As with all professional interpreters, sign language interpreters strive to achieve the proper protocol of complete objectivity and accuracy in their translation without influencing the interaction in any way. Yet, Melanie Metzger's significant work Sign Language Interpreting: Deconstructing the Myth of Neutrality demonstrates clearly that the ideal of an interpreter as a neutral language conduit does not exist. Metzger offers evidence of this disparity by analyzing two videotaped ASL-English interpreted medical interviews, one an interpreter-trainee mock interview session, and the other an actual encounter between a deaf client and a medical professional.
Sign Language Interpreting relies upon an interactional sociolinguistic approach to ask fundamental questions regarding interpreter neutrality. First, do interpreters influence discourse, and if so, how? Also, what kind of expectations do the participants bring to the event, and what do the interpreters bring to discussions? Finally, how do their remarks affect their alignment with participants in the interaction? Using careful assessments of how these interviews were framed, and also re-interviewing the participants for their perspectives, this penetrating book discloses the ways in which interpreters influence these situations. It also addresses the potential implications of these findings regarding sign language interpretation in medical, educational, and all other general interactions. Interpreter trainers and their students will join certified interpreters and Deaf studies scholars in applauding and benefiting from the fresh ground broken by this provocative study.
Melanie Metzger is a professor and chair of the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University.