Interpreter Q & A: Why do ITP students date Deaf people while they are in the program?

By Brenda Cartwright
Sunday, December 3, 2017

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.

This article was also published in the Fall 2017 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID. VIEWS is a digital publication distributed quarterly by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and dedicated to the interpreting profession. The magazine includes RID member spotlights, announcements from the RID board, and engaging stories about issues impacting the interpreting community. See this article and more in the Fall 2017 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID.

Dear BC,

A recent phenomenon I have noticed is a growing tendency for ITP students to date Deaf people while they are in the program. What is behind this?

Curious Spectator

The video features a full interpretation of what is discussed in this article.

An ITP Student's Perspective:

I would say that when ITP students first get acquainted with the Deaf community, it feels like Deaf people are the coolest thing since sliced bread. In an ITP, you’re learning all these things about Deaf culture and the language. Then you meet some really awesome people from the community and it’s hard not to be star-struck. If you find out a Deaf person is interested in you, it is easy to get swept up in it all. I have even heard some students who are NERDAs (Not Even Related to a Deaf Adult) say that they are jealous of CODAs. I think what they mean is they wish they had that strong connection to the Deaf community. I can see why the Deaf community might question our motives, but as a group of young people, we are all just eager to network and navigate these new and exciting relationships.

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

This may be a natural consequence of getting involved in the community, but students need to make sure their choices will benefit them and their career in the long run. Involving themselves in the community in any way that is unethical will ultimately destroy the relationship. Taking advantage or trying to get ahead with those who an interpreter relies on for their livelihood will seriously jeopardize their ability to continue in the profession.

An Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

When two people from different cultures begin dating it is easy to overlook some of the power-sharing or cultural exchanges that occur. It is important to recognize that between two cultural groups, things are equally exchanged: ASL is exchanged for English, hearing culture is exchanged for Deaf culture, and so on. If the parties are trying to exchange different things, the dynamic may shift from healthy to oppressive. ASL is a wonderful, vibrant language and the Deaf community embodies an extremely diverse and rich culture. Those in cross-cultural relationships should take care that the languages and people involved are valued and treated with respect.

What's your perspective? 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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