Posted on Leave a comment

Donate Now to Help Build a Brighter Tomorrow

Donate to The Learning Center for the Deaf

Who was it that gave your life that big push just when you needed it? Remember? I’m sure you do.  It’s simple. Without that special somebody, we wouldn’t likely be where we are today. For many of you it was a teacher or mentor who put life into perspective.

At StreetLeverage we believe that the good people working at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, MA are a group of just those people. As such, we are working as part of our StreetLeverage – Live 2015 event to raise money to help them continue to brighten the future of deaf kids.

We invite you to be that special someone in the life of somebody else by donating $9.50 to the ASL Curriculum Project at The Learning Center for the Deaf. Enter donation amount and number of tickets (if able to attend) below.

 * Click “Register”  to also submit your donation. 
Posted on Leave a comment

Speaker Bios

Jimmy BeldonJimmy Beldon
Jimmy, CDI, M.A., is the co-owner of Keystone Interpreting Solution, a consulting and interpreter referral business. He currently teaches in the Interpreter Training Program at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. A renowned interpreter in the court system, Jimmy is a former VP of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the current VP of the Conference of Interpreter Trainers.



Patrick GraybillPatrick Graybill
Patrick was among the original members of the National Theatre of the Deaf troupe. After leaving NTD, he taught performing arts and literature at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and spent time working at Sign Media. Now retired, it has been his joy to be a consultant with sign language interpreters or a tutor for interpreting students and observe how English can be translated into American Sign Language.



Leslie Greer

Leslie Greer
Leslie received her Linguistic MA from the University of Rochester, New York. She is currently the first Deaf president of CIT since 2012. She is a past president of ASLTA for two terms. Currently Leslie is the ASL Department Chair at the Mt. San Jacinto College, Menifee, California. She is fluent in Japanese Sign Language.




Joseph Hill

Joseph Hill
Joseph is Assistant Professor in the Specialized Education Services department at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His areas of interest in socio-historical and -linguistic aspects of African-American variety of American Sign Language and attitudes toward signing varieties in the American Deaf community.





Mindy HopperMindy Hopper
Mindy, Deaf, has been in the field of Deaf and interpreting education for 30+ years.  Currently, she is teaching for the Department of Liberal Studies at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, NY.   Mindy argues that d/Deaf people are savvy navigators, despite being confined to the periphery of spoken language privilege communities.





Marvin MillerMarvin Miller
Marvin teaches Deafhood classes across the country to the Deaf community, and he is on the board of Deafhood Foundation. Marvin has a background in media and journalism. He is father of four Deaf children, and he resides in Washington, DC.





Sharon Neumann SolowSharon Neumann Solow
Sharon is a heritage signer who works with great joy as an interpreter, coordinator, performer, lecturer, author and consultant.  Her 50-year career has taken her around the world. A working interpreter, who enjoys working with people with limited language proficiency,  Sharon’s most significant contribution is 3 fabulous granddaughters.




Amy WilliamsonAmy Williamson
A bilingual child of Deaf parents. A traveler. Amy is the mama of 2 sweet boys who are filled with mischief and magic. They are Otis, 10 and Ben Sky, 8. Amy also has a 22 year old daughter, Mika, who is a 4th year student at RIT. She is the daughter of Mary Ella Scarboro and Barney Williamson, both former teachers at the Eastern NC School for the Deaf. She LOVES the work she does and is an interpreter by choice, not by birth.

 

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Schedule for StreetLeverage – Live 2015

Friday, April 17th

8:00a–7:30p – Registration

8:00a-7:00p – Sponsor Table Visits

10:00a-4:30p – MJP ASL Poetry and Storytelling Competition Final

10:00a – 12:00p – MJP Competition Finals (.2 CEU)
2:30p – 4:30p – Panel Discussion (.25 CEU)

4:30p-6:45p – Break

Dinner (on your own)

7:00p-9:30p – Fundraising Event: ASL Curriculum Project at The Learning Center for the Deaf (.2 CEU)

 

Saturday, April 18th

7:15a–7:30p – Registration

8:00a-5:30p – Sponsor Table Visits

8:30a-12:00p – Main Session (.3 CEU)

Marvin Miller: Deafhood: Liberation, Healing, and the Sign Language Interpreter
Joseph Hill: 
Sign Language Interpreting: Practicing with a Socially Conscious Approach
Amy Williamson:
Deaf Parented Interpreters: A Challenge to the Status Quo in Interpreter Education 
Sharon Neumann Solow: Genuine Confidence: Why Can’t it be All About Me?

12:00p-1:30p – Break

Lunch (on your own)

1:30p-3:00p | 3:30p-5:00p – Concurrent Sessions (.15 CEU/session)

Marvin Miller: Deafhood and Interpreting: Uncovering Our Unexamined Consciousness
Joseph Hill: 
How Sign Language Interpreters Use a Socially Conscious Approach to Culturally Diverse Interactions
Amy Williamson: Different Doors, Same Stage: How do Sign Language Interpreters Achieve Professional Status? 
Sharon Neumann Solow: Building Genuine Confidence: Stepping Stones to a More Comfortable Interpretation Experience

7:00p-9:00p – ChangeMaker (.2 CEU)

Facilitated by Anna Witter-Merithew and Kellie Stewart

Sunday, April 19th

7:15a–2:00p – Registration

8:00a-5:30p – Sponsor Table Visits

8:45a-12:00p – Main Session (.3 CEU)

Leslie Greer: Competency Gap: Avoiding Casualties in the Field of Sign Language Interpreting
Mindy Hopper:
Incidental Learning With Deaf Students: Is There a Role for Sign Language Interpreters? 
Jimmy Beldon:
Deaf Interpreters: A Catalyst for Revolution in Sign Language Interpreting
Patrick Graybill:
Implicit & Explicit Meaning: Implications for Sign Language Interpreters

12:00p-1:30p – Break

Lunch (on your own)

1:30p-3:00p | 3:30p-5:00p – Concurrent Sessions (.15 CEU/session)

Leslie Greer: Open Source Models: Curriculum that Fills the Gap in Sign Language Interpreter Education
Mindy Hopper:
Deaf Students Positioned as Relegated Bystanders: Implications for the Field of Sign Language Interpreting
Jimmy Beldon: 
Deaf Interpreters: A Catalyst for Revolution in Sign Language Interpreting
Patrick Graybill:
Semantic Tools for Sign Language Interpreters

* Attendees can earn up to 2.0 Professional & General Studies CEUs at the Little/None & Some Content Knowledge levels.

Posted on Leave a comment

Patriot’s Day Celebration in Boston

Travel Advisory for StreetLeverage - Live 2015Boston Metro Will be Busy During StreetLeverage – Live!

