Chapter One of Sign Language Interpreting continued....
banner While simultaneous interpreting is relatively new with regard to spoken language interpretation, it is more or less traditional in signed language interpretation. Although some of the historical developments within the sibling fields of spoken and signed language interpretation are distinct, many aspects of the tasks are quite similar. Because this study will address ASL-English interpretation, it is worth noting the similarities and differences between signed and spoken language interpretation.

In large part, the similarities relate to the issue that is common to interpreting and translation; that is, both require an understanding of the sense of the source text. In addition, both signed language and spoken language interpreters must deal with time factors not faced by translators in the written mode. The simultaneous and consecutive approaches to interpretation are used in both spoken and signed language interpretation. Moreover, concerns regarding the rendering of equivalent messages without intervening in the interaction are common to both forms of interpreting (Roberts 1987). Because of the fact that these issues are similar, many of them have already been addressed.

Several differences exist between the two modes of interpreting as well. One difference is the result of the fact that some of the consumers of signed language interpretation might actually be bilingual individuals who simply do not have access to both languages in face- to-face interaction. In spoken language interpretation, if one or more interlocutors are bilingual (in the languages of the encounter) they are able to access both the original utterance and the interpreted rendition. For Deaf interlocutors who are bilingual in ASL and English, this type of access is not necessarily possible. This difference between signed language and spoken language interpreting underscores the fact that signed language interpreters often work between different modes. That is, where most spoken language interpreting involves the rendering of messages between two spoken languages, most signed language interpreting actually involves one signed and one spoken language. Thus, the circumstances faced by signed language interpreters are not only interlingual, but intermodal as well (Wilss 1982). This modality difference has potentially influenced expectations of signed language interpreters. Since one mode is visual and the other auditory, it can appear as if there is no interference between the two. However, both the source and the target are distinct languages that require the interpreter's attention. Nevertheless, since one of the languages requires that the interpreter watch the incoming message, signed language interpreters are not in a position to take notes when following the consecutive method.

Aside from issues of modality, there are two additional areas in which signed and spoken language interpretation differ. According to Roberts (1987), spoken language interpreters have historically been treated with some prestige. Conversely, signed language interpreters have had to deal with outdated assumptions that signed languages are primitive nonlinguistic systems. Further, according to Roberts, spoken language interpreters have often worked in conferences and other high-profile settings, while signed language interpreters worked for many years in small group settings.

It has become clear that while both translation and interpretation share many features, the differences between the two are significant with regard to the actual tasks. Similarly, while spoken and signed language interpretation share many features, significant differences between them exist as well. These differences will be relevant throughout the analysis of ASL-English interpreters. Nevertheless, one similarity, the issue of neutrality, is particularly relevant to the task of interpretation. In light of this, it is important to elaborate on a condition that all interpreters inherently confront and that invariably affects the progression of the intended dyadic structure of interpreted encounters: interpreter neutrality is a paradox.

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