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Behind The Practice

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Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Vestibulum tortor quam, feugiat vitae, ultricies eget, tempor sit amet, ante. Donec eu libero sit amet quam egestas semper. Aenean ultricies mi vitae est. Mauris placerat eleifend leo. Quisque sit amet est et sapien ullamcorper pharetra. Vestibulum erat wisi, condimentum sed, commodo vitae, ornare sit amet, wisi. Aenean fermentum, elit eget tincidunt condimentum, eros ipsum rutrum orci, sagittis tempus lacus enim ac dui. Donec non enim in turpis pulvinar facilisis. Ut felis. Praesent dapibus, neque id cursus faucibus, tortor neque egestas augue, eu vulputate magna eros eu erat. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nam dui mi, tincidunt quis, accumsan porttitor, facilisis luctus, metus

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Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Vestibulum tortor quam, feugiat vitae, ultricies eget, tempor sit amet, ante. Donec eu libero sit amet quam egestas semper. Aenean ultricies mi vitae est. Mauris placerat eleifend leo. Quisque sit amet est et sapien ullamcorper pharetra. Vestibulum erat wisi, condimentum sed, commodo vitae, ornare sit amet, wisi. Aenean fermentum, elit eget tincidunt condimentum, eros ipsum rutrum orci, sagittis tempus lacus enim ac dui. Donec non enim in turpis pulvinar facilisis. Ut felis. Praesent dapibus, neque id cursus faucibus, tortor neque egestas augue, eu vulputate magna eros eu erat. Aliquam erat volutpat. Nam dui mi, tincidunt quis, accumsan porttitor, facilisis luctus, metus

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Building Trust: Accepting the Mantle of Sign Language Interpreter

Trustworthiness is a trait all sign language interpreters must embody. Wing Butler posits that it is our duty to display our commitment and trustworthiness at all times, on-the-job and off.

Building Trust - Accepting the Mantle of Sign Language Interpreter

Trust is a huge part of the sign language interpreting profession. As ASL interpreters, we are representatives of our clients, our profession, and at times the entire Deaf community. At the end of the day, our job is a commitment to honor those we represent and the mantle they’ve entrusted to us.

[View post in ASL.]

The Epitome of Honor

That much responsibility can feel daunting, but sign language interpreting isn’t the only occupation with such a high level of trust. One of my favorite examples of taking on a mantle for a job—and one that comes with high expectations of conduct—is the elite Tomb Guard of Arlington Cemetery.

These sentinels guard the famous Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. According to their official website, those who train for this rigorous assignment must meet the highest standards, “including following strict rules, training guidelines, and the need for complete dedication and commitment to the Tomb.” The Tomb Guard have been watching this tomb 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since 1937! No matter what the weather is like, there is always a Tomb Guard present.

After 9 months of service at the tomb, these soldiers receive the Tomb Guard Identification Badge (TGIB). This award is symbolic of their dedication to the tomb, a dedication they are expected to honor for the rest of their days. Even when the guards become civilians, the TGIB can be revoked for committing a serious offense that discredits the Tomb of the Unknowns.

In many ways, I feel that sign language interpreters should honor our position just like the Tomb Guard. Ours is a job that can be called on at any time, in any condition. Beyond that, sign language interpreters protect the communities we serve. We’re defenders, helping people navigate tricky situations that could end disastrously if we aren’t doing our job right. And often, no one will ever know if we’re doing our jobs correctly or not. This high level of trust is precisely why our actions and words matter, even when we’re off the clock. Recently I’ve noticed that many in our community are not living up to our professional standards the way we should.

An Awkward Situation

Just this year, I was in a group of interpreters at a regional event, waiting for our next assignment. I was an interpreter from out of state, and the downtime gave me a chance to meet the local interpreter professionals. As many conversations do, it turned into a discussion about our profession: ethics, organizational decisions, and the injustices some find in our craft. Then the discussion turned to the ever-common topic of the national professional organization’s financial decisions—and how much my peers disagreed with them, to the point of emotional vitriol.

As the criticism became harsher and harsher, I found myself slipping to the back of the group. These interpreters had no idea I had left the treasurer position just a couple of months prior. I tried to diffuse the situation by asking if anyone in the group had watched the treasurer’s latest report. The video addressed many of the issues they were complaining about. But they didn’t follow my lead. Instead, the blaming and ill-will finding marched on until I finally told them the truth: that I had recently left the treasurer position. All the interpreters stared at me in shock—and quickly moved the entire conversation to a more supportive, civil place.

Consider The Shadows We Cast

Loud complaining always has the potential to embarrass the complainer, but that isn’t why I’m sharing this story. I’m more concerned about the deeper consequences of being publicly hostile toward viewpoints we disagree with. And how simple venting and unproductive negativity is harming our professionalism as interpreters. Whether we like it or not, our behavior directly impacts our integrity and our trustworthiness as representatives and guests of the Deaf community. We must pay special attention to our actions at all times so we can be worthy of greater trust through greater professionalism.

The Path to Greater Professionalism

How do we become more trustworthy? Our Code of Professional Conduct is a great place to start, but here are some other suggestions to help us stay professional as sign language interpreters.

1.  Show Respect through Restraint

Wing Butler
Wing Butler

No matter how you shake it, our public behavior off the clock—whether that’s in person or over social media—has consequences for our reputations as interpreters. This is exactly why we need to honor our profession through thoughtful consideration of our actions.

Too many of us are taking our role lightly by posting anything and everything online. Even when we’re expressing disagreement or sharing ideas, the key to showing professional restraint is keeping our expression civil even when it’s tempting not to. In the spirit of keeping things civil, there are certainly opinions that shouldn’t be expressed in public at all. To know which ones, try out the elevator test outlined in my StreetLeverage article “Does Social Networking Impair Sign Language Interpreter Ethics?”

2.  Watch Out for Intergroup Bias

Humans naturally identify with other humans that are like them, whether it’s a sports team, a family, hearing people, deaf people, or people who share a common profession—like sign language interpreting. We all naturally favor the “us” that’s like you and disfavor the “them” that’s unlike you. Psychologists call this concept intergroup bias. According to Professor Mina Cikara, research suggests that an “us versus them” mentality is one of the key factors that drives groups to collective violence. This violence can be as small as hostile discussion or as widespread as genocide.

Intergroup bias is running rampant in our society, but I would suggest that our interpreting community has much more to lose by engaging in intergroup bias. As we’re striving to be trustworthy in our profession, we must all make a concerted effort to stop vilifying others around us. Let’s stop looking for a “them” to blame for our problems and start listening as we try to understand perspectives different from our own.

3.  Share Opinions in a Spirit of Empathy

This one is always a good idea. Are we expressing opinions to share of ourselves and build up the world around us? Are we open to thoughtful, understanding discussions? Even with people who disagree with our beliefs?

In my StreetLeverage Live presentation “Status Transactions: The ‘It’ Factor in Sign Language Interpreting,” I talked all about the power of humility in an interpreter. It is truly an act of humility to slow down, listen to others, and consider both sides. It takes time and it certainly requires effort, but giving other people the benefit of the doubt can improve both our professional and personal lives. Empathetic listening and seeking the truth is the fastest way to come up with creative solutions to our problems. Which brings me to my final point . . .

4.  Focus on Positive Action

Going back to my experience with my fellow interpreters, that entire situation could have gone very differently. All of us could have participated in a thoughtful, civil discussion about our organization’s finances. Maybe we could have watched their annual report together for context. If everyone still felt unsatisfied with the status quo, we could have drafted a letter to the Board proposing a solution in a respectful yet assertive fashion. This whole experience could have turned into positive action to make our sign language interpreter community better.

In a world that’s already filled with harsh critique, we’re going to make a much bigger difference by turning our opinions into meaningful actions. After all, having opinions isn’t nearly as important as how you live by them; that is what makes you a trustworthy interpreter.

Greater Trust is One Decision Away

To me, being worthy of trust boils down to one simple choice: committing to a higher standard of professionalism. If we all strive for a spirit of civility and positive restraint, we’ll already be changing ourselves and interpreting for the better. That is how all of us will truly become guardians of our profession and those we serve.

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Questions to Consider:

  1. Think of the most trusted interpreter in your community. What traits do they display which set them apart from other sign language interpreters? Do you share these traits? If not, how can you develop them?
  2. In what ways are you actively seeking to decrease intergroup bias in your professional circles? What is one step you can take to dismantle an “us versus them” paradigm?
  3. Would you be willing to invite an interpreting colleague to join you in committing to a higher professional standard? What would that accountability relationship look like for you?

 

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[Archives] Sign Language Interpreters: The Importance of the Day Before

Our archives are filled with the generosity of our presenters and contributors. It is often enlightening to look back at the path which leads to the present. To that end, we offer this glimpse into the StreetLeverage archives. This presentation was originally published on March 18, 2014.

Dennis presented Sign Language Interpreters: The Importance of the Day Before at StreetLeverage – Live 2013 in Atlanta, GA. His talk encouraged sign language interpreters to consider that the secret to successful interpretations often rests on “One thing. Just one thing” – remembering “the day before”. He suggests that a sign language interpreter’s failure to remember “the day before” means that they act on assumptions that generally result in a lack of meaning equivalence their interpretations.

You can find the PPT deck for the presentation by clicking here.

[Note from Dennis. What follows is generally based on my presentation at StreetLeverage – Live in Atlanta 2013. It is not a translation of that presentation but uses the presentation as a general outline for this written piece. In places, I have slightly expanded on the ideas presented during that presentation. I suggest that you view the presentation first and then read what follows.]

If you enjoy this presentation and accompanying article, consider going to StreetLeverage – Live 2017.

Challenge Assumptions

I’d like to begin with a brief history lesson. Our lesson begins with Euclid – the Greek philosopher and mathematician who is widely recognized as the first person to demand that we challenge assumptions on which solutions to a problem are based. Throughout history we see examples of assumed realities and assumptions being challenged by direct experience.

