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Interpreter Q & A: Using Your Phone During a Break

Interpreter Q & A: Using Your Phone During a Break

Interpreter Tips   |  Tuesday, February 26, 2019

By Brenda Cartwright

This article is by Brenda Cartwright. Brenda is a seasoned interpreter, a master teacher, and well known presenter. Brenda is the 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.

This article is part of our "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives.

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 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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