Top 10 hints for Successfully using an interpreter

Before the assignment:

  1. Requesting an Interpreter– Be sure to accurately inform the agency with regards to the nature and duration of the interpreting assignment. ASLID is committed to assigning the most qualified interpreter for your particular needs. Any assignment 2 hours in length or more will require a team of two interpreters.
  2. Pre-session meeting with the interpreter– It is helpful for the interpreter(s) and client(s) to meet for a few moments before the assignment to better clarify the intent and goal of the meeting. Additionally, seating and lighting arrangements can be made to assure successful communication. This is a great time to provide the interpreter with any written material that may be available. The interpreter never assumes that you have experienced the dynamics of using an interpreter; and therefore will want to answer any questions you may have.
    Cultural greeting between the interpreter and the Deaf client – It is culturally appropriate for the interpreter and the Deaf client to take a few moments to exchange common information before either of them feels comfortable proceeding with the assignment. Exchanging of name signs, language use, signing preferences, possible conflict of interests usually sum up this short introduction. Most times, the interpreter will voice and sign simultaneously, so that the hearing client is aware of what is happening

During the assignment:

  1. Seating arrangement and placement of the interpreter– The interpreter will place themselves within the “line of sight” of the Deaf consumer. The interpreter will stand or sit close to the hearing person so that the deaf person can see both the hands of the interpreter and the facial expressions/ body language of the hearing counterpart. Ergonomically speaking, the interpreter will suggest the best possible sitting arrangement based on “line of sight.” Visual disturbance to the deaf consumer and interfering noises with may prevent the interpreter from hearing. If a team of two or more interpreters will be working, they will interact and transition in a way that causes the least possible interuption to the communicating environment.
  2. Speaking to the Deaf consumer– Please use your natural discourse style. The interpreter depends on you to speak as natural as possible so they can capture your tone, affect, personality and intent, thus; producing a higher level of accuracy and message equivalence. The interpreter will let you know if you need to slow down or if they would like for you to repeat something. Do try to speak loud enough to be sure the interpreter can hear you clearly.
  3. Avoid using statements like– “tell him/her”, “what did she/he say”, “what is her/his name”, “don’t sign this….” Use first person and talk directly to the Deaf consumer. AVOID PRIVATE CONVERSATIONS, everything you say in the presence of the Deaf consumer will be interpreted.
  4. Make and keep eye contact with the Deaf individual(s) – Please do not look at the interpreter as if you are communication with them. Maintain eye contact with the Deaf consumer while you are talking to them and especially while they are signing back to you. This is culturally important to remember.
  5. Understand the role of the interpreter – Please do not ask for the interpreter’s opinion concerning any of the conversation’s content. Interpreters follow a code of ethics that requires confidentiality and impartiality. The interpreter can only offer suggestions with regard to the communication process. There will be some instances when an interpreter will need to incorporate cultural mediation. It should be recognized that they are in no way offering their personal opinion. Never be concerned regarding the subject matter or conversation topic, as interpreters from ASLID adhere to high ethical standards of confidentiality.
  6. Understanding the dynamics of the interpreting process– Do not be alarmed if the interpreter “seems” to be signing more or less than what you said. Equally, there is no need to be alarmed if the interpreter “seems” to be voicing more or less than what you think your Deaf counterpart communicated. American Sign Language is a conceptual language, thus we do not interpret word for word. Many concepts do not translate and thus require expansion and/or cultural mediation. It is the goal of the interpreter to communicate the intent and spirit of the speaker’s message. Additionally, the interpreter may need to sign or voice a concept in more than one way to assure accuracy and message equivalency. No need to be alarmed, the interpreter is bound by a code of ethics which prohibits adding or taking away from the speakers intended message.
  7. Turn taking while speaking– Please, one person talk at a time. Be aware of nuances and attempts from your Deaf counterpart to interrupt or jump into the conversation. It is important to know that because the interpreter often uses “lag time” (one to five seconds) interruptions can be difficult. Additionally, when in a group setting, the leader must ask participants to HOLD side conversations, since the interpreter can only interpret for one person at a time.

After the assignment:

  1. Schedule follow-up appointments– Please contact ASLID directly for additional interpreting services. Our individual interpreters are not authorized to confirm or secure additional appointments. ASLID employs a full time staff to schedule our state wide services. You are free to request a particular interpret from ASLID. Additionally, if you have any praise or concerns regarding an assignment or an interpreter, please feel free to contact our business office immediately.