Consider the “Day Before Magellan”. In 1544, people who lived in the “Day Before Magellan” believed that the earth rested on the backs of three elephants, which, in turn, rested on the shell of a giant turtle, which swam in a vast sea. In the time of the “Day Before Magellan” people believed that the earth was flat. However, after Magellan and his crew circumnavigated the globe their direct, firsthand experience couldn’t be reconciled with the assumptions of people still living in the “Day Before Magellan”. When Magellan’s crew spoke about the earth, they did so from quite a different reality than those still living in the “Day Before”.

Consider next the astronomer, Nicolas Copernicus. People who lived in the “Day Before Copernicus” believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that the sun, moon, and stars all revolved around the earth. But Copernicus, after thoroughly studying the galaxy proposed a model that placed the sun at the center of the universe. In his model, which was proven to be correct, the assumptions of those believing in the centrality of the earth were shown to be wrong. His model couldn’t be reconciled with the assumptions of people still living in the “Day Before Copernicus”. When Copernicus spoke about the galaxy, he did so from quite a different reality than those in the “Day Before”.

First ContactDennis Cokely

Consider now the “Day Before First Contact”. In the past, people of European descent generally believed that those of African descent or those who were Native Americans were decidedly inferior, were subhuman, were savages who had no values, culture or language and thus were essentially worthless. But then, a number of people of European descent began to have firsthand interactions with people of African descent or Native Americans. Those people learned that, indeed, those of African descent and Native Americans did indeed have languages, values, and cultures. When those Europeans spoke of Africans or Native Americans they did so from quite a different reality than those in the “Day Before”.

We all have assumptions and when we communicate with each other we generally do so believing that generally, we share assumptions. Certainly, that is the case when we all use the same words. But when we have new experiences they often challenge and change our prior assumptions.

Our Own Day Before

We each have our own “Day Before” regardless of our identity as coda, IDP, Deaf, or non-deaf. I can’t possible know about your “Day Before” so I can only talk about my own “Day Before”. What follows are reflections on my “Day Before” and the impact of my own “first contact” interactions with Deaf people.

I grew up with absolutely no Deaf people in my life. To me being deaf meant you weren’t intelligent, couldn’t read or write, couldn’t hear. If you were deaf you were disabled and you were to be pitied. And then in 1968 when I was in graduate school I met a Deaf man by the name of Patrick Graybill.

I was stunned – a Deaf man in graduate school???!!! This was most definitely not in keeping with my life-long assumptions about people who were deaf.

In the time of the “Day Before Pat” I assumed that Deaf people communicated by gesturing, pointing or using mime. But then I learned that Deaf people had a complex, structured, rule-governed language, which meant many of my assumptions in the time of the “Day Before Pat” were wrong.

In the time of the “Day Before Pat”, the notion that Deaf people had a culture was simply unthinkable because they had no language. The idea that they had values was also meaningless and preposterous. But through firsthand interactions I learned that Deaf people do have a rich and vibrant culture. My firsthand experiences and my long-held assumptions were radically different. And I had to reconcile my assumptions from the time of the “Day Before Pat” with my firsthand experience.

I thought that all of my long-standing assumptions when I lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat” were totally correct – being deaf means you can’t hear; being deaf is all about how a person’s hearing is defective. And then I learned that to be Deaf means, “to be one of us”; I learned that there is a Deaf Community. And again, I had to reconcile my assumptions from the “Day Before Pat” with my firsthand experience. And then another of my assumptions was shattered when I learned that Deaf people don’t see themselves as handicapped; they just see themselves as having a different language and culture. Again I had to reconcile my assumptions from the “Day Before Pat” with my firsthand experience. And when I spoke about Deaf people, I did so from quite a different reality than those who still lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat”.

Dennis Cokely
Dennis Cokely

And yet another long-standing and self-evident assumption that Deaf people were abnormal was also destroyed. That assumption was destroyed when firsthand experience showed me that Deaf people see themselves as “normal”. After all, Deaf people do have a language, a culture, a community, values, traditions, etc. Those who still lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat” had their assumptions, assumptions that I had once shared. But I now had Deaf friends and firsthand experiences that stood in contrast to those assumptions. And so again, I had to reconcile my assumptions from the “Day Before Pat” with my firsthand experience.

Another assumption held by those who still lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat” was that Deaf people couldn’t possibly be linguistically oppressed because they have no language. After all, they have to be taught to speak and lipread, they have to be trained to use their hearing. But from my Deaf friends I learned that their language, ASL, wasn’t taught or used in schools, that there were few Deaf teachers and that there were many other ways in which they were linguistically oppressed.

Like most people who still live in the time of the “Day Before Pat”, I grew up with quite a list of assumptions about Deaf people that were rooted in fiction and what passed for “common sense”; but those assumptions were not based in facts. But after interacting with Deaf people, my new set of assumptions was rooted in reality and experience. And so how could I possibly communicate that with those who still lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat”? My interactions with Deaf people had changed my life and definitely had changed my perspectives on Deaf people.

New Assumptions

But although I now had a new set of assumptions about Deaf people, the language and spoken words I used remained the same as they had all my life, my life in the time of the “Day Before Pat”. So, for example, I continued to use the word “deaf” and when I said that word, those who still lived in the time of the “Day Before Pat” thought I meant “can’t hear”, “disabled” “defective”, “inferior” and “less than”. Although my new assumptions, perspectives, and firsthand experiences had changed, my language and words did not change to reflect those new assumptions, perspectives, and experiences. Because my words and language in talking about Deaf people remained unchanged, those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” thought that we continued to share the same assumptions. It seemed logical to them – our words and language, the language of the “Day Before Pat”, were the same, so surely our assumptions must be the same. But my assumptions were clearly quite different than theirs.  But because I still talked like those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” their assumptions were not and could not be challenged and opportunities to confront or discuss their assumptions were missed. Those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” continued to think that because we talked the same we must think the same and have the same assumptions.

The Same Old Words

Imagine interpreting for a Deaf person addressing a group of people who aren’t Deaf. The Deaf person begins by signing the following [see the videotape at 9:46 — 9:59]. In the past, my spoken English interpretation would have been something like “My name is Pat. I’m deaf [and then there would be the typical and sometimes audible response of pity from those in the time of the “Day Before”] and you are hearing [to which there would be a quizzical or puzzled reaction].” That would have been what I said in my interpretation, but what I said is clearly not what Pat meant.

How could I accurately reflect what Pat meant by using words that were so deeply attached to the flawed assumptions held by those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat”? Those words (“deaf”, “hearing” and others) had taken on new meanings for me but those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” had not yet acquired those new meanings. Using the same old words that I used in the time of the “Day Before Pat” meant that my spoken English interpretations could not possibly be successful. Those same old words simply reinforced the flawed assumptions of those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat”; those words continued to reinforce a devalued view of Deaf people.

For many years Deaf people have been trying to tell those who are not deaf that Deaf people have a language, a culture, a community, values, traditions, etc. and have assumed that sign language interpreters were accurately conveying their meaning and intent.  But my spoken English interpretations (and I daresay those of most other interpreters) do not always accurately reflect the intended meanings of Deaf people. My interpretations that used the same old words as those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat”, merely reinforced their negative view of Deaf people. I couldn’t possibly expect those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” to understand my experiences or to appreciate how my interactions with Deaf people had changed my perspective on Deaf people. Absent interaction and firsthand experience, those still living in the time of the “Day Before Pat” had not and could not attach my new meanings to “the same old words”.

For decades Deaf people, proud members of a Community, have been trying to tell those still living in the time of the “Day Before” about their proud Community, language, and culture. But when we interpreters use the word “deaf” the only thing that those still living in the time of the “Day Before” hear is “can’t hear”, “can’t hear”, “can’t hear”. But I believe that’s not what Deaf people mean or intend and as a result of our interpretations that use the same old words, Deaf people suffer.

Change Words and Change Assumptions

And so I have decided to change my words and my language. By changing my words and language, the assumptions of those still living in the time of “Day Before” can be challenged. Changing my words and language does not in any way change the meaning or intent of Deaf people, not at all. On the contrary, I believe that my changed words much more accurately reflect their intent and meaning.

Rather than automatically using the word “deaf”, I have decided to use the phrase “member of the Deaf Community” unless it is clear that what is meant is “can’t hear” (which I believe is rare). Thus those still living in the time of the “Day Before” are presented with a different framing of Deaf people and one that, I believe, more accurately represents what Deaf people have been trying to say to those still living in the time of the “Day Before”. That new framing is one that does not fit with the assumptions of those still living in the time of the “Day Before”. And gradually the assumptions about Deaf people of those still living in the time of the “Day Before” begin to change.

Thus I believe Deaf people’s meanings and intentions can finally and more accurately be conveyed to those still living in the time of “Day Before”. And Deaf people’s meanings and intentions are more clearly conveyed precisely because I have changed my oppressive language. And when we, as sign language interpreters, understand Deaf people’s meaning and intent and when we change our language accordingly, Deaf people’s true meaning and intent can finally be understood by those still living in the “Day Before”. Failure to change our language means that the assumptions of those still living in the tome of the “Day Before” will persist and Deaf people will continue to be oppressed and continue to be viewed as abnormal, defective and inferior.

One Thing. Just One Thing.

If you’ve seen the movie “City Slickers” you know one of the dramatic high points of the story – Curly, a tough, weather-beaten old cowboy asks Mitch (who is from the city) a question: “Mitch, do you know what the secret of life is?” Mitch says he doesn’t, and asks Curly to tell him. Curly replies that the secret to life is “One thing. Just one thing.” Unfortunately, in one of the worst possible cases of bad timing, Curly dies and so we never learn the one thing that is the secret to life.

