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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)?

Interpreter Tips   |  Friday, June 8, 2018

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.

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

Sincerely,
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 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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Raising Deaf Children From a Foreign Land

Raising Deaf Children From a Foreign Land

Deaf Culture   |  Wednesday, May 2, 2018

By John Miller

The DNA heredity companies are very popular right now. Every time you turn on the television you see a new touching commercial of how people’s lives have been changed. While watching a recent commercial, there was a woman who, all her life, thought she was primarily from one genetic background and her ancestors came from one place and lived her life accordingly. However, after getting the results of her DNA test, she realized her ancestry really was from a totally different part of the world. The commercial ends showing her standing in front of a mirror wearing the ancestral clothing of her "new" native country and embracing and celebrating her new found information about herself.  

This got me thinking about deafness. I wish more people could have this reaction when they first find out that their child is deaf. Unfortunately, many in the medical field approach deafness from what is known as the Medical Model and see it as a disability that needs to be fixed, rather than a part of an ancestry that needs to be explored, learned and cultivated. 

This may stem from the often unknown fact that over 90% of deaf and hard of hearing children are born into families that are NOT deaf themselves. This is not common knowledge to many people. When I have posed the question to my sign language students and families I’ve worked with over my career as an educator, many believe that the percentage of deaf children that are born to hearing families is low, like 3-5%. I think their thought process is that the hereditary gene of deafness is the major factor in determining a child’s deafness. That is not, however, accurate. 

The families that make up this over 90% are busy with their lives and most likely have many other things going on like work, schooling, raising other children, etc.. so when a child with a different "genetic background" enters their family, it can seem like an unexpected challenge. Often times this child requires another language to be brought into the home. Things may have to be taught and communicated in a way that is different from what has traditionally been done in this home. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done.  It just means that extra time and effort and systems are going to have to be put in place so this uniquely different child can still be a part of their biological family, as well as the child’s "ancestral Deaf family."

Many of these hearing families aren’t familiar or educated on Deaf culture and don’t realize it has a rich history, customs, and community. Just as the woman in the DNA commercial put on her "new" ancestral clothing at the end of the commercial, families can education themselves on Deaf culture and choose to embrace and celebrate it.

 

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Interpreter Q & A: What to do when your team interpreter has an unexcused (and provocative) absence?

Interpreter Tips   |  Monday, April 23, 2018

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.

This article is part of our "Dear BC, Interpreter Q & A” series, which answers questions on interpreting and Deaf culture from multiple perspectives. This article was also published in the Winter 2018 Edition of VIEWS Magazine (page 28-29) 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 Winter 2018 Edition of VIEWS Magazine from RID.

Dear BC,

I was on a team interpreting assignment with someone that I have known for years - she is a good person and a really good interpreter. She had texted me to let me know she was running an hour late to the assignment because she had to drop off her mother at the airport. Finally she arrived. Then on a ten minute break, she told me she was going to have to leave early.

“Why?” I asked.

She proceeded to tell me the reason was that her husband wanted her to come home and “be with him.” I just sat there with my mouth open and looked at her. I didn’t know what to say or do. Finally, I said, “You can do whatever you want, but the last time I checked we were both being paid to do this job.”

I wanted to call the agency (which is quite reputable) and let our supervisor know what happened, but she and the supervisor are pretty tight. Any thoughts on how I could have handled this better or what to do next?

Sincerely,
Baffled Teammate

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

An Experienced Interpreter's Perspective:

This scenario is a perfect example of how interpreters sometimes have to engage in uncomfortable conversations with their team in order to incorporate the NAD-RID Code of Professional Conduct tenets into our practice. I don’t envy the interpreter in this situation. Their initial response is unfortunate but it’s also a very human reaction to such a frustrating scenario. 

It’s tempting to avoid the conversation altogether by contacting the agency directly or emailing the team afterward, but I think it is best to request an in-person meeting with the team. I would start by apologizing for the initial response and explain that you were thrown off by her behavior as you have only known her to be a strong and ethical interpreting team. Strive to emphasize your respect for her but also be transparent about your frustration that she put you in such an uncomfortable situation.

As these behaviors seem to be out of character for her, I would hope that together you could discuss what makes sense in terms of communicating with the agency. Hopefully she would be open to informing them that she only worked a small portion of the assignment. If she is not open to this, you could tell her that you have to inform the agency of her revised hours. The goal of an in-person conversation would be to resolve the issue between you and have the team communicate with the agency herself.

An Experienced Deaf Consumer's Perspective:

First and foremost, I am impressed with interpreter A’s ability to stay professional during this exchange. I’m afraid I might have lost it and burst out laughing, “You’ve got to be kidding - no way!” 

The first issue, driving her mother to the airport, is difficult to judge – was this an emergency situation? Could she have found someone else to drive her mother, or substitute for the interpreting assignment? Did she notify her supervisor, thus allowing the supervisor an opportunity to find someone to cover for her? Did the supervisor “excuse” her from being late to the assignment? If interpreter B did not notify her supervisor, as is implied in this encounter, she placed an undue burden on her team interpreter (and friend). 

The second issue indicates a severe lack of judgment, responsibility, and ethics on the part of interpreter B. Interpreter A was correct in pointing out that they were both being paid for the job. The only thing interpreter A could have done differently is emphasize her displeasure more strongly and tell interpreter B it is not acceptable to leave the assignment. 

