|Deaf Professionals and Designated Interpreters|
From The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter, cont’d.
Kushalnagar and Rashid (chapter three) take an in-depth look at the ways in which attitudes and behaviours shape the Deaf professional/designated interpreter relationship. Kushalnagar and Rashid refer to the tension or discomfort, or cognitive dissonance, that interpreters may experience in the new dynamic where Deaf individuals have progressed from clients, with very little power and authority, to Deaf employees or professionals, with status and weight in their role.
In chapter four, Clark and Finch highlight the social aspects of workplace interpreting, noting that the “effective navigation of the work-related social event is critical to the deaf professional’s success” (p. 58). They emphasize the fact that the Deaf professional’s voice can often be the most challenging to preserve and present, and in doing so draw attention to the value of the Deaf professional’s voice being received with “gravity equal to that of other voices within our society” (p. 59). Clark and Finch view the preservation of the Deaf professional’s voice as a paramount duty of the interpreter, although they acknowledge that accurately representing a Deaf professional is a considerable challenge to the interpreter, even when well versed in the culture and context of the Deaf employee’s workplace.
Gender is a central issue in chapter five, with Morgan reflecting on her own experience as a designated interpreter for a male Deaf employee. Using studies on gender discourse, workplace communication and sociolinguistics, she examines the ways in which language and gender can affect the provision of ASL to English interpretation in the workplace setting. Making the point that the “world of sign language interpreters is overwhelmingly female” (p. 78), Morgan emphasizes the importance of interpreters having an awareness of the ways in which their gender can impact on conversational styles. Her reflections on her working practices furthermore stress the need for interpreters to have an in-depth knowledge of the complexity of workplace interaction, as well as the ability to reflect meaningfully on their performance.
Chapter six is an exploration by Campbell, Rohan and Woodcock of the dilemmas and challenges facing interpreters working alongside Deaf academics. They highlight the fact that interpreters in the academic setting will often have very little experience or understanding of the complexity or status of the Deaf academic’s role. High level and specialized knowledge is therefore seen as essential, particularly in terms of the implicit social norms underlying academia. In addition, Campbell et al. address the issue of interpreting workplace meetings (see also Beaton and Hauser, Gold Brunson et al. and Goswell et al., this volume), something which frequently presents a considerable challenge to interpreters in the academic domain (Trowler and Turner 2002). Highlighting a range of problems that the interpreter has to manage in the interpreted event, Campbell et al. suggest a variety of strategies that the interpreter can employ, in agreement with the Deaf professional. Some of these place a considerable responsibility on the interpreter, who, faced with fast paced interaction amongst hearing participants, poor chairing and dominant hearing norms such as overlapping talk and unregulated turn-taking, already has numerous challenges to surmount in this often highly interactive communicative event. However, merely putting these strategies forward opens up the issue for further discussion and negotiation between participants as well as encouraging more research into this area.
In chapter seven, Wolf Kurlander turns the focus to the fine line that the interpreter has to negotiate when working with Deaf professionals. Based on a survey of the experiences of a number of d/Deaf attorneys and interpreters, the chapter raises several important points, including the confusion that can arise over the interpreter’s role when they are employed by a company or institution, the lack of resources in terms of guidance and ethical expectations for interpreters working with Deaf professionals, and the fact that the interpreter is “often seen as a direct reflection of the deaf individual” (p. 107).
Peter C. Hauser is an assistant professor in the Department of Research and Teacher Education at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Karen L. Finch is a lecturer in the American Sign Language and Interpreting Education Program at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.
Angela B. Hauser is a staff interpreter in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester.
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