And so, in memory of Curly, I’d like to suggest that for sign language interpreters the secret to successful interpretations might be “One thing. Just one thing”. But unlike Curly, I do plan to live long enough to tell you the secret. That one thing is — never forget living in the time of the “Day Before”. Those who are still living in the “Day Before” are usually one-third of the interpreting triad. As interpreters, remembering the assumptions of those still living in the time of the “Day Before” will help us better frame our interpretations. Remembering when we lived in the time of the “Day Before” will help us better craft our interpretations to more accurately reflect the meanings and intentions of Deaf people.

In closing, StreetLeverage – Live is all about change and becoming a change agent. I suggest that one very doable change each of us can make on a personal level is to change our words, change our language so that our interpretations more accurately represent the meanings and intentions of Deaf people.  Remembering the time we spent living in the time of the “Day Before” and the assumptions we held at that time, helps us avoid oppressive language and words that merely reinforce the assumptions of those still living in the “Day Before”. And so I encourage you to find and hold near your own “Day Before Pat”.

Enjoy this talk and accompanying article? Consider going to StreetLeverage – Live 2017.

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Keeping Sign Language Interpreters Safe in a Violent World

“At-risk” and “sign language interpreter” are not synonymous for most people. Stephen Holter highlights some risk factors and preventative measures sign language interpreters can use to stay safe.

Keeping Sign Language Interpreters Safe in a Violent World

  • Walking through the lobby of the mental health facility, the sign language interpreter had no way of knowing that just a few short hours later, a gunman would open fire, killing the receptionist and injuring several others before turning the gun on himself.  
  • At a university campus in a different part of the country, a female interpreter is walking to her car after completing her night class assignment when she notices a male student from the class following her. Fearing for her safety, she reaches for her phone to call the police.
  • While on assignment interpreting a potentially volatile home visit for a social worker, an interpreter has a feeling of concern for her own safety after noticing that the door is locked behind her.  
  • While walking through the hall in a jail, a sign language interpreter is told by the guard that, if he tackles her, it will be for her own safety.   
  • In a psychiatric facility, an interpreter is suddenly assaulted. She has not been provided with a “panic button” that is routinely supplied to all other hospital staff in the event of such an attack.   

All of these situations are real and were provided by working sign language interpreters discussing personal safety concerns that exist on the job as part of their daily work.

[View post in ASL]

Personal Security and Sign Language Interpreters

A number of factors make the field of sign language interpreting unique in terms of personal security. Freelance interpreters are frequently called upon to work in novel settings at any hour of the day or night. The interpreter is often “alone” in the sense that they are not with others who are known to them. Some settings can be inherently dangerous.   

Sign language Interpreters frequently work in healthcare and social service settings. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 23,000 significant injuries due to assault at work. More than 70 percent of these assaults were in healthcare and social service settings. Health care and social service workers are almost four times as likely to be injured as a result of violence than the average private sector worker. (OSHA Updates)

In recent conference workshops, sign language interpreters were asked about the types of settings in which they experienced safety concerns. The most frequently mentioned setting was mental health hospitals. With HIPAA law, interpreters are often given little to no information about the patient. When this is the case, the interpreter may not be aware of the presenting concerns that led to the hospitalization of the patient. It may be the case that it is not the patient with whom the interpreter is working that is a danger, but rather others in the environment. Sign language interpreters who find themselves working in mental health settings would benefit from seeking out professional development opportunities that address working with individuals whose behaviors are escalating to the point of potential violence.  

What Can Sign Language Interpreters Do to Stay Safe?

While risks may be present in any number of settings that sign language interpreters work, there are some steps that may be taken to keep oneself safe. These include the following:

a. Situational Awareness

Regardless of the setting in which an interpreter works, a key factor that will help to keep one safer is situational awareness. This seems, of course, to be common sense but is often discounted. Maintaining alertness to what is occurring in your immediate environment will provide you with time to see approaching danger, react, and attempt to  get away from potential sources of threat.  

To practice developing situational awareness, one important habit is to begin assessing the environment you will be working in upon entering to identify at least two ways to exit the scene if a crisis starts to occur. For example, when interpreting for political candidates or concerts, the interpreter should be in the practice of locating the two nearest exits. Planning ahead will reduce confusion in the event there is a crisis and one of the exits is blocked.

b. Plug Into Notification and Alert Systems

University settings now have alert systems to notify staff and students of situations such as active shooter warnings. Contract interpreters, however, are often not “plugged” into the system to receive such notifications. One solution that has been discussed is ensuring that the agency that contracts with sign language interpreters is, in fact, set up on that system so that they may notify the interpreter of any such emergencies.

c. Be Your Own Bodyguard

As discussed in “Fight like a Girl…and Win; Defense Decisions for Women,” it is important to decide that one is one’s own bodyguard. It is good to have police and other first responders, but it takes time for them to respond and, by then, it may be too late. Realizing that there needs to be a certain degree of self-reliance is the first step to keeping safe.

d. Avoid Complacency

Stephen Holter
Stephen Holter

Complacency is clearly one of the greatest factors that compromise situational awareness. As sign language interpreters are racing from one assignment to the next, it is natural to be focused on reading text messages or catching up on voicemails. Attackers will look for easy targets. A person whose attention is focused on the phone is an easy target. In his book, “The Gift of Fear,”  Gavin DeBecker discusses how, rather than giving way to complacency, part of staying safe is tuning into the danger signals that may be provided by one’s own senses.

Interpreters should consider the anticipated length of an assignment when parking. For example, rushing to interpret an emergency room visit, the interpreter might be focused on the potential nature of the emergency. ER visits, however, may often run four or five hours. As such, the lighting in the area where the interpreter has parked may have changed considerably. This should be taken into account for all settings.

e. Stay Physically Fit

How can one become a less desirable target for a potential attacker? Attackers often want to have the greatest reward with the least amount of risk. Physical fitness comes into play in this regard as attackers will often prey on those whom they regard to be easy targets. If one is looking for a reason to get into better shape, this may be it. When looking at workout options, one form of training that may be sought is called Krav Maga. This is a defensive training which not only provides a physical workout, but also provides skills for defending oneself against varying types of physical assaults, including those involving weapons.

f. Utilize Non-Lethal Tools

Some people choose to carry non-lethal self-defense tools such as pepper spray/gel, taser, and a Kubaton. These tools all have relative pros and cons. While none of these tools above will incapacitate the attacker, they are, instead, used to momentarily stop the attacker long enough for one to get a safe distance away.  

Pepper spray or gel:  Pepper spray is small and portable and is available in containers that may look like lipstick. Pepper spray has a range of 8-20 feet and typically costs below $30. One drawback of pepper spray is that it may be affected by wind and be blown back into one’s own face. Pepper gel is now available that is not as subject to gusts of wind. These devices have safety locking mechanisms that require enough familiarity to be operated when one is panicked. Additionally, it will be important to retain control of the spray so that it may not be taken by the attacker and used on the victim.

Stun guns: Stun guns are a potentially effective means of incapacitation.  Like pepper spray, stun guns are also fairly inexpensive and portable. While pepper spray is to be used at a distance, a stun gun requires that one must be close enough to make contact with the attacker. Effectiveness of a stun gun, or lack thereof, also depends on battery life. As with pepper spray, one also need to be able to retain control of the device.  

Kubotan: Another self-defense tool is called a Kubotan. Looking like a pen made of hard plastic or metal, a kubotan may be attached to a keychain for easy access. A kubotan may be used for strikes against joints or fleshy areas for self-defense.  

Conscious Consideration is the Key

As evident in the points that were discussed above, self-protection for a sign language interpreter involves multiple dimensions. It begins with an awareness that some settings may be more inherently dangerous than others. Regardless of the setting, however, maintaining a situational awareness to dangers that may suddenly arise will give you more time to formulate a response that will get you out safely. With the dangers present in today’s world, giving conscious consideration to self-protection is time well spent.

There are multiple aspects that come into play when trying to keep oneself safe as a working interpreter. It begins with the awareness that one may be at risk, maintaining vigilance to recognize when danger might be approaching, and learning physical strategies that might be used in the event they are needed. By using this multi-tiered approach, sign language interpreters can enhance their ability to keep themselves safe.

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Questions to Consider:

  1.   What potential security risks do you see while traveling to or within your work settings?
  1.    How do you think you can reduce each of these risks?
  1.   What local resources are available to you to increase your personal safety knowledge and skills?

References:

Becker, G. D. (1997). The gift of fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence. Boston: Little, Brown.

Gervasi, L. H. (2007). Fight like a girl– and win: Defense decisions for women. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

OSHA guidelines for preventing workplace violence for … (2015, April 01). Retrieved September 2, 2016, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/workplaceviolence/evaluation.html

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Hello world!

Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen.

She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane. Pityful a rethoric question ran over her cheek, then she continued her way. On her way she met a copy. The copy warned the Little Blind Text, that where it came from it would have been rewritten a thousand times and everything that was left from its origin would be the word “and” and the Little Blind Text should turn around and return to its own, safe country.

But nothing the copy said could convince her and so it didn’t take long until a few insidious Copy Writers ambushed her, made her drunk with Longe and Parole and dragged her into their agency, where they abused her for their projects again and again. And if she hasn’t been rewritten, then they are still using her. Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth.

Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view back on the skyline of her hometown Bookmarksgrove, the headline of Alphabet Village and the subline of her own road, the Line Lane. Pityful a rethoric question ran over her cheek, then she continued her way. On her way she met a copy.

