|Deaf Professionals and Designated Interpreters|
From The Sign Language Translator and Interpreter, cont’d.
In chapter eleven, Gold Brunson, Molner and Nathan Lerner highlight the fact that hearing discourse styles tend to be the norm when the Deaf participant is in the minority in the workplace environment. Whilst the necessary accommodations may be made in terms of the provision of an interpreter, this does not in itself ensure that the Deaf individual has “full and unfettered access” to interaction with their work colleagues (p. 189). Discussing staff meetings, they introduce the crucial concept that “many interpreting difficulties can’t be solved” (p. 190) and rightly point out that this reality can be very hard to accept.
Chapter twelve examines the complex interplay between a Deaf filmmaker (Sofya Gollan) and two Australian Sign Language interpreters (Andy Carmichael and Della Goswell). The degree to which the interpreters became involved in the film production process meant that “from the start, the interpreters were seen as individual team members who were pushing the boundaries of ethical impartiality and invisibility” (p. 200). Again, the importance of the interpreter’s contribution to the Deaf professional’s image is stressed, with the interpreters in this setting attempting to blend in as far as possible and to direct the focus towards the Deaf individual, rather than to the interpreter’s presence.
Finally, in chapter thirteen, Beaton and Hauser acknowledge the pressures that are placed on both the Deaf professional and the designated interpreter, created by a range of factors, such as workplace norms, the need for the Deaf professional to be made aware of less formal interaction such as “hallway banter” (p.211) and the collegial aspect of workplace relationships. Beaton and Hauser make the important point that whilst designated or workplace interpreters frequently have intimate access to the minutiae of Deaf people’s lives, as well as being witness to their “personal pain and stress” (p. 218), the reverse is rarely true, creating an imbalance. Interpreters may therefore need to consider this in order to redress the imbalance and to engender a relationship of trust; some degree of openness— a willingness to share (Kale and Larson 1998) — may be both desirable and necessary.
As stated at the beginning of this review, this volume is a valuable resource for all interpreters engaged in working with Deaf professionals. Although the majority of accounts are somewhat anecdotal, it is nevertheless a good beginning for the consideration of some of the major questions regarding the interpreter’s role in this area. This volume will hopefully inspire more empirical and data-driven research into this domain, the results of which must be disseminated to both Deaf and hearing colleagues, as well as be embedded in interpreter training programmes. Kushalnagar and Rashid refer to the need for a shift in ingrained attitudes and behaviours on the part of both, Deaf individuals and interpreters. I would take this further and state that all participants must reconsider their stance and positioning in light of Deaf peoples’ move into the world of professional employment. Further research and reflection can only contribute to this gradual shift in attitudes, enabling all participants to face the “new reality” (Kushalnagar and Rashid. p. 56). Balance seems to be the key word for interpreters in the workplace domain. Their work requires them to strike a fine equilibrium between visibility and invisibility, being too involved and not involved enough (Pouliot and Stern 2008), and being too neutral or insufficiently neutral (Hauser and Hauser 2008). Combined with open and honest discussions between interpreters and Deaf professionals, this approach should see Deaf people finally begin to move away from a powerless position within the interpreted interaction event Hopefully this will also lead to interpreters being viewed as colleagues to work with, rather than mere language conduits to be utilized for effective communication (Napier et al., p. 37).
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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