On the third Monday in April, Bostonians celebrate Patriots’ Day, which remembers the Battles of Lexington and Concord, struggles that marked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

Boston locals have ample opportunity to celebrate on Patriots’ Day in Boston, including a game a Fenway, reenactments, and the annual Boston Marathon, where hordes of people line the race route and loudly cheer on runners.

What Does This Mean for Attending the Event?

It means that if you live local or are staying local, but not in the event hotel, you will need to plan your travels carefully to accommodate the events (and the preparation for them) going on around the Boston Metro area.

* It also means that you if you are traveling in from afar, waiting to make your flight and hotel  arrangements will prove very costly (and not a little bit). We anticipate available hotel rooms booked in March/April to exceed $250.00/night (if not sooner).

Travel Accommodations

As you may know, we have already filled our room block with the Marriott. We have booked additional room blocks at 2 nearby hotels and are inquiring about a 3rd.

You can find additional information on our expanded room blocks here.

Posted on Leave a comment

What is StreetLeverage – Live?

Why StreetLeverage Live

StreetLeverage—Live spotlights sign language interpreters and industry stakeholders who are rethinking the way we understand, practice, and tell the story of the sign language interpreter.

Held annually, this event endeavors to provide a platform where ideas are exchanged, connections are formed, and proactive thinking is encouraged in order to propel the field forward and refocus attendees on the impact of their work.

* Event details can be found via the menu on the left-hand side of this page.

What Can I Expect?

Each morning attendees are addressed by a series thought leaders in a TED style session of 20-minute talks. Each speaker is followed by a 15-minute period of question and answer.

You can check out past StreetLeverage – Live talks by clicking here.

The main session each morning is followed by an afternoon of concurrent sessions presented by the morning’s speakers. This gives attendees an opportunity to explore the morning’s topics on a deeper level.

The evenings are filled with networking, entertainment and evening sessions.

In The End

It is the aim of StreetLeverage – Live to foster an enhanced sense of community by uniting and mobilizing interpreters and industry stakeholders in an effort to create meaningful change within the field of sign language interpreting.

Posted on Leave a comment

Accountability: A First Step to Harmony Among Sign Language Interpreters?

Altering our approach to problem-solving by moving from blame to accountability can transform the field of sign language interpreting.

Accountability - The First Step to Harmony for Sign Language Interpreters

Have you ever felt a great line of divide working its way through the interpreting profession? It seems that recently every group discussion, article, or even online discussion revolves around one group being frustrated with the actions of another group. If I am being honest, I must admit, I am guilty.

[Click to view post in ASL]

The more I started thinking about my own frustration, the more I realized I was part of the problem. To become frustrated with a group and sit quietly in that frustration or even worse, talk about it with my peers, only allows the problem to fester. It is because of that realization this article started to develop. I realized that I did not want to be a part of the great divide; I would prefer to accept responsibility for my actions and become part of an even greater solution.

The divisions within the sign language interpreting profession are deep and impactful. We have become a field where like-minded individuals group together, spending our time pointing fingers and placing blame rather than accepting responsibility for our own behavior. The great divide extends to many groups:

  • Deaf and Hearing
  • ITP graduates and Interpreters from the “school of experience”
  • CODAs and second language users
  • Nationally Certified Interpreters and Novice Interpreters

There are also many variations outside of and within these groups. Make no mistake; none of the groups listed are perfect. But what good is it to voice our complaints about these groups if we have no solutions? If complaints are constantly being emphasized, without solutions, then the complainer becomes part of the problem.

There are several issues within the groups listed above that we have the ability to control. While this article cannot address every divided group in the profession, let us look at one of the pairings as an example: nationally certified sign language interpreters versus novice sign language interpreters. More and more often, I have heard novice interpreters express frustration at the way they feel certified interpreters look down on them. I also hear certified interpreters express concerns about how novice interpreters are quick to take work they are not qualified to accept. We see the potential problem within each group’s perceptions. Now, let us discuss possible solutions.

Certified Sign Language Interpreters

Certified sign language interpreters should accept responsibility for fostering the growth of those novice sign language interpreters. There are many ways this can be done, such as mentoring, providing positive feedback, encouraging them in the right direction, and being mindful of how we approach them to give feedback.

I have heard the phrase “Certified Interpreters eat their young” more than once. While we may joke about this phrase, there are novice sign language interpreters who are afraid to reach out because they feel this statement is true. As certified sign language interpreters, we must be accountable for our actions. We should not base our opinion on our own beliefs and thoughts, rather, we should reach out to our peers for help when we are mentoring or giving advice. Remember, just because the advice did not come from us does not mean the advice is not valid. We should respect the advice that our peers have shared even if we would not offer the same feedback.

We also need to acknowledge when the novice interpreter is trying to follow the rules and be patient while they continue to advance their skills and knowledge. We are setting the standard those novice interpreters will one day follow.

Novice Sign Language Interpreters

As novice sign language interpreters, we should also accept responsibility by recognizing that we have an impact on the field of sign language interpreting. Our reputations will be made based on the decisions we make as we advance through the field.

When in doubt, it is appropriate to reach out to trusted certified sign language interpreters for their advice. We need to be willing to accept feedback from those who have experience. We also need to be willing to decline work that we are not ready to accept, skill-wise.

When we come across certified sign language interpreters who are not approachable, then we must look for others who are approachable. Just like the certified sign language interpreter who must be accountable for their actions, so should the novice interpreter. Remember, we are also representing the community we have become a part of and our actions could reflect positively or negatively on those communities.

We are All Accountable

Accountability is the key to a successful change. Each of the groups identified have issues that are very important to its members. The challenge is to find solutions to the issues that allow the group to stop pointing the finger, and start accepting responsibility.

The time has come to make a change in our field. The energy we have spent making excuses needs to be channeled into a newfound energy for finding solutions. Recently, in her article, Sign Language Interpreter Education: Time for a National Call to Action, Cindy Volk reached out with a “National Call to Action” and outlined ways for interpreter training programs to make changes. These types of articles are important because they offer suggestions for making change possible.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Sabrina Smith
Sabrina Smith

The examples provided above are just the tip of the iceberg. Today, I used Certified Interpreters v. Novice Interpreters as an example. The list of solutions was not an exhaustive list, but it is a start. The need now is for each of the other listed groups to consider, “How can I be a part of a positive change?”

I challenge these groups to find ways to work together. I challenge people within the groups to write more articles and get involved with more discussions that provide solutions. If there is a problem that the group feels strongly about, find ways to resolve the problem that do not include placing blame on the other group and then walking away.

It does not matter if you are an interpreter, presenter, teacher, student, consumer, or where you fit in, next time you feel strongly about a topic in the field, stop and think about how your response will impact the person listening. Remind yourself that if you just complain, you are part of the problem.