The copy warned the Little Blind Text, that where it came from it would have been rewritten a thousand times and everything that was left from its origin would be the word “and” and the Little Blind Text should turn around and return to its own, safe country. But nothing the copy said could convince her and so it didn’t take long until a few insidious Copy Writers ambushed her, made her drunk with Longe and Parole and dragged her into their agency, where they abused her for their projects again and again. And if she hasn’t been rewritten, then they are still using her. Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted parts of sentences fly into your mouth. Even the all-powerful Pointing has no control about the blind texts it is an almost unorthographic life One day however a small line of blind text by the name of Lorem Ipsum decided to leave for the far World of Grammar. The Big Oxmox advised her not to do so, because there were thousands of bad Commas, wild Question Marks and devious Semikoli, but the Little Blind Text didn’t listen. She packed her seven versalia, put her initial into the belt and made herself on the way. When she reached the first hills of the Italic Mountains, she had a last view

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Change Ahead: A New Approach to Feedback for Sign Language Interpreters

Jackie Emmart presented Change Ahead: A New Approach to Feedback for Sign Language Interpreters at StreetLeverage – Live 2016 | Fremont. Her presentation advocates a new approach to feedback for more positive outcomes and increased accountability as we encounter the changing realities of the field.

You can find the PPT deck for her presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Jackie’s StreetLeverage – Live 2016 presentation. We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access Jackie’s original presentation directly.]

When it comes to giving and receiving feedback, the interpreting profession, along with many other industries, has yet to standardize an approach. There are many reasons for this, but the reality is that from one assignment to the next, we interact with one another in a variety of ways. As a result, after the completion of an interpreting assignment, colleagues ask us for feedback but don’t really mean it; ask us if they can share an observation and then proceed to dance around the issue; invite our observations in a judgmental tone that implies an error in our decisions, behavior, and/or interpreting product; or without regard for the emotional impact, “let us have it” because their heart is in the right place but their soft skills leave something to be desired.

In 2014, I was fortunate to attend the Massachusetts Conference for Women, a gathering of 10,000 women seeking professional and personal development, when Sheila Heen was a guest presenter.[i] She and co-author Douglas Stone had just published “Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood)[ii],” and her presentation got at the heart of why we engage with feedback differently from one person to the next and from one day to the next. As I listened to her explain that we’ve been doing it wrong all along, reframe how we could respond to feedback, and share strategies to engage with those responses, I thought that this information could transform everything for us in the interpreting field, and so here we are.

Annually, organizations spend billions on training supervisors, managers, and leaders to give feedback more efficiently. They’re taught to persist if the feedback they give is not immediately received well. The irony in this, as Sheila revealed in her presentation[iii], is that it’s the receiver of the feedback who holds all the power, not the giver. The giver has no control over how the receiver interprets what is said or whether or not and how to use the feedback. This money and our time could be more wisely spent engaging the receivers of feedback, shifting our energy toward seeking feedback (yes, even the negative kind) and asking for what we need to learn, grow, and develop. This is not only because of the rationale Sheila shared, but because our field and the face of the Deaf community are rapidly changing[iv], and we need to adapt in order to remain responsive and relevant. This can be achieved through our professional dialogues with one another, day in and day out.

Defining “Feedback”

Before I continue, let’s take a moment to acknowledge what is meant by “feedback.” Feedback is any information that we get about ourselves, and even when life is messy and it seems impossible to do so, it can be separated into three categories: Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation.[v] Appreciation is about relationships and human connection. It’s “Thanks,” “I see you working hard,” and “You matter to me.” Nearly all (93%) workers feel underappreciated at work and half of all workers leave their jobs because they did not feel appreciated. Coaching is feedback that is aimed at helping someone learn, grow, or change. Examples of coaching are when we give tips to improve a skill, approach, behavior, decision, or an appearance. Evaluation tells you where you stand. It’s an assessment, ranking, and/or rating, whereby there is a standard to which you and your work are being compared. Annual performance reviews fall into this category. One of the easiest ways to get clear on the feedback you’re receiving is to ask what is intended – sometimes it seems we’re getting feedback that falls in a particular category when the giver means for something altogether different. Ensuring that the intent and the impact are aligned will support understanding throughout the feedback conversation.[vi] Let’s also be clear that it doesn’t matter what you call the information you get; I know that some individuals are uncomfortable with calling it feedback.[vii] That’s fine; my goal is not for us to change what we call it. My goal is for us to change how we do it.

We know that finding exceptional teachers and mentors with whom we will always have an open mind regardless of what critique they present is a treasured rarity. Most of our experiences will be with other people who don’t have the time to give us meaningful feedback, who don’t know how to give it, who are just plain mean, or who fall somewhere in between. In order to walk the talk when it comes to our commitment to growth, we need to develop the capacity to learn from everyone.[viii] Yes, everyone.

Why is Engaging with Feedback Tricky?

Feedback sits at the intersection of two human needs – to learn and grow, or achieve mastery and the need for acceptance and approval of me just as I am now. Also, there will always be evaluation in coaching. If I am told how to improve, I’m also inherently being told that I’m not quite good enough and it can be tricky to keep our minds and hearts open when receiving these messages. As we’ll learn later, it’s essential that in our feedback conversations, both giver and receiver compare the giver’s intent of delivering appreciation, coaching, or evaluation, with the impact it’s having on the receiver.[ix]

How we receive feedback one day could be different than how we engage with it the next. There are many influencing factors, including how well we slept the night before, our emotional connection to who or what is in the room, who’s giving the feedback and how, and how we’ve learned to give feedback versus how it’s being given. Now that we’ve looked at the person-to-person experience of feedback, let’s take a step back to consider what’s ahead for our profession and how the changing face of the Deaf community will impact us in the months and years to come.

Now is the Time

Due to current and imminent changes on the horizon, we simply cannot continue to approach feedback and other discussions about our interpreting work in the same way that we always have. In order to meet the ever-increasing demands of these changes, we must find a new way to talk about the work, colleague-to-colleague.

Jackie Emmart
Jackie Emmart

Let’s begin by naming the elephant in the room. According to Humphries et al[x], 80% of all deaf children born in developing countries will receive cochlear implants. Due to the varying policies from healthcare providers and CI manufacturer protocols, there are a significant number of those children who will have no solid first language foundation. If they miss the critical period, they may not ever be fluent in any language. Additionally, cognitive tasks that rely on a solid first language might be underdeveloped such as literacy, memory organization, and number manipulation.[xi] This has great impact on interpreters – how we work with these individuals must be different than how we work with Deaf individuals whose first language is ASL. We simply cannot go at it alone; we need to open the discussion with one another so that we are all better prepared to face the demanding tasks of interpreting for individuals with language dysfluency and possible cognitive delays.

The recent Trends Report published by the National Interpreter Education Center[xii] tells us that approximately 87% of deaf children are educated in mainstream settings. Without peers who share the same language and without access to Deaf adults who can shape appropriate language acquisition, there will be great impact on language and social fluency. We will work with Deaf people whose language is idiosyncratic and the interpreting strategies that work for one may not work for the other. Thus, we must be willing to engage with feedback and one another about effectively working with these current youth and future adults.

As of late, there has been an upswing in the numbers of social media posts, blogs, and articles from members of the Deaf community who are calling for interpreters to ‘clean up our house’.[xiii][xiv][xv] Deaf people are taking to public forums to highlight the lack of accountability we have for one another, and to demand that this be shifted so that we can show up to work in their lives prepared to collaborate and be consummate professionals. As guests in the Deaf community, we must listen to their views and find a way to appropriately respond. We can best clean our house through open conversations about our work, about our behaviors, and about what it means to serve the Deaf and DeafBlind communities. In order to work together, we must be willing to have these brave conversations and engage with feedback in a new way.

In the last 20 years, we have seen a boom in racial and ethnic diversity in the US and yet, 86% of interpreters are just like me: white women.[xvi] That means that we will not share the same linguistic styles or cultures of the individuals we serve with an increasing frequency. In addition to increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in our profession so that we can more accurately represent reality, we also need to work together to learn how to best serve those from different backgrounds. Talking openly about the work, about social and economic justice, and about other important issues that directly relate to working with individuals who are from different backgrounds will become imperative if we are to provide effective interpreting services.

Our interpreting work is being recorded and posted online in ways it hasn’t been before.[xvii] What used to be seen by only the individuals present is now publicly viewable and we are receiving “feedback” from anyone who wants to contribute, regardless of their credibility or intent. Again, in order to appropriately manage these situations, we must work together. We must be willing to engage with the feedback we receive from one another and request support as needed so that we can successfully navigate this uncharted territory.

The interpreting industry is changing, the face of the Deaf community is changing; these are just some of the reasons why we must begin immediately to engage with feedback in a new way. We are not quite there yet because giving and receiving feedback can be challenging, and there are many reasons for that.

Feedback Can be Messy

It’s probably fair to say that the majority of us are on board with believing that the face of our industry and the Deaf community are rapidly changing. So, what’s preventing us from changing how we engage with one another and feedback to get ahead of the curve? The nature of giving and receiving feedback is complicated and there are likely just as many ways to engage with feedback as there are topics to discuss.

Generally, people believe that if we wanted to know something, we’d ask. Some people think that either we must already know or that someone else will tell us. They don’t want to hurt our feelings. The danger of withholding information, though, is that when we finally meet someone brave enough to share with us, we think whatever they say must not be true because certainly if it were, someone else would have told us by now.[xviii] If, however, I readily and regularly seek feedback from my colleagues, and if I engage with it in a curious way, I will have multiple opportunities to increase my awareness and make improvements as I go.

