I went to lunch with my best friend last week, who happens to be Deaf. She started telling me about a recent experience she had at a conference she had attended through work. Being the only Deaf person in attendance, she was seated in typical fashion in the front row toward the side, her team of interpreters ready to go when she arrived. She went on to tell me that, within ten minutes of the conference presenter’s speech, the interpreter who was “off” and was sitting to the side of my friend, got up and headed over to the food and refreshment table and helped herself to a bagel and coffee. After coming back to her seat, this interpreter proceeded to eat in front of her fellow “team” interpreter and my friend. She then checked her Facebook and Twitter pages before finally switching with her team to begin interpreting. My friend explained that, not only did she find this behavior unprofessional; it was also extremely DISTRACTING to her as a Deaf individual trying to focus on the interpreter relaying the message in front of her. When I asked my friend if she said something to the interpreter after the conference, she replied that she had not. She did not want to “complain” or “make waves.” I pointed out that these interpreters are there to provide equal access to her, and she should not have felt embarrassed or uncomfortable voicing her opinion on the inappropriate behavior of a very – in my opinion – unprofessional individual.
This got me to thinking. A LOT.
How many other members of the Deaf community are out there remaining silent, not wanting to “complain”, “make waves,” or hurt the feelings of an interpreter who is supposed to be providing the best quality accessibility to communication as possible? I had a hunch it happens a lot more than anyone wants to admit.
I started reaching out to other members of the Deaf community to get some feedback, asking for any tidbits of advice for interpreters, pet peeves, ANYTHING – from a Deaf perspective, that they wanted to share – that perhaps they have only shared with friends or family, that they feel all interpreters SHOULD KNOW….
As I suspected, the responses I received were eye-opening, to say the least! I want to share with you some of the responses I received. To be clear, none of these comments were said in a negative way, but all were very matter-of-fact. I felt that there was a sense of relief in the fact they were given an opportunity to share something that is normally considered a sort of “taboo”.
Among many responses I received, these are the responses that were most common and seem to occur most regularly:
“….when an interpreter sits in an unprofessional manner, such as legs crossed under them or spread-Eagle in front of me.”
“….when an interpreter yawns constantly while they are interpreting.”
“….when an interpreter, working as a team, eats next to me and is distracting due to the chewing and eating…”
“…when an interpreter who is working as a team sits next to me and checks their social media and doesn’t pay attention to their team or the subject matter being presented”
“…when an interpreter constantly plays with their hair, rubs their nose, or other distracting habits”
“…when the interpreter has no facial expression, constant expressionless face, unless this is portraying the voice of the speaker (i.e., the speaker has a monotone voice)…facial expression is PART OF ASL!”
“…when the interpreter chats with the person who hired them and doesn’t include me in the conversation or tell me what they are talking about…”
“…poor hygiene and dirty teeth!”
“…when an interpreter tries to give me advice…”
“….when an interpreter does not have the skills needed to relay the content”
“…when I raise my hand to ask a question and the interpreter asks me to wait! It is not their choice!”
As I collected these comments, I also made sure to gather a lot of information from members of the Deaf Community as to what constitutes a GREAT interpreter (that’s another blog post!). I think that as we read over these comments, though, it will encourage us to become more MINDFUL and AWARE of our actions, behavior, and attitudes while working. What can YOU do to make yourself a better interpreter today? Start a conversation with members of the Deaf Community and other interpreters – dialogue can only improve us!
Alliance Business Solutions is committed to leveling the playing field by providing equal access to communication for the Deaf Community in all aspects of their lives. We value your feedback. Please feel free to contact us with any feedback on our ASL interpreters and/or our services in general.