Interpreter Q & A: Should interpreters share stories about their day (and their clients)?

Interpreter Q & A: Should interpreters share stories about their day (and their clients)?

By Brenda Cartwright
Friday, June 8, 2018

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 Spring 2018 (Issue 35 Volume 2) 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 (on page 14) and more in the Spring 2018 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID.

Dear BC,

My neighbor is an interpreter and she was telling me about all the gory things she has to face on a daily basis as an interpreter: feces, fungus, blood, naked bodies, nasty smells, foul language etc... No names of clients were disclosed but I couldn’t help but wonder how Deaf people would feel if they knew that she was talking and laughing about them. I remember when I was in the hospital, I was so sick I puked. I’m sure my poop stunk. I’m sure I looked like crap. I hope my nurses didn’t talk about me. I think the same should apply to interpreters. What is your opinion about this?

Uneasy Neighbor

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

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

It certainly sounds like this interpreter enjoys telling these stories because of their sensationalism and for her own "visceral kicks." If I heard an interpreter telling stories about Deaf clients in their most vulnerable moments, I would ask her straight out "Where’s your compassion?! Where’s your discretion?!" Interpreting is a job. We are there to work, not to collect stories to impress our friends.

An Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

This interpreter showed a complete lack of respect for her clients. We are vulnerable and dependent on interpreters during some of the most scary and embarrassing moments of our lives. What was this interpreter’s intention? Yes, there are indeed unsavory and upsetting aspects of the job. But, telling stories and laughing about us is oppressive.

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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