As mentioned previously, through the course of a feedback conversation, the giver may have a different impression about their intention as compared to the impact it has on the receiver, and thus the receiver responds to what they’re taking away from the conversation, not to what the giver intends. For example, the giver may intend to coach, but the receiver interprets it as evaluation. The onus is on the receiver to check throughout the conversation that intent and impact are aligned, and when they’re not, to discuss them discretely.[xix]

When we do get feedback, it can be easy to overlook and misunderstand the giver’s point. Sometimes they’re vague and we jump to a misinterpretation based on assumed intent[xx]. It’s also incredibly easy to find what’s wrong with the feedback – about you, about the situation, about the constraints – and justify our behavior based on our intentions. Speaking of misaligned intent and impact, did you know that 93% of American motorists believe they are better than average drivers? Or that of the managers surveyed by one 2007 BusinessWeek poll, 90% believed their performance was in the top 10%?[xxi] If we’re to successfully engage with feedback, as receivers we must switch from “wrong-spotting” to “tell me more.”[xxii] In place of justifications, we ought to respond with inquiry. Through the course of this new kind of conversation, we’ll better understand the impact of our decisions, thus mitigating the social blind spots we all have.

There have been attempts to reframe our feedback discussions, such that we now tell one another to separate self from work and talk only about the raw data in a given interpretation. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as raw data. As givers of feedback, we always interpret what we see before we store it in memory. So, by the time it makes its way out of our minds and into the laps of the feedback receivers, what’s being given is an interpretation. We think it’s raw data because that’s how we’ve stored it, but the truth is, there is no such thing. We attend to what we think is important, based on our experiences, values, assumptions, and implicit rules. For the purpose of more deeply engaging with feedback, we must remember that what we see or hear in an interpretation matters just as much as what we did not see or hear.[xxiii] The feedback you give is what is important to you through your lens, so if I really want to learn and grow, I need to seek negative feedback and not wait for others to share what’s important to them.

And then there are first impressions and the myriad studies about them. Regardless of a good or bad first impression, thereafter we seek data to confirm what we originally believed.[xxiv] That means that if we continue to focus on the giver of feedback, we’ll only get the data they’ve collected through their lens. If we ask specific questions about getting feedback, though, and focus on improving how we receive it, we can benefit from data that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

In this new approach, we will drive our own growth and learning.

Benefits

On a personal level, when we receive feedback well, our relationships become more rich. In fact, a key predictor of healthier, stable marriages is whether or not we’re willing and able to accept influence from our spouses. Additionally, our self-esteem becomes more secure because through the process of learning what we need to improve and subsequently working to improve it, we get better at things and we feel good about it. [xxv]

Feedback-seeking behavior is linked to higher job satisfaction and seeking negative feedback is associated with higher performance ratings.[xxvi] When we’re committed to learning and growth in our hearts and in our actions, it’s no wonder that we will be more satisfied with the work that we do. And when we seek negative feedback from our colleagues and the individuals we serve, our “walking the talk” is perceived favorably as a sign of true commitment to align intent with impact.

For generations, we have seen that our happiness does not spring from the events or things in our lives but rather how we choose to respond to those events. Modern research tells us that it is experiences, not material goods, that create happiness.[xxvii] We have the opportunity to create the life we want to live on a daily basis, by engaging with one another in a curious way about our work, our behaviors, and our decisions.

There are many more benefits for us as individuals and for our field as a whole that we will realize upon making these changes – to shift our focus from refining the giving of feedback to improving how receivers seek and engage with feedback of all kinds.

Are you in?

Feedback is not always easy, but it is always worth it. There are many compelling current and future reasons on individual and profession-wide levels for why we must now shift how we handle the art and science of engaging with feedback. We must collectively decide that we want to proactively shape our future; multiple paths will lead us there, some of which are listed above. For more information on how you can shift your energy and learn to receive feedback well, check out Thanks for the feedback. If you let it, it will change you – personally and professionally.

 

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References

[i] Heen, S. (2014). Understanding the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback to Negotiate What Matters Most. Presentation, Massachusetts Conference for Women.

[ii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). Penguin Group USA.

[iii] Heen, S. (2014). Understanding the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback to Negotiate What Matters Most. Presentation, Massachusetts Conference for Women.

[iv] Cogen, C. & Cokely, D. (2015). Preparing Interpreters for Tomorrow: Report on a Study of Emerging Trends in Interpreting and Implications for Interpreter Education. Retrieved from http://www.interpretereducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/NIEC_Trends_Report_2_2016.pdf

[v] Heen, S. (2014). Understanding the Science and Art of Receiving Feedback to Negotiate What Matters Most. Presentation, Massachusetts Conference for Women.

[vi] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). Penguin Group USA.

[vii] Emmart, J. (2015). Sign Language Interpreters and the ‘F’ Word. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/12/sign-language-interpreters-and-the-f-word/

[viii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). Penguin Group USA.

[ix] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). Penguin Group USA.

[x] Humphries, T., et al. (2012). Language acquisition for deaf children: Reducing the harms of zero tolerance to the use of alternative approaches. Harm Reduction Journal, 9 (16). Retrieved from http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/9/1/16

[xi] Humphries, T., et al. (2012). Language acquisition for deaf children: Reducing the harms of zero tolerance to the use of alternative approaches. Harm Reduction Journal, 9 (16). Retrieved from http://www.harmreductionjournal.com/content/9/1/16

[xii] Cogen, C. & Cokely, D. (2015). Preparing Interpreters for Tomorrow: Report on a Study of Emerging Trends in Interpreting and Implications for Interpreter Education. Retrieved from http://www.interpretereducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/NIEC_Trends_Report_2_2016.pdf

[xiii] C Green. (2014, June 12). Accountability: Clean Your House. [Web log article]. Retrieved from http://deafwordsmith.blogspot.com/2014/06/accountability-clean-your-house.html

[xiv] Suggs, T. (2012). Deaf Disempowerment and Today’s Interpreter. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2012/12/deaf-disempowerment-and-todays-interpreter/

[xv] E Stecker. (2014, April 23). Video Blog Community accountability: Interpreters [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/znK5wUUQe-U

[xvi] Cogen, C. & Cokely, D. (2015). Preparing Interpreters for Tomorrow: Report on a Study of Emerging Trends in Interpreting and Implications for Interpreter Education. Retrieved from http://www.interpretereducation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/NIEC_Trends_Report_2_2016.pdf

[xvii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (p.34) Penguin Group USA.

[xviii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (p.90) Penguin Group USA.

[xix] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.201-202) Penguin Group USA.

[xx] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.88-89) Penguin Group USA.

[xxi] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (p.64) Penguin Group USA.

[xxii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.46-47) Penguin Group USA.

[xxiii] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.54-55) Penguin Group USA.

[xxiv] Dimitrius, J. E. and Mazzarella, M. (2000) Put Your Best Foot Forward: Make a Great Impression by Taking Control of How Others See You. New York, NY: Fireside.

[xxv] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.8-9) Penguin Group USA.

[xxvi] Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well (even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood). (pp.8-9) Penguin Group USA.

[xxvii] Hamblin, J. (2014, October 7). Buy Experiences, Not Things. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/buy-experiences/381132

 

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Presidential Candidates: Who Should Sign Language Interpreters Vote For?

Personal politics aside, the 2016 Presidential election is an opportunity to view politics through a “sign language interpreter lens”. Using this angle, Cassie Lang examines the candidates’ views on various issues.

Presidential Candidates: Who Should Sign Language Interpreters Vote For?

With the presidential election just a few days away, and considering this all began over two years ago (!) you might find yourself in one of two categories: fed up and despondent over the state of politics, or freaked and obsessed with the latest breaking scandal and poll results. Maybe you’re just trying to keep track of the latest sign for TRUMP while interpreting, or monitoring those facial meta-comments whenever the election comes up. With it now possible to watch presidential debates in a movie theater complete with a free drink, and nearly everything being labeled “unprecedented,” the tongue-in-cheek ending line to the SNL debate spoof, “Just to remind everyone at home, this was the presidential debate” seems to be further evidence of a populace that just wishes this circus would pack up the tent and go home.

[View post in ASL]

Is it just me, or does anyone long for days of political yore: some nice, boring analysis of policy statements, voting records and speech fact checking? During a campaign when most voters have already decided who they’re voting for or against (polls estimate only 2-12% are undecided), disillusioned though they may be about it, it just might seem an exercise in futility to dig into the issues facing America today that have so briefly garnered media attention.

What is a typical “Sign Language Interpreter Identity”?

The phrase “identity politics” rings true: we vote for candidates we feel most closely represent ourselves and our interests. With a nod to the latest buzz word but valid cultural construct, intersectionality, I’d like to share what I’ve learned looking at the candidates from the identity lens of a sign language interpreter. This focuses on the major party nominees, but information is also available on Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

So what do we as interpreters care about? Using myself as an example, I consider things like out of pocket healthcare costs and insurance policies available on the exchanges, since I’ve been full time in private practice. I’m not incorporated nor do I own an interpreting agency, but I do work for several, so I also wanted to learn what if any impact this election may have on small business owners. I also have an eye on education: would massive budget cuts to public education have an impact on funding for special education and educational interpreters? Although the ADA remains largely a bulwark for Deaf-related issues regardless of party administration, I also have concerns regarding the politics surrounding bi-(or multi-) lingualism, minority cultures, and disability issues in order to keep moving forward on things like accessibility and equality instead of reverting to the back foot.

Issues closely tied to sign language interpreters and the people we work with haven’t gotten the coverage that perhaps foreign policy or personality have, so I did my best to compile sources. Here’s what I found:

Education

Hillary Clinton supports the Common Core Standards and publicly funded early childhood education, and wants to make public higher education “debt-free.” She also wants to reduce the number of standardized tests. She acknowledges problems with charter schools having the ability to be more selective about their students but does support a school voucher program for school choice (NPR, 2016).

Donald Trump does not support the Common Core or making public higher education debt-free, and is unclear on his position of early childcare education, although agrees with Clinton in reducing standardized testing. He supports a voucher program for private and charter schools, specifically proposing to cut $20 billion federal dollars from public schools. If states contribute another $100M each, then those funds combined would give “every student living in poverty” $12,000 toward school choice. States who have more private and charter schools are more likely to get back the subtracted federal funds and if they make a commitment to supporting non-public options. Trump also has a more negative view on teachers’ unions and believes teacher pay should be influenced by evaluations. (NPR, 2016).