Interpreter A has an ethical responsibility to let the supervisor know of this situation, regardless of friendship ties. If the supervisor is acting ethically, they will call in interpreter B to discuss the matter. Interpreter B may have committed fraud if she submitted a time sheet for the entire assignment and was paid in full. No matter their friendship, the supervisor needs to be aware of interpreter B’s irresponsibility and lack of respect for her team. Interpreter A should also notify interpreter B of her conversation with the supervisor and her reasons for doing so, whether it be in a face-to-face meeting or through email. If I were in that situation, I would tell interpreter B I am not comfortable working with her and request that the supervisor not assign us together in the future.

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 the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

Living Loud: Ella Mae Lentz - Poet, Educator, and Advocate

Living Loud: Ella Mae Lentz - Poet, Educator, and Advocate

Deaf Culture   |  Friday, April 20, 2018

By Marta Belsky

This article is by Marta Belsky. Marta is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users.

Ella Mae Lentz is a Deaf American poet, author, educator and advocate. She was born on May 5, 1954 in Berkeley, California to two Deaf parents and has one Deaf brother. In 1971, Lentz graduated from the California School for the Deaf in Berkeley (now known as the California School for the Deaf in Freemont), and went on to Gallaudet University. She graduated from Gallaudet in 1975 with degrees in English and Drama. 

ASL Poet, Performer, and Advocate

Lentz is widely known for her ASL poetry. Many people have studied her poems and have even performed them as reproductions. Some of her original poetry has been published in the video “The Treasure: Poems by Ella Mae Lentz.” A few examples of her poems can be found on YouTube, including The Door (1995), The Rosebush (2008), and To A Hearing Mother (2010).

Lentz was on a talk show titled “Silent Perspectives” in 1974, on television in the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) children’s show “Rainbow’s End” in 1979, a Milwaukee Repertory reproduction of the movie “Children of a Lesser God” in 1980 as character Sarah Norman, and on video with Baker and Cokely’s ASL curriculum commonly referred to as “The Green Books.”

“Instead of looking at what deaf people can’t do, we need to look at ourselves as people who are visual, and who have a community, we need to look at ourselves in a very positive view to confirm who we are as deaf individuals.”
     - Ella Mae Lentz

Lentz has also done hundreds of presentations around the country on ASL, Deaf Culture and Deafhood. At one presentation, Lentz is quoted as saying “Instead of looking at what deaf people can’t do, we need to look at ourselves as people who are visual, and who have a community, we need to look at ourselves in a very positive view to confirm who we are as deaf individuals.” This quote is also representative of her many works of poetry, which focus on bringing Deafhood to the forefront in mainstream American culture as well as Deaf Culture to bolster a sense of community and pride associated with being Deaf. She helped to found the Deafhood Foundation in February 2009 and continues to be on the board of directors. Her goal is to encourage people (hearing and Deaf) to look at Deafhood as an identity based on visual capacity rather than the inability to hear. Lentz also promotes examining traditional definitions of community, ability, relationships and communication that at the same time challenge perspectives of American history related to Deaf people and culture. For example, her interpretation of the National Anthem takes a very direct and personal stance toward American Deaf people that places the focus on Deaf struggles and victories in American history.

Terminology

Deafhood - Deafhood is a Deaf person's unique personal journey to discover and understand themselves as a Deaf person. The term was coined by Dr. Paddy Ladd and was described in an article in Gallaudet Today in 1993. Ladd later wrote a book on the subject in 2003, called Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood.


Educator

Although she is a well-known ASL performer and author, teaching has always been at the core of Lentz’s career and influence. She has over 30 years of experience in academia. She has done research on ASL at many institutions, including: Gallaudet, Northeastern University in Boston, Salk University in San Diego, and the University of California in San Francisco. She also has taught at multiple institutions; Gallaudet University, Ohlone College in Freemont, California and Berkeley City College until her retirement in 2007.

Lentz has developed educational and training material for ASL such as: the National Consortium of Programs for the Training of Sign Language Instructors (NCPTSLI) and the Signing Naturally curriculum series. The NCPTSLI came as a result of a Federal grant program with the National Association of the Deaf with the goal of upgrading ASL instruction, and for two years, Lentz developed and tested curricula and recruited and trained instructors. The Signing Naturally curriculum series started with a three year grant through Funds for Improvement of Post Secondary Education to develop curriculum for teaching ASL as a second language. Her work on the Signing Naturally curriculum continues today.

Advocacy Continues

After retiring from teaching, Lentz formed the company ASL Presents in 2007, which offers services in coaching, consulting, presentations, performances, and ASL and Deaf Culture curriculum. She continues to be an advocate for ASL, Deaf Culture, and Deafhood.

Lentz is married to her longtime partner, Judy D. Gough. The couple has raised five children, of whom the youngest is Deaf. They also have ten grandchildren, of which three are Deaf. They love animals and have had dogs, cats, llamas, a goat, rabbits, rats, a mouse, and iguanas.

For more information on what Lentz is currently working on, visit the ASL Presents website.

Resources

 

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About the Author

Marta Belsky Marta Belsky is a third generation ASL user. She has been teaching ASL for 30 years and enjoys sharing her native language with new users. Marta is on the Lansing Community College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Board and has also been a board member for the Michigan Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and the Michigan Chapter of American Sign Language Teachers Association.

More about Marta  |  Articles by Marta

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

Interpreter Tips   |  Sunday, December 3, 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.

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

Sincerely,
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 the last 30 years Brenda has been the Chair of the Sign Language Interpreter Program at Lansing Community College in Lansing, Michigan.

More about BC  |  Articles by BC

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