If there is one thing I have learned in all my years of interpreting, it is that this field is very distinct. Although I have been involved in the field since 1996, my family still does not know exactly what I do on a daily basis. They cannot understand what is involved in the whole process, no matter how many times I explain it to them. This has led me to the realization that we are a lonely field. If we turn against each other, who can we turn to for support? We each have a vested interest in the field of interpreting, whether we are service providers, or consumers. We need to look within our own groups and decide whether we are part of the cause of the great divide, or part of the solution to mend the gap.

Questions to Consider

1. What are some ways sign language interpreters can accept the challenge of bridging the gap?

2. Why are some people fearful about reaching out to opposing groups? What are some of those  fears and how can they be addressed?

3. What are some ways we can educate ourselves before we make a quick decision about another group?

 

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper right-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”

 

Related StreetLeverage Posts

Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Langauge Interpreters Break the Cycle? by Kate Block

Strategic Partnerships: Cooperation Among Stakeholders in Sign Language Interpreting Isn’t Enough by Chris Wagner

Sign Language Interpreters: Is It Me? by Brian Morrison

 

References:

Volk, C.  (2014, October 8) Sign language interpreter education: time for a national call to action. Street Leverage. Retrieved from http://www.streetleverage.com/2014/10/sign-language-interpreter-education-time-for-a-national-call-to-action/

 

 


 

Posted on Leave a comment

Self-Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Oppression

Stacey Storme presented Self-Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Oppression at StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin. Her talk lead attendees through an exploration and acknowledgement of the impact privilege and oppression can have on the practice and self-awareness of sign language interpreters.

You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Stacey’s talk from StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Stacey’s talk directly.]

Hello! Good morning!  I’m thrilled and honored to be here.

My talk today – well, let’s go ahead and show the title first.

Self Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Oppression

While I was preparing for this talk today, I told myself that while I was standing here, I needed to remember that feeling of sitting down, having a conversation in my living room. That feeling is imperative because my talk today is a conversation I have already had with any number of people who are here in the room today. We’ve had those deep discussions and even though I haven’t necessarily been a part of them with every one of you, many of you have had these conversations, as well. Whether you have them after a conference with someone in the bar or in your hotel room, in your own living rooms, or wherever, these kinds of conversations are happening. While I may not be presenting totally new information today, you may come to a deeper understanding of the topic or have some moments to reflect on your own experiences. That’s my hope. At the root of it, I really just want to share my thoughts. That’s what StreetLeverage is all about. So, I had to remind myself that we are here to have a conversation.

Privilege and Influence

Before I begin, there are two important concepts to talk about. The first is something that is present in our daily life – we see it, read about it, and discuss it. The English word is privilege. How we sign that concept varies depending on the situation, the context we are talking about. [Sign selections start at 1:51 on the ASL video clip.] The fact that there are so many ways to talk about this is indicative of the richness of the concept. One sign cannot encompass the meanings inherent in the concept of privilege. The other concept is influence. [Sign options at 2:14 on the ASL video clip.] Again, this concept can be conveyed with a number of different signs based on what we see while we are working. Both of these concepts will come up throughout my talk today, as will the various signs we might choose for them. It’s important to recognize the complexities of both of these concepts and the choices we make when we are using ASL to talk about them.

Before I get too far, I feel it is important to let you know who I am. I know many of you here. I’m honored to call many of you friends. Some of us may know a little bit about each other’s stories, as well. If we were actually sitting in a living room together, we would know more about each other. With that in mind, I wanted to first show you a little bit about myself, about how I came to be in this world.

My Background

My sister is Deaf, so I chose photos of my sister and I as we were growing up. The one on the right was just taken last week. So, you see my sister there.

My sister is five years older than me. Both my parents are hearing. When my mother was sixteen, she got pregnant with my sister. When she was born, my sister had some other medical issues. My mother had been ill with the measles as was common at the time in 1964. So, they went through all of that with my sister. When she was about two and a half years old, they realized she was deaf. After that happened, they went through a number of things until, eventually, to make a long story short, they did some research and found Total Communication, a prevalent communication system at the time. It was a new system and spreading as mainstreaming was becoming more common. My parents did some research and found a school in Colorado, moved the family there and were on their way. My parents really immersed themselves – I’m so grateful to them for that – they didn’t really know what to do, but they both started learning to sign. At the time, that was the communication system available to them. They started on that path and about three years later I was born.

Stacey Storme
Stacey Storme

That was my world. My parents had been attending a support group with a bunch of other parents. They brought their children, so I got to be around them when the parents got together. While my parents were in the support group with the other parents, I could play with all the other kids who were there, hanging out with my sister and her friends and picking up sign language as I went along.  I naturally acquired the language I was exposed to by my peers from a very early age.This was just my world growing up. I was born into it. I had access to both worlds. However, at the time I was not aware of any of this – I took it for granted as a natural part of my life. I had access to the Deaf world with my sister and her friends. I saw Deaf adults, went to the Deaf church, went to picnics and potlucks and a variety of other events. My mother was on the board of the Center on Deafness, so I went to those events, as well. I went to my first interpreting workshop when I was fourteen years old – yes, call me a dork. I was determined to go, but not because I wanted to be an interpreter. I wanted to go because a bunch of the people I knew were talking about things I loved, so I wanted to go.

That was my world for as long as I could remember. In the hearing world, I certainly felt at home, too, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I took it for granted that I could move within both worlds at will. That was how I grew up and I never gave it a second thought in terms of privilege. When I was in high school, I started to recognize differences between those two worlds. As a child, all those experiences made up the whole of what my world looked like. I didn’t notice anything different per se; it was just my life.

When I was seven or eight years old, I started going to school – public school, of course. My sister attended a different school. I got to see a bit of both schools and honestly, there were times when I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to the same school as my sister. I didn’t dwell on it – I took the situation at face value and went on my merry way.

Starting in high school, I started to become conscious of some differences for the first time. When I was with my sister and her friends, I started to realize that something was different. That was the age when I started to notice these issues. Over time, I began to wonder what those differences were and why. I started to look within and reflect on things. I felt like I identified with the people in my Deaf world but at the same time, something was different there. I couldn’t put my finger on it and I guess I went through my own identity crisis or something. After a lot of introspection and just simply going through the process, I realized that the only difference was that I could hear. It was really that simple. Sometimes I feel like, “Of course, I could hear.” But that was the first time I made the connection – I can hear and that makes a big difference.