Health care

Clinton supports the Affordable Care Act as a public insurance option for those not getting insured through their employer or those who are self-employed, and pledges to lower out-of-pocket prescription drug costs. She also wants to give states incentives to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income Americans and allow enrollment in exchanges regardless of immigration status.

Trump wants to end the Affordable Care Act and replace it with optional Health Savings Accounts (where an individual can choose to deposit a portion of pre-tax income into a yearly account for approved health care costs). He also wants to allow insurance companies to sell policies across state lines, minimizing or eliminating state regulation over the companies. He proposes to give state lawmakers more discretion over what federal Medicaid grants will cover.

Bilingualism

Clinton encourages Americans to become bilingual, does not believe English should be the official language of the United States, and opposes discrimination towards those who do not speak English (2008 debate). She voted “No” on getting rid of legal challenges to English-only job rules (March 2008).

Trump criticized Jeb Bush for speaking Spanish on the campaign trail and was quoted as saying, “We’re a nation that speaks English, and I think that while we’re in this nation we should be speaking English…it’s more appropriate.”

ADA/disability and Deaf issues

Cassie Lang
Cassie Lang

Clinton has been quoted for needing to recognize the positive impact people with disabilities have had on “changing things for the better” in America. In her position statement, she vows to continue to support the ADA, expand support for those with disabilities to “live in integrated community settings”, “improve access to meaningful, gainful employment” and provide tax breaks for families with individuals who have disabilities. Her website cites her effort when Secretary of State for the US to join the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

She spoke specifically at an event in September on creating more economic opportunity for people with disabilities, such as eliminating rules allowing the exception to pay those with disabilities below minimum wage.

In her answers to RespectAbility’s Report Questionnaire, Clinton details her votes for increased funding for IDEA, her introduction of the Count Every Vote Act to ensure accessible voting, her commitment to work with law enforcement on cultural understanding for persons with disabilities along with supporting the use of police body cameras, and her campaign’s efforts to make her website, media and interactions with voters accessible. Her response also mentioned her support of Bill Clinton’s $3M in grants to expand screenings such as the newborn hearing screening, and her first-ever appointment when Secretary of State of a Special Advisor for International Disability Rights to construct a plan to promote disability rights internationally.

Clinton also has an intern for her campaign who is Deaf.

Trump’s campaign website has no position statements on disability. After he made contorted arm movements while speaking negatively about a reporter with a disability at a rally last November, allegations of him mocking the reporter, including from the New York Times became widespread. He later denied this and was quoted saying, “I would never say anything bad about a person that has a disability. I swear to you it’s true, 100 percent true. . . . Who would do that to [the] handicapped? I’ve spent a lot of money making buildings accessible.” In citing adding accessibility to his buildings as the explanation for his actions being misconstrued, it is unclear whether his purported building improvements were going above and beyond the ADA, or simply coming into compliance with what has been federal law since 1990.

Trump was reported to use derogatory terms and behavior toward Marlee Matlin. Her response here.

Small business

Clinton supports helping small businesses get off the ground with access to capital and deferring student loan payments, streamlining licensing, simplifying tax filing rules, incentivizing health care benefits for business with up to 50 employees, providing training and mentoring to business owners and making sure small businesses get paid for services rendered.

Trump proposes to lower the business tax rate for corporate income from 35 percent to 15 percent for companies labeled “C” corporations (under 8% of small businesses benefit).

Related:

According to a recent Bank of America survey, 74% of small business owners are concerned that health care costs will impact their business, and 79% feel that the effectiveness of government leaders, in general, will affect their business in the next 12 months. Sixty-seven percent of respondents are voting based on personal perspectives as opposed to business.

It Matters in the End

Political polarization in the US is at its highest point in the last twenty years. And our perception of ourselves and others seems…skewed. Basically, people are more often saying “Yeah, my political party is pretty moderate, but that other party- those are the crazies.” And the result? Extreme rhetoric over the years not only has sown close-mindedness, and even anger, but also has nearly shut down the federal government on more than one occasion. It has also spawned the presidential race we have today.

One of my favorite things about StreetLeverage is the value it places on self-discovery and self-awareness of who we are as whole people functioning within systems of power, and the responsibility each of us has individually to effect change. How does who we are influence where we are- as individuals, as a collective? Let’s look at the electoral landscape and apply the same principles StreetLeverage calls us to embody: introspection, engagement, and resolve.

In doing this research, I came across an article that said, “if you don’t like the person, vote for the issues.” It’s up to us as sign language interpreters to determine where our identity politics lead us. We need to be as diligent as we can in looking closely at these and other issues that will form our democracy for the next presidential term. If this election season feels like a Tilt-A-Whirl you didn’t even buy a ticket for, close your eyes, take a breath and vote on November 8. This ride is over soon, kids.

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Meet, Engage, Learn & Inspire: Mentoring and Sign Language Interpreters

Mentoring is often cited as a way to bridge the “readiness gap” for emerging sign language interpreters. Kim Boeh outlines the benefits of mentoring relationships and tips for successful interactions.

Meet, Engage, Learn & Inspire: Mentoring and Sign Language Interpreters

You find yourself sitting in a classroom surrounded by your peers and realize that you will soon graduate from your interpreter education program and you experience a moment of panic. You realize that once you leave this college community of peers, instructors, and total comfort zone, you will be all on your own out there in the “real world” of interpreting. What will you do when you need advice? Who will counsel you when you don’t know if you are permitted to wear the swanky new outfit to the assignment or if it is okay to take that picture and post it on Facebook or is it ok to….? What you really need is a mentor.

[View post in ASL]

There appears to be a need and perhaps even an outcry for mentoring in the field of sign language interpreting. There is a dearth of qualified and trained mentors available across the board due in part to lack of availability, lack of training, and lack of feeling qualified to mentor. Mentoring, if done properly, truly has a lot to offer both the mentor and mentee. RID’s Mentoring Standard Practice Paper (2007), stated that mentoring is a learning and growing experience for everyone involved in the process and the experiences that are gained through mentorship foster a higher level of professionalism for each individual practitioner. For many in the field, mentoring is considered an essential component of interpreter education but in many instances, mentoring is a component missing from interpreter education (Winston & Lee, 2013).

Bridging the Gap

Cokely (2005) and Ball (2013) mentioned a gap emerged once sign language interpreters started being trained in colleges in lieu of being chosen for language proficiency and groomed by the Deaf community. Some solutions to decreasing this gap in the education of interpreters that have been suggested in the past include implementing mentoring opportunities for students (Delk, 2013; RID, 2007).

I know what it is like to walk alone into the unknown from college training programs to real-world interpreting. I did not have much access to mentors during my interpreter training program or the first several years working as an entry-level interpreter. There were not enough mentors available to meet the demand at the time. I have personally experienced the lack of support and guidance that many entry-level interpreters encounter. I have witnessed first-hand many new graduates struggling with entry into the field, and this has deepened my belief that mentoring is the key to successfully transitioning recent graduates from college to work-readiness. I say this because I became a mentor in my local community and saw the benefits that occurred when I worked one-on-one with new graduates. We each learned from the experience by collaborating and working together. Collaboration can increase rapport, trust, and unity among interpreters.

StreetLeverage - Sign Language Interpreter Education MonthFor my master’s thesis, I asked over 400 interpreters and interpreting students in the United States and Canada one specific question referring to their feelings of how important it is to have mentors available for entry-level interpreters. The collected data from that question shows there is a strong belief in the importance of mentorship in the interpreting field by those currently working, preparing to work or previously having worked in the field. I also asked if mentoring were made readily available who would take advantage of the mentoring opportunity? A total of 82% of the participants replied they would take advantage of mentorship if available. I believe mentorship could help to bridge the gap that exists between educational preparation programs and work-readiness in the profession of interpreting. It could also lead interpreters to expand their knowledge base, provide professional development opportunities and guide them to becoming more highly-skilled interpreters regardless of their time in the field.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Connect with the Community

Leslie Janda Decker wrote an article for StreetLeverage entitled Sign Language Education: Returning to Deaf Heart. She mentions having D/deaf individuals as mentors and tutors for ASL students and interpreters. Having the D/deaf community and the professional interpreting community come together for the advancement of the field and the services to the communities is paramount. Having mentoring available either in person, via email and/or via live video chats could greatly improve the field of interpreting and the confidence of interpreters.  

Create Awareness and Positive Change

Mentoring can bring about positive changes to the profession. Implementing small group mentoring situations can prevent future students from feeling fearful of entering the profession and feeling alone. Upon graduation, a new interpreter could be assigned a deaf and/or hearing mentor to guide him down the path from student to professional. Mentors are also useful to veteran interpreters wanting to improve a specific skill area or branch out into a different setting they have not experienced previously (e.g. legal). Mentoring can benefit each and every interpreter in a myriad of ways:

  • building trust and rapport in the community
  • learning new signs/expanding vocabulary
  • building self-confidence
  • discussing ethical scenarios
  • exploring new settings (e.g., mental health, legal, freelancing)
  • keeping abreast of new technology
  • staying current with social media sites and apps related to the profession
  • learning proper business practices
  • expanding business opportunities/networking

We all need to work together to fill the void that is missing in our field and mentoring can help.

Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Mentorship

Kim Boeh
Kim Boeh

If so many people are interested in working with a mentor, then why are so few people working with mentors? Is it lack of availability? Cost? Fear? Traumatic experiences with previous mentors? Perhaps there are no skilled or willing mentors locally? How can we overcome the issues of not having enough qualified and willing mentors and interested mentees? One thought is that we all have something to offer. The student may learn a new technique or approach that was not around 20 years ago, and they can share this with others in the field. The veteran interpreter has “been there-done that” and can share experiences to shed some light on different scenarios to the novice interpreters entering the field. No matter where you are in your journey, you have something to offer to others and something to gain from others. More of us can set up study programs, workshops, and discussion groups to build camaraderie and share knowledge.

