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The Importance of Interpreters Knowing Their Own Comfort Zone

The Importance of Interpreters Knowing Their Own Comfort Zone

Interpreter Tips   |  Sunday, January 1, 2017

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the "Dear Abby" for the interpreting world - author of the Dear Reality column in the VIEWS publication from Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and the book Encounters With Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios. She will be contributing blog articles for Signing Savvy on interpreting, Deaf culture, and answering a series of "Dear BC" interpreter questions.

Every human being has biases and the ability to predict events is one of the most valuable you can cultivate as an interpreter. As interpreters we have unique access to the lives of our clients. We need to know ourselves and our hidden biases.  What content or situations would you not feel comfortable interpreting?  What interpreting situations are deal breakers? What steps could you take when you find yourself in these situations?

For example:

  • A hearing person yelling at a deaf person.
  • A doctor telling a deaf patient that they are terminal.
  • An offensive joke.
  • A religious or political meeting that goes against your beliefs.
  • A history class where the teacher is intolerant to other cultures and races.
  • A hearing person talking down to a deaf person and treating them like a lesser person.
  • A child abuse case where the abuser acts flippant and casual.
  • A client who always brings conversations around to something sexual.

Every person’s comfort level is different. Think about what types of situations would make you uncomfortable and unable to interpret to the best of your ability.  Once you have a good understanding of your own comfort zone and limitations, you can do a better job of selecting (and avoiding) the best interpreting jobs to fit both your skill and your personal preference. 

What are your interpreting deal breakers and what do you do when one comes up? 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 the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

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