Growing up, I just lived in my world without noticing anything out of the ordinary. As time passed, I started to realize some of the implications present due to my ability to hear. I had access to the hearing world in a different way than my sister did. I started to feel somewhat off-kilter…even within my family – my relationships with my parents, with my sister. Her relationship with our parents and my relationship with them are different. That’s true in any family, with siblings, etc. – those differences are perfectly normal. But I had started to recognize the differences and began to reflect on them. That was really the first time that I realized my life consisted of two distinct worlds.

Sometimes it would be nice to think of both worlds existing separate from one another – in their own right. But, we all know that is not the case – the two worlds are always interacting with one another, overlapping and presenting challenges. Recognizing these two worlds and their unique qualities was a lengthy process. As I look back, I realize I instinctively adjusted to cultural norms when I was in either of my worlds. When I was in my Deaf world, I felt comfort and a sense of “home” – the Deaf world was welcoming and familiar. My family and friends were there and I felt at ease. At the same time, I could also go to my hearing world and feel a similar sense of welcome and home. I had family and friends there, as well. Both worlds offered these comforts. Both worlds offered these things – that concept alone is powerful. That is privilege. Having access to both worlds is an amazingly rich opportunity and I’m thankful every day that I have both in my life. It is also important to consider the kind of privilege this is – how we sign that concept.

The concept is incredibly complex. Sometimes, it is scary to acknowledge this privilege and it is hard to examine. The first time I started to recognize and realize my privilege, I felt guilty. It made me anxious and uncomfortable and I didn’t want to talk about it. But what was even scarier was that I could choose not to talk about it. That is powerful in and of itself. Because sometimes, it is tempting to take the easy route and just brush all that privilege-talk under the rug, to think, “I don’t have to talk about it if I don’t want to.”

The concept of choice is extremely powerful. Later in the talk I will touch more on the concept of choices.

Oops. Not the one with 3. Go back one slide. Great!

Direct Communication

So the concept of direct communication…Well, this morning, Doug Bowen-Bailey talked about community organizers and how interpreters could be communication organizers. That idea really resonated for me.

Now, this is pretty basic, but our work, at the heart of it, is communication. The core function is communication. So now, when we look at our work, at communication…let’s put interpretation aside for a moment. For communication to happen, you have two people. Let’s keep it simple for today. This talk is only 20 minutes long and I only have 10 minutes left, so I’ll keep this simple and to the point.

We have two people communicating – information is flowing back and forth between the two. Each of these people brings an incredibly rich context to the situation – their own set of experiences, their backgrounds, upbringings,  etc. Some of these things may be in their conscious awareness and some may not. These two people come together. In some situations, the individuals may have some awareness of the other person’s contextual offering, sometimes not. It varies greatly from situation to situation. When these individuals come together and start to communicate, each party may pull from their personal context and insert bits throughout the interaction. This is part of the natural flow of conversing and communicating.

Now…

Communication via a Sign Language Interpreter

Now, imagine I’m the interpreter. We have our two individuals and the interpreter arrives on the scene. As the interpreter, I have a rich contextual background, as well. We can’t just cut all that away when we interpret. We cannot discard it – it just isn’t possible. We can certainly try, but we can’t eliminate it. This morning, both Doug Bowen-Bailey and Carla Mathers talked about how important it is that we know what is there in our own context. We can manage all those experiences and information when we enter an interpreting situation. If our context wants to show itself during an interpreted event, we can make the decision that it will have to wait.

At the point when two individuals come together to have direct communication, the situation is theirs. It is their situation, whether it is one-on-one, a legal setting, a meeting, whatever it is – it is their situation. When I enter a situation for my own direct communication, that situation is mine. In those situations that are mine, I am the person who controls my context, deciding if and when I will share parts of that during my communication. Now, if I am the interpreter entering other people’s situations, that situation is not mine. It is not my situation. Period. Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Real life situations aren’t that black and white.

Perhaps I enter a situation as the interpreter – I’m entering their situation. Suppose one person makes a comment or says something that I agree with or identify with in some way. I may feel a pull to that individual or to their comments. Like Carla said, we want to or feel we must engage in some way, but the situation doesn’t really belong to the interpreter. The situation becomes increasingly complex as each person’s identity comes into play. Throughout the interaction, the interplay of identity wraps around the communication as our contexts intersect. The concept of intersectionality is at play in those moments when our personal differences and identities come together and those things can color the communication.

We enter situations having nothing to do with us. Our work has everything to do with us.  

I think, for me, the number one reason we must talk about self-awareness and privilege, however you choose to sign that concept, is that slide we just saw. It is pure irony – how a situation can have nothing to do with me yet everything to do with me. We come into other people’s situations. It is their event completely – it is about their lives. The interpreter enters the scene but it has absolutely nothing to do with them – nothing at all. It is the participant’s situation, but now the interpreter is there, not because the participants need the interpreter. The Deaf and hearing parties don’t need an interpreter. Rather, a communication need is identified, therefore an interpreter is present.

So, we have an identified communication need between two parties. That need is the primary focus of the interpreter’s work; however, it is impossible to isolate the communication need from the people involved and the personal contexts in which they bring. So, the interpreter is there and their work can begin. The situation, which existed unrelated to the interpreter before they arrived, now shifts a bit. As the interpreter enters the scene, there is a piece that is related to them now. Their focus is the communication need – that’s the reason they are present. They aren’t there to address any of the contextual aspects of the other parties in any way. This is a critical point.

In order for the interpreter to manage their own personal context and to prevent it from interfering with the communication events they interpret in, it is imperative that they unpack their privilege on a continual basis. We have to know our own baggage. We can’t do it alone. We have to include other people in the process of unpacking – we just have to. It’s important to note that we don’t usually become aware of needed unpacking by way of friendly nudges from others. We rarely do. Am I right? In fact, we are more likely to be impacted when smacked in the face with it – when our defenses are raised. When a person calls us out in a way that we don’t like, we are more likely to take notice. What that means is that we have to be open to those times. If our defenses go up in response to someone calling us out, that is a critical moment of recognition. When that kind of response is elicited, we have to look at it more deeply. Maybe not at that precise moment, but anything that creates that strong response requires analysis at some point.

So, we have to always remain open to the process of unpacking, to looking at who we are and recognizing ourselves as we are reflected back in our interactions with other people. Hopefully, those reflections aren’t coming at us while we are in other people’s situations interpreting, right? We have to engage in this work outside of the interpreting arena so that when we do enter interpreting situations, it is less likely to happen. It isn’t that we will never have those moments of reflection during interpreting events. We probably will. We will. This is why it is imperative for us to partner with others. We have to continue to enhance our ability to recognize and acknowledge privilege in all its forms, and to partner with those who would help us to do so. We need to maintain a willingness to partner with people who will discuss these issues and then have those discussions – with other interpreters, with the Deaf community, with people outside of our profession who bring their own diverse intersections to the conversation. We can’t limit the conversation to Deaf or hearing. We also have to include race, cisgender, religion, etc. We have to be willing to open the conversation. That concept – I told you I would come back to the concept of choice. That concept is powerful. The fact that we can choose. That is a huge responsibility.