Key Tips to Mentoring

  • Determine what you want to gain from the mentorship (Skills development? If so, pick two elements of your work you want to focus on such as fingerspelling errors and use of space.)
  • Seek out an experienced, professional who is respected in the community and see if they have time to watch your work live or via a video and give feedback on just the two elements that you are working on (e.g., fingerspelling errors and use of space)
  • Feedback should be given and received without the use of evaluative language (e.g., good, bad, should have, you did/didn’t). Instead say, “What I observed was clear, effective fingerspelling. The use of space was ineffective in this sample due to items being set up in one space but referred to in another space, leaving the message unclear.
  • Focus on the WORK, not the interpreter. The goal of mentorship is to assist in accomplishing goals, and it is never the goal for one interpreter to criticize another. When working in teams and in mentoring roles (as mentees and mentors) we should always focus on the WORK, not the interpreter.
  • Give back! If someone offers to mentor you, find a professional way to give back to them and or the community. Reciprocity makes the world go round.

In Conclusion

We all have something to offer, so let’s find out what that is for each of us individually and share with our colleagues regardless of how long they or we have been working in the field. Whether you choose to start mentoring or become a mentee yourself, there is so much more out there if we are all just willing to take that next step to meet, engage, learn, and inspire. What are you waiting for?

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Questions to Consider:

  1. If academics believe mentoring is one solution to help minimize the work-readiness gap in the field, what can we do now to make mentoring available nationwide?
  2. What do you think the requirements should be for someone who wants to be a mentor?
  3. How can each veteran interpreter find a way to assist the novice interpreters entering the field?
  4. How can each novice interpreter find a way to assist the veteran interpreters in the field?

For a more in-depth look at the research by Kimberly Boeh please visit http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/26/.

References:

Ball, C. (2013). Legacies and legends: History of interpreter education from 1800 to the 21st century. Edmonton, Alberta Canada: Interpreting Consolidated.

Boeh, K.A. (2016). Mentoring: Fostering the profession while mitigating the gap. Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies (MAIS) Theses. Paper 26.

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, P. Sapere, C. M. Convertino, R. Seewagen & C. Monikowski (Eds.), Sign language interpreting and interpreter education: Directions for research and practice (pp. 3-28). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Decker, L.J. (2015). Sign language interpreter education: Returning to deaf heart. Street Leverage. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/01/sign-language-interpreter-education-returning-to-deaf-heart/

Delk, L. (2013, February 28). Interpreter mentoring: A theory-based approach to program design and evaluation (Rep.). Retrieved from National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers website: http://www.interpretereducation.org/ aspiring-interpreter/mentorship/mentoring-toolkit/articles/.

Ott, E. (2015). Horizontal violence: Can sign language interpreters break the cycle? Street Leverage. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/03/horizontal-violence-can-sign-language-interpreters-break-the-cycle/.

RID. (2007). Standard Practice Paper. Mentoring. Retrieved December 20, 2015 from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLdcGktcFhxaS1jSUE/view

Winston, B. & Lee, R. G. (2013). Introduction. In B. Winston & R. G. Lee (Eds.), Mentorship in sign language interpreting (pp. v-viii). Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

 

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What Makes Us Tick? Sign Language Interpreters, Values & Motivation

Knowledge of personal beliefs and value systems enhance a sign language interpreter’s professional practice. Audrey Ramirez-Loudenback posits articulating our “why” may positively impact job satisfaction and longevity in the field.

What Makes Us Tick? Sign Language Interpreters, Values & Motivation

I embarked on this research as a student in Western Oregon University’s MA in Interpreting Studies with a belief that our motivations will influence every part of our professional practice. Literature confirms that values are the foundation for any decision making process, whether a person is consciously aware of this or not (Amentrano, 2014; Brown, 2002; Rokeach 1970, 1974). As sign language interpreters, our responsibility is to start identifying and articulating the values that are expressed through our choices.

[View post in ASL]

Values have been discussed by many in the field of sign language interpreting (Bienvenu, 1987; Cokely, 2000; Dean & Pollard, 2013), including here on Street Leverage (Meckler, 2014). My research attempted to take what we know about values and collect information via an online survey from a large sample of sign language interpreters and interpreting students about their own personally held value systems to see what kind of patterns and trends emerged.  

Values That Motivate

The survey included the Portrait Values Questions (PVQ), an instrument used to collect data that was designed by Dr. Schwartz, a researcher and teacher in the field of Psychology (Schwartz, 1994, 2012, Schwartz et al., 2001, Schwartz et al., 2012). The survey also included questions about demographics and one open-ended question. I received 298 completed responses from interpreters and interpreting students all over the United States. A large portion of the research results centered on the responses to the open-ended question; respondents were asked to briefly describe their reasons for becoming an interpreter.

My findings showed that most respondents described reasons for entering the field that were not congruent with the value system expressed in their PVQ results (Ramirez-Loudenback, 2015). One recurrent example of this incongruity was a response that described a pleasure derived from using American Sign Language. A common example of this was “I fell in love with the language”. Most respondents that had a response similar to this example had results from their PVQ that did not match the values expressed with this idea of loving a language.

Much work has been done in the area of occupational fit and values (Amentrano, 2014; Brown, 2002; Watt & Richardson, 2007). This literature shows that values are an important part of choosing an occupation. One question that emerged from my research was about the consequence of having reasons for choosing to become a sign language interpreter that are not in-line with an individual’s personal value system (prioritization of essential values). I believe that we should be encouraging all emerging interpreters to consider how their values are being expressed in the choice to pursue this profession. This will lead pre-professionals to consider if interpreting will provide a career in which they can have the longevity and satisfaction that comes with an occupation that is congruent with their value system.

StreetLeverage - Sign Language Interpreter Education Month

Values That Divide & Unite

My research also indicated a variation in value systems from respondents who did not identify as “White/Caucasian” compared to those that did identify as “White/Caucasian”. It is natural for individuals from distinct cultures to prioritize values differently. In fact, one of the reasons Schwartz developed this theory and model was to examine values across cultures (1994; Schwartz et al., 2001). The proportion of respondents (11%) who identified with an ethnic group other than “White/Caucasian” (89%) matches fairly closely with RID’s membership data, which was 87.7% (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, 2014, p. 58). Within the small number of respondents who did identify as “Asian/Asian-American” or “Latino/Hispanic,” a stark contrast in the prioritization of values with the overall group emerged. Those that identified as “Latino/Hispanic” or “Asian/Asian American” ranked conformity the highest of all ten value types. Conformity includes the values of “Politeness, obedience, self-discipline, honoring parents and elders” (Bardi & Schwartz, 2003, p. 1208). The mean for the overall sample, of 298 participants, ranked conformity 5th out of the ten value types. I believe this leads us to some important questions as a professional community of sign language interpreters and interpreter educators regarding recruitment and retention of interpreters from diverse cultures. What is the experience of being raised with and having a value system that often seems to contrast or even conflict with the majority of your peers/colleagues? How does the majority’s value system create barriers for others to be heard and understood?

Audrey Ramirez-Loudenback
Audrey Ramirez-Loudenback

Through my study of this topic and my own experience with Supervision Sessions as a Supervision Leader for Western Oregon University’s Professional Supervision of Interpreting Practice (PSIP) program, I have noticed that most ethical conflicts can be reframed through the lens of values (Cokely, 2000; Dean & Pollard, 2013; Glover, Bumpus, Logan, & Ciesla, 1997; Karacaer, Gohar, Aygun, & Sayin, 2009; Meckler, 2014). Most dilemmas can be rephrased by asking: How are the values I am prioritizing conflict with my team/consumer/setting in this moment? Using Schwartz’ Motivational Values Theory and Model we could teach interpreting students and emerging professionals to view professional ethics in a way that is less deontological (right vs. wrong) by framing them in terms of competing values. This could improve professional discourse and lead to deeper reflective practice. When we have the language to articulate those conflicting values, I believe we can engage in a more productive conversation about how to navigate a conflict, one that honors the integrity of all involved.

Start Early for Positive Outcomes

Beginning this self-assessment of personal value systems early in an interpreter’s career may lead to richer dialogue about the impact of those values on ethical decision making. Values not only have profound impact on the choice to become a sign language interpreter, but also the choices in which settings to work, which consumers we feel we ‘match’, and the ethical standards we practice every day.

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Questions to Consider:

  1. What motivated you to become an interpreter?
  2. What values do you see represented in your response to question 1?
  3. Which values do you hold dear that have the greatest impact on your work?
  4. Identify a time in your professional history when you thought a colleague was acting unethically. How can you reframe their choices and your own choices in terms of values that were being prioritized and conflicted?

References:

Amentrano, I. R. (2014). Teaching ethical decision making: Helping students reconcile personal and professional values. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92,154 161. doi: 10.1002/j 1556-6676.2014.00143.x

Bardi, A., & Schwartz, S. H. (2003). Values and behavior: Strength and structure of relations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(10), 1207-1220.  doi: 10.1177/0146167203254602

Brown, D. (2002). The role of work and cultural values in occupational choice, satisfaction, and success: A theoretical statement. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(1), 48-56. doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2002.tb00165.x

Bienvenu, M. J. (1987, April). The third culture: Working together (M. L. McIntire, Trans.). Address delivered to the Sign Language Interpreters of California. Retrieved from http://www.stringham.net/doug/uvuasl/3330/ 3330_bienvenu_thirdculture.pdf

Cokely, D. (2000). Exploring ethics: A case for revising the code of ethics. Journal of Interpretation 10(1), 25-57.

