Sign Language Interpreting: Engaging the Disengaged, Empowering the Disempowered

This is an absolutely fascinating (interpreted) article by Tom Holcomb on StreetLeverage recently, interpreted from his ASL at StreetLeverage – Live 2017.

He clearly identifies the ways in which interpreters' paradigms of message equivalence and interpreting accuracy disempower the deaf person (when ASL is the minority language in the room. I am interested in how these effects change when the language ratio is equal or inverted) -

Often the blame goes to hearing people who have no clue how to properly support deaf people’s participation. In casting the blame on the non-signing hearing participants, we have avoided taking a hard look at the current standard practice of interpreting to see if the deaf people are actually unintentionally disempowered by the interpreters on hand.

He continues...

The current twenty-minute switching standard was based on research regarding interpreters’ mental fatigue. The findings have shown that fatigue causes increased interpreting errors and physical challenges that resulted in hand injury. Yet, there is no research on the impact of these switches on deaf people’s ability to comprehend the interpreted message or their ability to participate effectively in the interpreted session...

The optimal system, for me, is to have both interpreters working simultaneously with the work rotated every time a new speaker has a turn rather than rotating based on the time intervals of 20 minutes. By seeing a different interpreter for every speaker, I find myself much more engaged in the meeting. I also find it easier to participate when the second interpreter is available to interject my message immediately if the first interpreter is busy with the Spoken English to ASL interpretation for the current speaker.

Read the whole article here on Street Leverage. It is excellent.

Jim Cromwell