Saturday, July 08, 2006

321: one thing that drives me nuts about interpreters

Sometimes you will be sitting in class or in a meeting and you will have a question. You'll be watching the interpreter: you know she will be "behind" the conversation/lecture, so you're being as active and on top of things as possible. Hell, sometimes you have questions from readings and see the mention of something in relation to your question and decide to attempt a clever segue. You'll interrupt the class vocally or through the interpreter-either way, the interpreter takes the time at some point to say this, or similar:
They're done talking about that, now they've moved on to a new topic, sorry, interpreter behind!

To the interpreter: I know you're behind. I'm used to this situation. I'm deaf. I'm in the middle of class/the coordinator of this meeting/etc. It's not a big terrible secret-they don't have some conspiracy-theory explanation about this woman doing intepretive dance with her hands in front of the room. Why mention it to me?

My suggestion? Tell the classroom instead. Do it slow and sign at the same time. Something like -
Excuse me, could I just explain something? I keep up with the conversation, but it always has a couple seconds' lag between communications from one language to another language.
Then just sit down. Don't say the former: you quash my commitment to participation.

(I think they're trying to help, I just don't think that's a successful way.)


Devon said...

heya, you IMed me a couple minutes ago. sorry I was entertaining a friend. hope you're doing alright. talk to ya soon :)


C. A. Fanara said...

I am with you totally there, on the issue of interpreters. I'm in grad school, so one trick I use is to raise my hand - and then say, "I may be behind in class discussions, but I want to make a point....." - usually it works. Sometimes students want to know more!

I do feel for you, though.

You gotta see Daniele Le Rose's film, "Beyond This World" - it's subtitled. I happened to talk to Daniele about the interpreters in the film, and I fell off the chair laughing when he said, "They're really all Deaf actors!" - oh wow, they sure fooled me - mimicked interpreters in every which way. Deaf Italians have the same problems we have, my dear - it's probably worldwide!

I'm going to raise your point at CSUN though, because it is a good one....

Joseph Rainmound said...

As long as you don't apologize for it...

The thing is, though, we need to try to push for the perspective of what terps are to change, especially in educational settings. They are not "for" Deaf people, but "for" everyone in the classroom. This means they need to identify themselves and what they do to all members of class. It's up to the Deaf person to explain their own boundaries.