Privilege of Choice 

Leading up to the conference, as I was talking about and thinking about privilege in all its forms, I realized that the heart of this conversation is choices. When I examine an area where I have privilege, it is also an area where I have choices. Sometimes, multiple choices and other times there are few, but there are still choices. Also inherent in the ability to choose is the fact that, often, the consequences of any given choice are not terribly unfavorable. Choosing one option over another may be of little consequence. If we go back to my two worlds, growing up, I could go into the Deaf world and do my thing. If I were to become frustrated or upset, I could choose to exit that world in favor of the hearing world for a while. I had another place where I was afforded the same access and comfort, where I felt welcomed and at home. Powerful.

Personally, when I recognized and acknowledged this privilege of having access to two worlds, it gave me chills. I was also moved to tears because I know what a privilege and a benefit this was. I also realize what a significant responsibility it is to own that privilege. I must acknowledge and constantly be willing to recognize the choices I have. I’m not implying that there is fault or blame to be placed. These privileges simply require acknowledgement. The work we do outside of the interpreting arena will present itself while we are interpreting. So, I think, again, back to our living room conversation…We have an enormous number of privileges – as many as there are ways to sign the concept. It is important for us to acknowledge that and to share that in our conversations with others.

With that thought, I thank you with one final slide.

Thank you!

And now, it’s time for your part in this conversation.

Posted on Leave a comment

Horizontal Violence: Can Sign Language Interpreters Break the Cycle?

Horizontal Violence is a prevalent concern in the profession of interpreting. It causes disharmony, burn out and unsuccessful work. The Demand Control Schema approach to discussing our work could be the answer to lessening the internal strife of our profession.

[Click to view post in ASL]

When did it become acceptable to judge our interpreter colleagues? How did we learn that negatively judging someone’s skills, decisions and professionalism was a good way to behave in our profession? Carl Rogers spoke of unconditional positive regard as a psychological approach to allow a person to reach their full potential as a human being. “The main factor in an unconditional positive regard is the ability to be able to isolate behaviors from the person who commits them” (Rogers, 1961). What if we, as sign language interpreters, could adopt that approach to advance our profession? Overly-critical perspectives of each other have detrimental effects on the collaborative environment required for working interpreters to be successful. Yet this tendency is prevalent in the field, leads to interpreter burn out and plagues our ITPs. So where did it start and most importantly, how do we stop it?

Horizontal Violence

Fellow interpreter, Emily Ott, focused her Master’s thesis on intergenerational communication concerns in the sign language interpreting community and found a disturbing trend in our field, horizontal violence.

“Begley and Glacken (2004) characterized the behaviors of horizontal violence as a broad range of antagonism, including “gossiping, criticism, innuendo, scapegoating, undermining, intimidation, passive aggression, withholding information, insubordination, and verbal and physical aggression. Other specific behaviors include…subtle or overt insults and ridicule, ignoring the victim, making demands that are impossible for the victim to fulfill, or devaluing a person’s work or efforts” (Ott, 2012).

Due to lack of specific research on sign language interpreters, Ott’s research focused predominately on other professional fields with similar characteristics to the sign language interpreting community. “…the fields of nursing and education, which, like interpreting, are service professions where work is done with people. Also, like interpreting, those fields are both comprised of more than 75% women (Ott, 2012). As I read more about the topic of horizontal violence, I realized I had witnessed some of these behaviors personally, and/or had worked with mentees who described such experiences as they worked with colleagues. I felt a sense of relief in discovering that these experiences had a name and that other professions are plagued by the same behaviors. Then, I was filled with dread, knowing the phenomenon of horizontal violence has a name and it was prevalent enough as to be researched and identified.

The field of sign language interpreting is young and the growing pains have been rough. Rotating certifications, increasing education requirements, price competition and progressive use of technology at the cost of best practices have taken their toll. Rather than working together and striving towards the greater good of communication access for an underserved community, sign language interpreters draw lines, build walls and work in fear. We claim we want to be allies for the Deaf community.  First, however, we should learn to be allies with ourselves; we should start with our colleagues.

“Harvey (2008) found that interpreters tend to be critical and unkind toward one another as a consequence of witnessing oppression regularly, a situation that causes interpreters to behave like oppressed groups. Freire (1992) would argue that the gender composition of the interpreting field, at 87% female, is the reason interpreters behave like an oppressed group, because the field’s members experience oppression themselves” (Ott, 2012).

Whatever the underlying cause, the symptoms of Horizontal Violence are prevalent. The tendency to point out colleagues’ shortcomings creates hurt feelings, distrust, burn-out and shrinks the qualified interpreter pool as sign language interpreters seek more affirming professional outlets. If we are approaching our work from a basis of fear of judgment, we will never do our best, take chances or advance to a better place.

Focus on the Work

Sign language interpreters are taught how to identify language errors very early in our careers, but we are not taught how to collaborate towards a common goal in our work or how to talk about our work in a safe, neutral way. The words “you did” and “I would have done” fall out of our mouths like old habits. We often focus on the person, rather than the work product. We forget that interpreting is an art, not a science and immediately fall into the “right sign, wrong sign” mode, which we know is not the true way we operate. We know sign language interpreters live in an “it depends” world of work, and yet we take the deontological, or rules-based, approach to judge other professionals’ choices without insight into the unique contexts and thought processes that resulted in that choice. I would suggest that this is not the best approach to our work; do we not have an obligation to rise above?

Reflective Practice

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to join a supervision or reflective practice group rooted in the demand control- schema (DC-S). For more information, see Robin Dean’s post, Ethical Development: A Sign of the Times for Sign Language Interpreters?  At first, I did not feel qualified to be a part of the group and hesitated to join. While I have seen Robyn Dean and Dr. Pollard lecture on several occasions and felt I had a good working knowledge of DC-S, I knew I still struggled to articulate the aspects of the DC-S and lacked the skill of properly identifying the demands and controls of an interpreting assignment. Nevertheless, I joined; the group consisted of a small group with members from the U.S. and abroad which met online twice a month for two hours for five months.  My group facilitator had a wealth of knowledge and understanding of DC-S and had been specifically trained to be a group Supervisor. As the meetings progressed, I realized that I was not alone in my struggles and the facilitator assured the other members and me to “stay with the (DC-S) structure, and trust the process.”

