deep and meaningful conversation: Challenging interpreter impartiality in the semantics and pragmatics Classroom. In M. Metzger & E. Fleetwood (Eds.) Translation, Sociolinguistic, and Consumer Issues in Interpreting, (p. 45-68). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Napier, J. & Rohan, M.J. (2007) An invitation to dance: Deaf consumers’ perceptions of signed language interpreters and interpreting. In M. Metzger & E. Fleetwood (Eds.) Translation, Sociolinguistic, and Consumer Issues in Interpreting, (p. 159-203). Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Shaw, S. (2013). Service learning in interpreter education: Strategies for extending student involvement in the Deaf community. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press.
Witter-Merithew, A. & Johnson, L.J. (2005). Toward competent practice: Conversations with stakeholders. Alexandria, VA: RID Press.
by Naomi Sheneman
I was thrilled to see how my recent blog post generated so much discussion. Let’s dig a bit deeper into the concept of extralinguistic knowledge. Some of the discussions included the idea that we need to broaden our horizons. While that is a good idea, it is not always possible as we have no control over the type of incidental learning that may emerge in our daily lives. It is little things that appear in our conversations that help build our extralinguistic knowledge.
You may have caught information from scrolling down your Facebook feed and were able to apply it to your interpreting work. Or you may have seen a conversation about a topic at a gathering that eventually benefited you in your interpreting work. Or you may have learned something new from a book you were reading.
Sometimes when I share a tip with someone on how to do something I get asked how I came to this knowledge. There have been instances when I was unable to remember specifically where I picked up this piece of information. I just could not quite put my finger on where specifically it came from. We are exposed to so much daily that it’s hard to identify what we have learned if the learning was implicit. It is only realized when you later apply that knowledge in different situations.
Granted, it could be argued that one’s extralinguistic knowledge is limited if the person chooses not to live and experience things. The same could be said about someone not being up to date on the current events of the world. However, you cannot control what knowledge you pick up along the way. The point is not to just live, but to keep yourself open to new opportunities to learn through interacting with people, keeping up with the news, and participating in various activities. If you are open, you will be surprised by all the golden nuggets of knowledge you come across that could be beneficial in a future interpreting situation.
I spoke with a Deaf person recently explaining the meaning of extralinguistic knowledge. He said that sometimes he meets interpreters who have all the right hard skills, referring to signing fluency with clear facial expressions, but that he can easily tell if the interpreter appears lost. He beautifully described this phenomenon in ASL: INTERPRETER DON’T-KNOW TOPIC, MEAN NOT UNDERSTAND… MEAN INTERPRET NO-GOOD THEN ME STUMPED. Translation: When the interpreter doesn’t know the topic, this is an indication that the topic/message is not understood. This in turn makes the interpretation no good and in the end, I do not understand the intended message.