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q. (2013) The demand control schema: Interpreting as a practice profession. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.

Glover, S. H., Bumpus, M. A., Logan, J. E., & Ciesla, J. R. (1997). Re-examining the influence of individual values on ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(12/13), 1319-1329. doi: 10.1023/A:1005758402861

Karacaer, S., Gohar, R., Aygun, M., & Sayin, C. (2009). Effects of personal values on auditor’s ethical decisions: A comparison of Pakistani and Turkish professional auditors. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(53), 53-64. doi: 10.1007/s10551-0091012-4

Meckler, A. (2014, June 17). Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.streetleverage.com/2014/06/beyond-ethics-rules-versus-values-for-sign-language-interpreters/

Ramirez-Loudenback, A. (2015). Are we here for the same reason? Exploring the motivational values that shape the professional decision making of signed language interpreters. (unpublished Master’s thesis). Western Oregon University. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/25

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (2014). The Views. Winter, 2014. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLda0pDVkZqZDRqYUk/view?usp=sharing.

Rokeach, M. (1970). Beliefs, attitudes and values: A theory of organizational change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rokeach, M. (1979). Understanding human values individual and societal. New York, NY: The Free Press.  85

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19-45.

Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An overview of Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Reading in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). doi:  10.9707/2307-0919.1116

Schwartz, S. H., Melech, G., Lehmann, A., Burgess, S., Harris, M., & Owens, V. (2001). Extending the cross-cultural validity of the theory of basic human values with a different method of measurement. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32(5), 519-542.

Schwartz, S. H., Cieciuch, J., Vecchione, M., Davidov, E., Fisher, R., Beierlein, C., Konty, M. (2012). Refining the theory of basic individual values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(4), 663-588.  doi: 10.1037/a0029393

Watt, H. M., & Richardson, P. W. (2007). Motivational factors influencing teaching as a career choice: Development and validation of the FIT-Choice Scale. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 167-202. doi: 10.3200/JEXE.75.3.167-20

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IEP: Faculty Composition Impacts Sign Language Interpreter Readiness

By investing in a faculty rich in diversity, skills and experience, Joseph Featherstone believes Interpreter Education Programs can enhance sign language interpreting students’ readiness while upholding high standards of practice.

IEP: Faculty Composition Impacts Sign Language Interpreter Readiness

There’s been a lot of focus on interpreter readiness, especially for recent graduates of Interpreter Education Programs (IEP). As a Deaf person who often uses sign language interpreting services, as an educator teaching university-level ASL courses, and as a CDI, I want to share some observations and insights that will increase the likelihood that an IEP will turn out graduates who are ready to function as effective interpreters.

[View post in ASL]

Identifying Gatekeepers

I remember once getting a call from a friend who teaches ASL. She had a question about a former student of mine.

“Should I accept her into the program? Or is she going to waste a spot for a potential interpreter?”

It hadn’t occurred to me how my ASL classes impact the Deaf community by feeding ITPs and educating prospective interpreters.

At that moment, I realized, as an ASL instructor, I was a gatekeeper.     

Historically, Deaf community members acted as exclusive gatekeepers and chose who would become interpreters (Ball, 2013., Cokely, 2005., & Fant, 1990). In the 1960s and ‘70s, sign language interpreters were most often those who were already connected to the Deaf Community – children of Deaf parents, close friends, siblings, and pastors of congregations (Cokely, 2005). With time, though, government support for sign language interpreting grew, new trends emerged, and the mode of gatekeeping shifted.

Nowadays, the most common way to become an interpreter is via classroom education through schools and interpreter training programs (Ball, 2013). Due to this change, the role of gatekeeper has now expanded to include a variety of instructors from these schools and programs.

In his article, It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter, Brian Morrison says, “Rather than viewing interpreter education programs negatively or putting the sole onus on them for having not taught students all they need to know, we can shift our focus to building on their existing foundation.”

I couldn’t agree more.

After the phone call from my friend, my epiphany snowballed. I realized that as an instructor and a gatekeeper, I had the unique opportunity to prepare my students to connect into the Deaf community. I wasn’t on just one side anymore; I had a responsibility to set high standards and teach my students to these standards.

And I’m not the only one. Every instructor along a student’s journey, from those teaching introductory ASL to those teaching the most advanced IEP courses, have a dual role—teaching and gatekeeping. Everyone.

As Morrison says, it takes a village.

For that reason, I encourage IEP directors to evaluate their faculty’s backgrounds and experiences. It does take a village to raise a sign language interpreter, and it takes a village to keep the standards of sign language interpreting high.

StreetLeverage - Sign Language Interpreter Education Month

The Village

The village, like the gatekeeper, is a metaphor. Village members represent members of the Deaf community in all their variety. In earlier times, the village helped mentor and nurture a budding interpreter to grow in language and cultural fluency.

Today, sign language interpreters are graduating and passing certifications without being immersed in that surrounding village, leaving a gap between them and the Deaf community.

As an interpreter, instructor, and Deaf individual, I’ve seen how this gap affects all of us involved in the IEP student’s journey and how it affects our roles as gatekeepers.

In addition to more and more encouragement (or a requirement) to go out and spend precious time participating in the Deaf community, I propose that IEP directors and boards bring a little bit of the village to the interpreter—for preparation and evaluation.

This sampling of the village cannot replace the knowledge, skills, and experience interpreting students gain by spending time in the Deaf community. But, a faculty that reflects the diversity of the village can help students more quickly build their knowledge, skills, and cultural fluency. And time is short to prepare interpreters to reach graduation.

Who, then, do we bring in from the village?

I’d like to introduce you to four of what I call the village elders: the Native English-Speaker, the Native ASL Signer, the Bilingual Native, and the CDI.

The Village Elders

The Native English-Speaker:

Instructors who are English natives, for whom ASL is an acquired language, aren’t difficult to find. These are hearing instructors. Because they are common, their role in the village can become ambiguous without the context of the other faculty.

As a Native English-Speaker, this elder has the distinct trait of native fluency in English. They share this English first language acquisition with most of their interpreting students. The depth of their understanding of the nuances of English can only help as they interpret in situations rich with jargon or cultural queues (e.g., a hospital visit).

In large part, Native English-Speakers can identify with their interpreter students’ journey because it is one they had to make themselves: they once had to pass by gatekeepers and gain entrance to the Deaf community and the village.

The Native ASL Signer:

Joseph Featherstone
Joseph Featherstone

Typically a deaf teacher with native ASL fluency, having a Native ASL Signer teaching ASL or ITP classes cannot be undervalued. It’s always preferable in terms of language acquisition to have a native speaker teaching the mother tongue rather than someone who learned it later. Often, the ASL native not only has a primary language learner’s understanding of ASL but also can share their experience and knowledge as a member of the Deaf community.

In the classroom, they represent the Deaf perspective on sign language interpreting. Through their instruction, IEP students can gain a better appreciation for the Deaf community and can develop a basic cultural fluency to build on outside of class.

Many IEPs do not employ Native ASL Signers for classes other than ASL. There are classes that could benefit from a Deaf native’s perspective, like ethics and translation. Wouldn’t it be amazing if each of these village elders could teach an ethics course each semester and offer their different perspectives?

The Bilingual Native:

Bilingual Natives have native fluency in both ASL and English, such as Children of Deaf Adults (CODA). Because they most likely grew up with ASL as their first language, the Bilingual Native more intimately understands the Deaf way. That’s not to say that that they are more invested in the Deaf community than those who learned ASL in school, but that their relationship with the Deaf community is more direct, and as such, they are greatly impacted by the state of the Deaf community.

Bilingual Natives also have a strong understanding of English and can teach on the intersection between the Deaf and Hearing communities, especially as it relates to interpreting.

The CDI:

This may be the most under-utilized Village Elder. A CDI can be instrumental in the holistic development of an interpreting student. Their experience as a Deaf community member and a certified interpreter helps them bridge the perspective gap between ITP students and the Deaf community. They understand the feelings of being a client, and they understand the pressures of being a sign language interpreter.

Sometimes interpreting students view Deaf teachers as skilled in the language but less able to identify with the mechanics of interpreting. CDIs like myself are able to relate on both levels. We are Deaf. We are also not just interpreters, but interpreters who are more often called in for extreme, high-stress, high-stakes interpreting situations. We typically have more experience in the trenches where interpreting mistakes can be disastrous.

The unique CDI role provides us with a distinct perspective and understanding of the interpreting process, the Code of Professional Conduct established by RID, as well as the feelings of interpreters and the recipients of interpreting services—not to mention, CDIs know firsthand the best practices for team interpreting with other CDIs and hearing interpreters.

CDIs have a lot to offer IEP students. It’s been my experience that recent graduates from programs with a CDI on faculty exhibit a more refined situational awareness.

In The End

To rephrase Morrison: “Imagine the outcomes when the new student and the [Village Elders] learn and grow from sharing their knowledge with each other.”  Skill development is quickest when in the community. For our students, that means taking every opportunity to encourage their interaction with allies, advocates, and members of the Deaf community and providing them with a faculty that reflects the strength and diversity of our community.

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Questions For Consideration

  1. What skills or perspectives do you and your faculty have that contribute to the sense of the village in your program? What additional skills or perspectives could benefit your program?  
  2. How do you think IEPs can better build a sense of the village and gatekeeping?
  3. Why do you think it takes a village to raise a sign language interpreter?

References

  1. Ball, C. (2013). Legacies and legends: History of interpreter education from 1800 to the 21st century. Edmonton, AB: Interpreting Consolidated.
  2. Cokely, D. (2005). Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in the relationship of interpreters and the deaf community. In M. Marshcark, R. Peterson & E.
  3. 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.
  4. Morrison, B. (2013). It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from https://www.streetleverage.com/2013/09/it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-sign-language-interpreter/