As I got ready to present my first case, I was nervous. Preparing to present gave me the opportunity to reflect on all the demands I was dealing with in this situation – multiple players, politics, medical views of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, power dynamics, systems barriers, etc. As Kenda Keller states in her article, Case Discussion: Sign Language Interpreters Contain Their Inner “What the…!!!?” , the self-discovery of this process (reflective practice) is profound. Merely taking the time to write down all the demands I encountered during the assignment, as well as the controls I employed, was enough to help me realize (after the fact) just how complicated this situation was to interpret.

As presentation day approached, I focused on the case and the ground rules that had been established at the start of the sessions:

-No judgment language

– Keep the dialogue focused on the case

– Speak when moved

– Confidentiality

– Agree to Disagree

– Unconditional Positive Regard

Kate Block
Kate Block

As I presented and the discussion progressed, I felt enormous relief – as if a weight I had been carrying was suddenly lightened. The ability to speak freely about the choices I made and the reasons I made them allowed for an honest discussion about what interpreters do in our daily work and how we affect the dynamics of an often fluid and ever-changing situation. Ironically, immediately after this interpreting job, I had felt bad and guilty about some of the controls I had employed but after reflecting with my group, I realized all the decisions I had made were based in real professional values. Additionally, I realized the resulting demands did not always have anything to do with me and my applied controls. At the end of our meeting, my interpreting case was not ‘solved’ but having other professional view points, neutral perspectives and new ideas for controls allowed me to go back into this job with a fresh perspective. I may not change applied controls drastically but I will know that I now have more options and a thorough understanding of the reasons behind my choices.

Join Us

In the end I was grateful for the opportunity and look forward to doing it again. I also look forward to working a case with fellow colleagues in this group, and future groups. Sign language interpreters know the work is difficult. We use controls during an assignment that we sometimes later wish we could take back. But, at the time, and in the moment while we are working, those controls were the best option we felt we had, knowing what we knew. Hindsight is 20/20. Rather than criticizing each other (or ourselves), we need to take those experiences, discuss them in a professional, positive manner and grow. In order to be true practice professionals, we must incorporate case conferencing into the education of future interpreters, as well as our current approach to work.

“Much as horizontal violence leads to professionals being wary of supervision, Catalano and Tillie (1991) found that teachers at all levels who participated in supervision and mentorship felt more engaged, connected and empowered to develop as professionals” (Ott, 2012).

All practice professions need to have a safe place that allows them to honestly analyze, understand, and critique their work. This is no different for the sign language interpreting profession, as Dean and Pollard have pointed out (Dean and Pollard, 2013). Only then will this profession advance and become the effective and ethical profession it can be. It is natural to feel that when we do something, it is with the best intentions. However, we often do not extend that consideration to others. Let us work together to change, so that we may assume of others what we assume of ourselves.

For more information on interpreter case conference opportunities please visit http://demandcontrolschema.com/ and sign up for the e-mail blasts from Robyn Dean and Dr. Pollard.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some of the underlying causes of horizontal violence?
  2. Where do you believe horizontal violence is learned in our field and can we prevent it?
  3. How does Horizontal Violence affect the communities we work with?
  4. What have some of your experiences been with DC-S?

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Up!” button (upper left-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Up!”

Related StreetLeverage Posts

How Do Sign Language Interpreters Avoid Mentoring’s Dodgy Undertow by Lynne Wiesman

Why Do Qualified Sign Language Interpreters Get Less Work? By Kendra Keller

Sign Language Interpreters: Breaking Down Silos Through Reflective Practice by Anna Witter-Merithew

References

Dean, R., & Pollard, R. (2004). A practice-profession model of ethical reasoning. Views, 21(9), 25-28.

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. (2001). Application of demand-control theory to sign language interpreting: Implications for stress and interpreter training. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 6(1), 1-14.

Ott, Emily K., “Do We Eat Our Young and One Another? Horizontal Violence Among Signed Language Interpreters” (2012). Master’s Theses. Paper 1.

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person: a therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

 

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Interpret + Person: Presentation of Self and Sign Language Interpreters

Robert Lee presented Interpret + Person: Presentation of Self and Sign Language Interpreters at StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin. His talk explored how the identities of sign language interpreters as individuals cannot be removed from the communicative interactions of their work or the relations they have with the people with whom they work.

You can find the PPT deck for his presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Robert’s talk from StreetLeverage – Live 2014 | Austin.  We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Robert’s talk directly.]

Interpret + Person: Presentation of Self and Sign Language Interpreters

Hello, everyone. I’m going to start with a story.

I started learning to sign, and I do mean sign – it was not American Sign Language (ASL) – when I was about fifteen or sixteen. My father and I were going to take an adult education class together. When we saw a listing for “sign language” in the course catalogue, we thought it sounded good and signed up. We went to the class, but my father gave up after the first week. I persevered. The instructor for this class was hearing. I remember, on the first night of class, the person told us they would be teaching us to “sign” not that other thing that Deaf people did. Not knowing any better at the time, I continued in the class and learned to “sign”.  Later on, I read about ASL. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. ASL classes weren’t available in the Deaf Education programs at the time, and there were no Deaf Studies programs then. That left the Interpreter Training Program, so I entered the ITP with Eileen Forestal, fortunately for me.

Before entering the Interpreter Training Program though, I could “sign”. When I was working at a department store, I remember a situation that came up. One day, in the appliance department next to mine, a Deaf couple came in, signing with the hearing salesperson who was struggling to communicate. I approached them, signing in an attempt to work with them. They were an older married couple and both seemed very nice. They were trying to purchase a microwave that day. I worked with them as they decided on their purchase and everything worked out pretty well. When they were checking out, the clerk asked if they were interested in having a credit card. They were, so the wife proceeded to fill out the application and signed it. The clerk then indicated that the husband would need to sign the form, as well. When the gentleman signed the form, he merely wrote an “X” on the paper. I was struck by that moment – not in judgment. I was intrigued and perplexed by the situation. Anyway, later on, I went into the Interpreter Training Program and ended up at the Deaf Club. This was my first time there, so I was nervously sitting there when someone tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned, I was surprised to see the man from the department store. He remembered our encounter with enthusiasm and gave me his stamp of approval with a “two-thumbs-up” endorsement. That acceptance was a milestone for me. Where I had previously been a hearing person named #Robert #Lee (first and last name fingerspelled), I became “ROBERT LEE” (Speaker indicates name sign of the combined fingerspelled letters ‘R’ and ‘L’ shaken in neutral space on the right hand). In that moment, I became INTERPRETER, even though I hadn’t completed my training yet. He recognized “who I was” in that moment. It was the beginning of my personal journey.

“I am large. I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

Angela Roth said it’s poetry day today, so in keeping with that theme, a quote from a poem, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” (Speaker indicates waistline when signing “I am large,” laughs and continues.) We each have many identities within us and various identities come to the forefront at different times. We’ll discuss that more later today.

