Settings vs. specializations: Categorizing interpreting work

Interpreter Patricia Stöcklin whispers interpreting to Garry Kasparov. Klaus Bednarz is speaking on the lit.Cologne 2007 Français : L'interpréteur Patricia Stöcklin traduit en chuchotant à Garry Kasparov. Klaus Bednarz parle au lit.Cologne 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interpreter Patricia Stöcklin whispers interpreting to Garry Kasparov. Klaus Bednarz is speaking on the lit.Cologne 2007 Français : L’interpréteur Patricia Stöcklin traduit en chuchotant à Garry Kasparov. Klaus Bednarz parle au lit.Cologne 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is “freelance” a setting? I’ve heard people say they used to be “educational” and now they’re “freelance.” What they mean is they used to be employed full-time at a school and now they work as an independent contractor for agencies. Yet interpreters can work full-time in schools and be “freelance” if they’re working at that school as independent contractors. By the same token, there are interpreters who work for agencies as full-time employees, and they do doctor’s appointments, business meetings — the same kinds of work as interpreters who call themselves “freelancers.” I think interpreters get their settings and specialties mixed up, and I think it can cause confusion to those entering the field, those who hire us, and even ourselves and each other. Knowing what’s what can give everyone a better understanding of what we do. Here is how I suggest we distinguish interpreting settings from interpreting specialties:

Settings

  • Academic, post-secondary
  • Business, corporate
  • Church, religious
  • Conference
  • Court, criminal justice, law enforcement, legal
  • Educational, K-12
  • Medical
  • Mental health
  • Performing arts, music, theater
  • Recovery, substance abuse, 12-step
  • Social services
  • Video remote interpreting (VRI) or video relay service (VRS)

Specializations

  • Close vision, tactile (for Deaf-Blind populations)
  • Legal
  • Oral transliteration
  • Trilingual
Speak Out: Sign language interpretation
Speak Out: Sign language interpretation (Photo credit: Grant Neufeld)

“Freelance” is neither a setting nor a specialty; it’s just a way of making a living. Tactile, oral transliteration, and trilingual are not settings, since one can interpret for special populations anywhere; it just takes specialization to be able to interpret for them. Of course, some settings require specialization, such as court requires legal.

What are some of the settings you work in? What are your specialties? Do you have any pet peeves about the language people use to describe where interpreters work and what kinds of work interpreters do?

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Author: Daniel Greene

I facilitate communication between Deaf and hearing people, and I teach people American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting. Apart from doing the work I love, my greatest joys are family & friends, entertainment, food, photography, and travel.

5 thoughts on “Settings vs. specializations: Categorizing interpreting work”

  1. I myself appreciate your work and i am a student at the university of dodoma in Tanzania am taking B.A English 1 year now and Translation and Interpreation is among my courses so the notes above are good and i like them.

    Like

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