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: (more…)


Why do you use Do Not Announce?

[This is one video interpreter’s viewpoint, not the viewpoint of a video relay service.]

As a VI, I notice that one of the most important consumer choices that determine the effectiveness of a call is a deaf consumer’s use of Do Not Announce. It can be quite effective when the deaf person explains VRS themselves or when the person they’re calling already knows them and takes their calls all the time. And it can be indispensable when an ignorant company or agency refuses to accept relay calls. But it can be very difficult for both the interpreter and the person they’re calling when a deaf consumer chooses Do Not Announce but then makes no accommodation for the inevitable changes in communication. Those changes are basically due to unexplained silence and the mismatch of gender–voice and name.

More about Transparency

Below I quote from this Wikipedia entry about Telecommunications Relay Service:

As much of the tele-relay system, particularly IP-Relay, is open for public use, it is possible for anyone with the proper equipment to place calls. This includes people who are not members of the original intended user group (i.e., persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-impaired). Some such users have noted its usefulness in making long-distance or local calls free of charge and without a telephone. The accessibility even to those who are not deaf, etc. has been defended by providers as a necessary evil. This is because the principle of “transparency” – the belief that the operator and the mechanics of relay should generally go as unnoticed as possible in the call – requires that Relay be as easy to use as a normal telephone, which does not require any kind of verification for hearing people to use. This decision has been defended by leaders in the deaf community, and generally retains strong support among speech and hearing-disabled users of the service.

One of the “necessary evils” the above quotation refers to is the use of text relay services by Nigerian scam artists. Some text relay operators actually gave up their jobs in order to stop doing what made them sick and be free to break the story to the news. Here are two of those news stories that are linked to from the aforementioned Wikipedia entry:
Con artists target phone system for deaf – Security – and Overseas crooks abuse phone service for deaf | ®

I feel sorry for those relay operators who lost their jobs, but (more…) Deaf Community Targeted By Scam, Again

The local Bay Area ABC News “I-Team” (investigative team) ran this news story on Brian Malzkuhn and Michael Johnson, two men — both college teachers who are deaf! — who ripped off deaf people in the process of being ripped off themselves by Nigerian scam artists. These men asked their deaf friends and colleagues for “emergency business loans” so they could come up with the money that the rapacious Nigerian scam artists were demanding in ever-increasing amounts.

I am incensed to read this! This is a prime example of the sort of abuse that led me to decide a couple of weeks ago not to interpret any kind of VRS call — or live interpreted event — that I believe is a scam.

I think the ideology that it is not up to interpreters to decide what is good for their clients interpreters are not responsible for the content of their interpretation is potentially damaging, especially in the realm of VRS. This belief in “transparency” (which I actually saw signed as “no skin off my back” or “I’m not responsible” in discussions about TRS CA‘s in the ’90s), along with the “mandate for equal telecommunications access” by the FCC, leads interpreters to feel that they are compelled to interpret any kind of call that comes in, regardless of content. Do you know what it feels like to interpret a call that you know is a scam? It is demoralizing to say the least. You might not be responsible for the scam you interpret, but it’s hard not to feel dirty about it.

I think it is high time that interpreters started standing up for what they know is right and “reserve the right to refuse service” to scam artists!

And deaf people, if you agree with this, please make your feelings known to the FCC.

Thank you.

What I Love about VRS

In a recent post, I bemoaned the lack of interpreter-client relationship that comes of the anonymity imposed upon video interpreters. When I first wrote that, about a month before I published it on my blog, my morale about video relay interpreting was in a bit of a slump. Getting out and doing more interpreting in the community, i.e. face-to-face, has revitalized me, I guess. Lately, I really enjoy going in to work, and I’d like to share here some of what I think is great about VRS (in no particular order).

  1. I love going to the call center and working 4–6 hours in one place without having to drive all over the county to several shorter jobs.
  2. I love using technology to improve the lives of deaf people and their hearing family members, friends, and co-workers.
  3. I love being on TV in homes all over the country. It’s what I always wanted! 😉
  4. I love it when I interpret a call and the hearing and/or deaf people say to their interlocutor, “Wow! I finally understand you!
  5. I love meeting deaf people from all different regions of the U.S. and learning all their different regional signs.
  6. I love the “cross-pollenation” that is happening with deaf people and interpreters in various regions talking to each other in ASL, and I believe this might help to standardize ASL a bit more and make it easier for people to understand each other wherever they’re from.
  7. I love how my voice interpreting (ASL-to-English interpreting) has improved since I began doing VRS interpreting!
  8. I love exploring the unique challenges that come with VRS interpreting such as: register variation (from intimate to frozen, sometimes in the same call), unfamiliarity with topic, personnel, and specialized vocabulary.
  9. I love the fact that, since I got a regular job doing VRS interpreting, I’ve been able to buy a home and begin saving for my retirement!
  10. Oh! And I love seeing people’s adorable pets on camera! Brightens my day!

There are others things I love, but that’s all I can think of for now. 🙂