Imagine an Interpreted Interaction

We can all imagine what an interpreted interaction looks like, am I right? In a given situation, we have the interpreter, and minimally, we have a Deaf person and a hearing person. The interpreter is in the middle between the other two participants, so to speak. Let’s talk about “who we are” as the interpreter standing at the center of this interaction and what we represent to the other participants in the interpreted event. Both parties have their own perspective.

Layers of Identity

The multitudes of identity referenced earlier are layers of identity. We are going to focus on three primary layers in this instance. The first layer, and the last one we learn as interpreters, is the professional layer. It is the one we learn in school as we become interpreters. In her plenary presentation, Bilingualism: Are Sign Language Interpreters Bilinguals?, MJ Bienvenu talked about how interpreters use the mantra, “Code of Ethics, Code of Ethics, Code of Ethics,” as they take on a mechanized interpreter persona. She talks about how interpreters wear their professional identity as a shield rather than interacting and collaborating with others. As interpreters, we do have cultural and linguistic identities but they are subjugated by our professional identity. Essentially, we have discarded our human selves in favor of this mechanical “professional” interpreter identity. We keep ourselves separated by merely interpreting the words that are said and do not allow our other identities to surface. That behavior is odd. It’s odd and it is destructive. As interpreters, we stand between two people who do not share a language and therefore, cannot easily interact on their own. By removing our selves and trying to maintain that mechanical “professional” persona exclusively, by not utilizing the cultural and linguistic identities we have to communicate between the Deaf and Hearing parties more naturally, we end up creating more problems.

Interpreter – Interpret (verb) + Person (noun)

Angela Roth mentioned that it’s interesting what we learn by using a language. So, we have the ASL sign that represents “interpreter” – INTERPRET + PERSON. In English, the same concept is represented by the word “interpreter”, a single word utterance. Now, I’ve been pondering this idea. The ASL representation for “interpreter” consists of two parts: INTERPRET – an action, what we do, and PERSON – a noun, who does the action.

If we return to our interpreted interaction with a Deaf and Hearing person and our interpreter in the middle, what are those individuals seeing when they interact with the interpreter? Do they see the same identity? Do they see the identity the interpreter thinks they are portraying? The hearing party likely sees “hearing professional” but the interpreter may not have fully explored who they think they are. Ultimately, we have to question the likelihood that participants in interpreted events see interpreters the way they see themselves.

Identity: Experience vs. Perception

As an individual, I experience my own identity while others perceive it. Sometimes, the experience and the perception are the same, and other times, they are not. A famous British sociologist, Richard Jenkins, studied social identity. He said that we can’t create our identity on our own. Rather, we build identity through our relationships with other people. We cannot create identity for ourselves in isolation. We build our identities through interactions, our experiences and other people’s perceptions.

Tom Humphries and Carol Padden both talked about the physical body of the sign language interpreter. We use our bodies to interpret. American Sign Language, British Sign Language – other signed languages – are visual in nature.  If you are using a written language, a person can record a translation in writing and pass that translation along, completely separate from the physical body of the translator. With signed languages, our “self” must always be present, whether we are interpreting on-site in 3D space or on video, interpreting to and from a flat screen, our body, our physical self, is always present. There is no way to remove ourselves from those interactions.

Presentation of Self: I Can Not Interpret Without My “Self”

Robert Lee
Robert Lee

As an interpreter, the only tool I have is me – my physical body, my facial expressions, my hands, my arms. I can’t become another person. I can use my body to express meaning for both parties in an interpreted event, but my physical self is always present. That’s important to remember. As a profession (and I confess, I’m guilty, as well), I think we have missed the mark in our attempts to ensure that we don’t influence the situations where we interpret. By virtue of taking on that “professional” persona, we are negatively impacting the interaction. This is a problem.

As interpreters, we don’t want to influence situations and we want to ensure that we are conveying meaning between the participants. At the same time, who we are – our selves – part of us, is still present. For example, I’m here presenting right now. Imagine if someone else came to present on this exact topic. Can you picture them? You are probably still seeing me as the presenter. Unfortunately, I’ve influenced you. You see me presenting this topic and it would be a challenge if someone came in and took over in the middle of the presentation. It would be quite jarring if someone came along and we tag-teamed the presentation. That would seem strange and yet, we use this technique all the time in interpreted interactions. We regularly switch interpreters midstream and believe, somehow, the meaning will still be conveyed. We tell ourselves that the Deaf people will adapt. Will they? It’s something to consider. I think we need to start being more aware of our selves as ourselves.

If we go back to the interaction we imagined, we have our interpreter and we have the perceptions the Deaf and hearing consumers have about the interpreter. What do they see? The problem is that they see what we choose to show them, whether on purpose or by accident.

I want to talk a little bit about some research done on racism.  Often, we see a person’s actions and we interpret the meaning of their actions. In her talk, Self-Awareness: How Sign Language Interpreters Acknowledge Privilege and Influence, Stacey Storme talked about how we see an “angry Deaf person” and we wonder what they are so angry about. It’s interesting when you look at it. I think this next slide will help us understand our reaction.

Observer vs. Actor Perspective

We have an actor – a person. The person carries all kinds of context with them, consisting of their experiences, background, etc. In any given interaction, we see a tiny portion of that context. We only have access to small parts of an individual’s context. The rest of it is inaccessible to us. If we think about Stacey’s example yesterday with the “angry Deaf person” or MJ’s example that people only see black instead of seeing a whole person – we only see a miniscule part of any given person’s context. As interpreters, our job is to provide that context, to convey it to the participants in interpreted events.

Let’s look at the next slide.

Observer vs. Actor Perspective – Interpreted Interaction

The issue is that we have the interpreter, a person, standing in the middle of a situation with two other people who don’t share a language. The Deaf consumer may see one part of the interpreter’s context while the hearing consumer may see something different. No one can see all of another person’s context. Our job as interpreters is to reveal context, but the problem is that we are always in the middle of the situation. It is difficult to separate how we use language, how we talk about the work and how we discuss our work with others. What kinds of language do we use when working with the Deaf consumer versus the hearing consumer? How can we convey more of the context that is implicit in the communication so that we can make more of each person’s context more explicit? Unfortunately, we haven’t had these conversations much yet. We need some way to provide consumers the opportunity to see through the interpreter’s presence to the reality of the other participants in the situation.

