More about introducing oneself as an interpreter

Another need to introduce myself as an interpreter came up recently: a little CODA asked me what I was doing while I was interpreting for their parent. I forgot that little bilingual children might not understand that their parent speaks a different language, much less that they need an interpreter. The more aware I become of an interpreting issue (such as the need to explain one’s role as an interpreter), the more I recognize it when it arises, and the more I have to think about how to handle it.

In this situation, which was low key and interactive, I simply took a moment to say sweetly, “I’m interpreting for your [parent].” I realized at that moment that, in the future, I would make sure small children — and all participants in interpreting for — understand what I am doing there.

Police make us safer; vigilantes, not so much.

Perhaps you’ve seen this story about the woman who shot the man who ran into a movie theatre with a gun? According to this public Facebook post by Realtalk:

On Sunday December 17, 2012, 2 days after the CT shooting, a man went to a restaurant in San Antonio to kill his X-girlfriend. After he shot her, most of the people in the restaurant fled next door to a theater. The gunman followed them and entered the theater so he could shoot more people. He started shooting and people in the theater started running and screaming. It’s like the Aurora, CO theater story plus a restaurant!
Now aren’t you wondering why this isn’t a lead story in the national media along with the school shooting?
There was an off duty county deputy at the theater. SHE pulled out her gun and shot the man 4 times before he had a chance to kill anyone. So since this story makes the point that the best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, the media is treating it like it never happened.
Only the local media covered it. The city is giving her a medal next week.

There are a few inaccuracies in that story, according to this Snopes analysis. First, it was Sunday, December 16; there was no Sunday, December 17. Second, he didn’t shoot his ex-girlfriend. Third, it is offensive to say this is anything like the Aurora shooting because it was not premeditated and he did not go in with military grade weapons and ammunition to wipe out a whole theatre full of people. Fourth, there didn’t just happen to be an off duty county deputy at the theatre; on the contrary, the deputy sheriff was on duty as an armed guard employed by the theatre. She was doing her job, and she was thankful for the years of training she had received in using a firearm to disarm a perpetrator. This was not just a moviegoer with a gun.

The most important takeaway from this story, for me, is that the woman who shot the perpetrator was literally “on guard” and had years of training firing a gun. It seems the pro-gun people would like you to believe we would all be safer if everyone had a gun. It’s not that simple. See this video if you think all you need to do to protect yourself and others is to buy a gun and go to a shooting range once in a while:

The stigma of “signer” upon ASL-English interpreters

Doctor to patient: “Hi, I’m Dr. Y.” Doctor to me: “Oh, the patient’s deaf! So this isn’t interpreting; you’re a signer.” Meanwhile, I’m interpreting.

It seems there’s a stigma that an interpreter who works between a spoken language and a signed language is a “signer” while an interpreter who works between two spoken languages is an “interpreter” (not a “speaker”). I actually try to impress upon people that I am an “interpreter” by introducing myself as an “interpreter,” not a “sign language interpreter.” I want them to perceive me and treat me just as they would a spoken-spoken language interpreter. At this appointment, I introduced myself to the front desk as “the interpreter for your [x-o’clock] appointment with [Patient Y.]” I saw the receptionist tell the nurse I was the interpreter, and I saw the nurse tell the doctor I was the interpreter. So it should be! I know doctors are busy, so I don’t want to take too much time introducing myself and explaining the situation. I simply met the doctor where I was waiting for them outside the patient’s exam room saying, “Hi, I’m Daniel Greene, and I’ll be interpreting for you.” At the moment the doctor said this wasn’t interpreting and I was a signer I didn’t feel it was the right time to correct them. I didn’t even feel like it was the right time to correct them after the appointment, so I let it go.

Now I’m reconsidering my introductions to consumers. I wonder if spoken-spoken language interpreters tell doctors what language the patient speaks. I could say, “I’ll be interpreting for you and Patient Y, who uses American Sign Language,” but one problem with that is that some d/Deaf people mouth or speak English with or without signing, and this can be a surprising change from the way they communicated with me in the waiting room before seeing the doctor. I also hesitate to say a consumer is “Deaf” because some consumers call themselves “hard-of-hearing.” I honestly don’t know if any amount of introduction or explanation would have dispelled this doctor’s perception of me as a “signer.” Still, it makes me rethink how I introduce myself to consumers. Just about every interpreting job I do leaves me with questions… isn’t what we do fascinating?

P.S. (January 5, 2013 7:21 PM) I thought about how the appointment went, and really the fact that the doctor did not recognize what I was doing as “interpreting” did not affect the interpretation or the interpreted event. If I had made an issue of it, it might have had an effect on the dynamic. The doctor’s statement wasn’t a snag in the communication between doctor and patient; it just gave me a micro moment of pause and a lingering thought about how people could think what we do is not interpreting. Very interesting… ’tis a puzzlement.

Slideshow presentation on Demand-Control Schema (D-CS)

I created this slideshow on Demand-Control Schema (D-CS) for an Introduction to Interpreting class at Phoenix College in Phoenix, Arizona, and am sharing it here for the benefit of a larger audience. This slideshow is an update on one I made for another class at Phoenix College in 2005, the day after I attended a workshop by Robyn Dean, who along with Dr. Robert Pollard introduced the Demand-Control Schema for Interpreting in 2000. I sent the original version of this slideshow to Robyn Dean when I first created it, and she acknowledged it with no corrections. I have since then taken a more advanced D-CS workshop by Robyn Dean and a workshop by Dean & Pollard at the Conference of Interpreter Trainers. Robyn Dean also spoke to our Ethics and Professional Practice class in Western Oregon University’s Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies program. Our professor and program chair Amanda Smith studied D-CS under Robyn Dean and taught us D-CS observation/supervision; in addition, members of my cohort interpret with Robyn Dean at the Rochester Institute of Technology and work with her on D-CS observation/supervision sessions. This is to say I am somewhat qualified to teach D-CS; yet I certainly welcome new and different information. If you teach D-CS and have anything to say or other resources to share, please leave a comment.


I have read some of the resources listed on Dean & Pollard’s D-CS website, and I highly recommend you avail yourself of their materials, especially their forthcoming textbook.