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Do conference interpreters make more than medical interpreters?

I find it interesting to follow the interpreting field in general, not just the ASL-English interpreting field, and the other day I saw a surprising post on a blog I follow called The Professional Interpreter: Many medical interpreters are missing out on a prestigious and profitable field. The author, Tony Rosado, a Spanish-English interpreter, says that most medical interpreters do not venture from interpreting medical jobs to interpret medical conferences. I don’t think of conference interpreting as more prestigious and profitable than interpreting in medical settings, but things may be very different between signed-spoken and spoken-spoken language interpreters.

Qualified interpreter means an interpreter who … is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. —ada.gov

According to the article, until recently there were no standards for medical interpreting. It is important to note, though, that the author is not talking about interpreting between deaf and non-deaf people; he is talking about interpreting for people who do not share the same spoken language. Interpreters for deaf people are provided as an accommodation mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act and previous laws such as PL 94-142 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Such mandates create a demand for quality; in fact, Title III of the ADA sets the legal definition:

Qualified interpreter means an interpreter who, via a video remote interpreting (VRI) service or an on-site appearance, is able to interpret effectively, accurately, and impartially, both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary. Qualified interpreters include, for example, sign language interpreters, oral transliterators, and cued-language transliterators. (ada.gov)

I am interested in hearing from interpreters of all language pairs to see what you think about conference interpreting as opposed to medical interpreting. In your experience, have you found conference interpreting to be more profitable than medical interpreting? Do you find that your colleagues and/or consumers respect you more for doing conference interpreting than medical interpreting? Personally, I find both equally rewarding, both personally and financially. It can be stimulating and glamorous to interpret for someone charismatic while facing a large audience, yet it is challenging and rewarding to interpret for a doctor and patient in a private room. I like both settings, and feel respected in both settings. What do you like?

Free-write exercise: My Dream ASL Class

I asked one of my ASL classes to take 3 minutes the other day and write whatever came to mind about how they would like to learn ASL– what kinds of classroom exercises, texts (books, videos), homework, tests, whatever. I did this because it seemed like some things weren’t working for some of the students in the class, and I wondered if they had any better ideas about how to learn. I think it was interesting for them to write, and I certainly got some ideas from them I will put into action; in fact, I already made some changes this morning. In addition to making changes in the course, I feel it improved the trust we have in each other, since they know that I want to listen, and I know that they want to learn– maybe just in different ways.

Afterword: The exercise I assigned the students was in line with my training in education and my educational philosophy. I am using Signing Naturally Units 1-6, and I have no intention of tossing it out. I also use the Teacher’s Curriculum Guide and the included materials, such as slideshows. I think the workbook and DVD are great, but I want to get my students’ perspective on their course materials. I know I am the ultimate decision maker when it comes to what I want to teach, but they are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to what they want to learn. Ultimately, no teacher can force a student to read a book or watch a DVD. The students are the ones who must choose to use the tools they have or augment their learning with other resources. My thought is that, in the process of imagining their dream class, the students are forced to imagine the kinds of “work” they would do if they had the freedom to choose. I asked them, “tell me how you would learn ASL if it were up to you– and not just magically, but by working at it. If you don’t like what you’re reading, watching, or doing, what else would you propose?” I stressed realism while at the same time inviting imagination.

To give you an example of a change suggested in the free-writes, three (out of 9) students suggested putting off Unit 6 to the end of the semester rather than threading it through the other units as the Signing Naturally Semester Syllabus suggests. I decided to try their suggestion, this semester at least. It’s a relatively minor change, they appreciate me for it, and I feel like no less of a leader for doing it.

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