We Are Lenses, but Lenses Can Be Tinted

The context we bring to any situation can be considered a “tint”. For example, I’m a man. I’m white. I’m hearing and I’m an American. I started thinking about this particular topic when I moved to England six years ago. After I moved, I started to meet Deaf people there, started to learn British Sign Language, and started interacting with the language skills that I had. Interestingly, the British Deaf people I’ve met refer to me as “Interpreter.” I don’t interpret in England. I teach interpreting, but I don’t work as a sign language interpreter there – I never have. Still, their perception of me is “interpreter.” That’s how I fit into their community, their schema, their lens. I don’t fit any of their typical categories – my parents are hearing – I’m not a CODA, I’m not Deaf. The category that seems to fit best for that community is “interpreter” – that’s the label I’ve been assigned. I don’t have any issue with that – it’s fine with me. That label is how I fit into their world – it provides context about me. Those people have an idea of what “interpreter” means to them. This is similar to the story I told earlier about the older gentleman at the Deaf Club. Once I had his seal of approval, it served to say to others in the community, “He can be with us.” I was accepted and given a role.

It has been interesting to see that even though I don’t interpret in England, “interpreter” is my assigned role. That’s how the Deaf Community perceives me. Even after numerous attempts to explain that I’m a teacher, the community maintains their perception. I accept the label – I don’t mind being referred to in that way. It’s important to realize that this is a social identity – that identity was created through interactions and relationships I have had. It would be inappropriate for me to declare my own identity as “teacher” when that is not my social identity. My paychecks may say I’m a teacher, but the community’s view is that I’m an interpreter. That’s fine. It’s important for us, regardless of our contexts – interpreter, co-worker, Deaf Community member, etc., to consider the fact that other people’s perceptions and our own may not always match. What we think we are presenting as our identity, our context, may not be what others perceive. How we partner, how we express that is critical. This issue is very important for us. So, what should we be thinking about in terms of how we present ourselves?

Presentation of Self: Identities, Privilege(s) and Language(s)

Some of our identities are obvious. Things like race, gender, general age range, can be seen while others may be less obvious or visible. In England, I can “pass” as a British person until I speak. Once I do, it is easy for people to identify that I am not British. I’m not working towards picking up a fake British accent – at all. Some of my vocabulary has changed since moving to England, but still, when I speak, people can easily and swiftly recognize that I am not British.

I had an interesting experience with this. One night, I went to a pub with a British friend of mine who was hearing. After I ordered a drink, I noticed a man staring at me pretty intently. I acknowledged him and he finally asked if I was Canadian. I corrected him, letting him know that I was an American. He responded to the news by calling out to others that I was American. I was a little taken aback, but asked him about his response. Obviously, my accent is different, but I didn’t know why he had assumed I was Canadian. He explained that he knew I wasn’t British due to my accent, but after observing me in the pub, he realized that I seemed to know the cultural norms of the pub and how to behave appropriately.

To briefly explain, pub behavior in the U.K. is different than in the United States. For example, in the U.S., once patrons have paid for their drinks at the bar, they tend to leave their change there as their tab. In Britain, patrons put their change away after receiving it – they never leave the change on the table the way Americans do. That’s one example of a social rule. Another rule is related to tipping. In England, if a patron likes the service they receive, they may offer the server money to buy a drink for themselves instead of a tip as we know it in the United States.

I’ve learned some of these pub rules and follow them. So, while it was clear that I was a foreigner based on my accent, the man also noted my adherence to pub social rules, so he started ruling out options until he was left with Canadian or American. From there, he made an assumption based on what he had experienced with other Americans. He noted that Americans tend to be loud and exhibit brash behavior and struggle with British currency. When I did not behave that way, he guessed that I was Canadian. I wasn’t sure if I was being complimented, but I thanked him for discussing his perceptions with me.

In this instance, I was obviously an “other” – not “THE other”, but it did take some time for him to determine which “other” I was.  My own experience is that I’m an American, but his perception of me was different based on my behavior and his experience. Again, in MJ’s talk, she discussed the way interpreters behave while interpreting versus when they are interacting and how they move between the two. We must recognize that our behavior is how we present ourselves to others.

So, we have our identity and we also have our privilege(s). Stacey talked about privilege in her sessions. My privileges – I’m white, male, I work at a University – I carry multiple privileges. There are other parts of my identity which are not privileged – being gay – sometimes that is not privileged. So, we each carry a balance of privileges and areas where we are not privileged. Ultimately, I choose how I present myself and to whom.

In terms of languages, MJ talked about bi-lingualism and Angela talked about multi-lingualism. I know ASL and English and also I use British Sign Language (BSL) on a daily basis, so that is my third language and a part of how I present myself.

Carol Padden talked about the concept of accent in her talk, Do Sign Language Interpreter Accents Compromise Comprehension? When I sign BSL, most BSL users can immediately note that I am not a native BSL user. They see something about my accent that identifies me as a foreign user of the language. It’s fascinating. So, language is important – how and when we choose to use our language(s) is important. Here at StreetLeverage – Live 2014  in Austin, everyone is using ASL. If we decided not to use ASL here, what would that mean? If I know the language of a country and I refuse to use the language while I’m there, what does that imply? In that instance, that particular identity is not at the forefront. It is, in effect, removed from view. Purposely withholding parts of our identity from other people is a powerful statement. As interpreters, standing in the middle of interpreted interactions, we have to proceed with caution and care. We are in a powerful position.

Recall – INTERPRET (verb) PERSON (noun)

If you remember, we started with the sign for “interpreter” – INTERPRET + PERSON. Again, by using the language, using the ASL sign for “interpreter”, we can come to many understandings about the work, the person behind the work, etc. Maybe we have this concept wrong. Maybe we should consider something else.

Maybe Instead: PERSON (noun) INTERPRET (verb)

We could change the order from INTERPRET+PERSON to PERSON+INTERPRET. We need to explore who we are, our baggage. We need to unpack that baggage, straighten up our clothes a bit and then we can present ourselves to others. Only then can we begin to interpret. Without this self-exploration, everything else is meaningless. The problem MJ talked about – the “interpreter-as-machine” phenomenon – that model is the verb only. It is interpreting without the person. It is important to know the person – who they are. That occurs through negotiations with the Deaf and hearing participants in the interpreted event. Whether the interpreter should present more or less of their personal self can be negotiated. In some situations, it may be appropriate to reveal more of oneself – in settings where the interpreter works on a regular or daily basis, perhaps. Compare that to one-time-only interpreting assignments. At this type of event, it would be inappropriate to be overly effusive with the participants, even if the interpreter knows them well. The negotiation process is critical. It is important to consider how we negotiate and with whom, when we negotiate, etc.

In closing, if we consider the interpreter as a person first, remembering who we are and what we bring, we can then effectively interpret.

Thank you.

 

* Interested in receiving StreetLeverage posts in your inbox?

Simply enter your name and email in the field above the green “Sign Me Up!” button (upper left-hand side of this page) and click “Sign Me Up!”