Interpreter Q & A: Using Your Phone During a Break

Interpreter Q & A: Using Your Phone During a Break

By Brenda Cartwright
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

This article is written by Brenda Cartwright (BC). Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher and a well known author. BC also contributes numerous blog articles for Signing Savvy. Look for them on the “Articles” tab on our website.

This article is part of our "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives. There isn’t always one “right” answer to every question, and different people have different opinions on how to handle different scenarios. That is why more than one perspective is provided in this series, however, more opinions always exist. These perspectives are gathered from talking with experienced interpreters and deaf consumers from across the United States and Canada and do not solely come from the author.

Dear BC,

During a lull in a staff meeting where I was interpreting, I used my phone to enter some appointments into my calendar (and check my grocery list). Afterwards, my team interpreter told me that she thought doing that was rude and unprofessional. Do you agree?

Just Multitasking

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

I think each situation is different but I am taking a "lull during a staff meeting" to mean that no interpreting needed to occur. In that case, I think it would be okay to check your phone. It is a good idea to always check with your interpreting partner and your client beforehand. During breaks, I often use that time to discuss how we think things are going and any ideas for the rest of the meeting. We need to be prepared to interpret during breaks as well. This would prevent resentments or misunderstandings like this from surfacing later.

Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

If by "lull" you mean checking your phone while your partner is interpreting, then yes, it is rude – you should be working. But, if by "lull" you mean "break" and that everyone is out of the room or standing around talking, then no, generally that’s not a problem. I understand when interpreters need to use the phone or check messages during breaks (I do, too). However, if I needed to speak to the “big boss” during the break, and I saw you checking your grocery list, it would make me feel uncomfortable because this is still work time for me. In the future, I suggest checking with your client and partner before doing personal things on work time.

What's your take on checking your phone during a break? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the Author

Brenda CartwrightBrenda Cartwright is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, well known presenter, and author of several best selling sign language and interpreting textbooks from the RID Press. For 35 years Brenda was the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

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