Purpose of the Workshop
The main purpose of this workshop is to advocate for a view of interpreting as a field. I emphasize field in contrast to skill or profession.
- As a skill, interpreting involves a relatively discrete set of behaviors and mental processes that are applied to a variety of social situations. Skills are the foundation of an individual interpreter’s ability to do their job. But specific skills do not determine the way that interpreters are organized socially, nor do they determine one’s conceptual framework. Skills should be a key element in determining the quality of individual interpreters.
- As a profession, interpreting is more or less institutionalized through organizations and workplace demands. For instance, one can study interpreting as the college level, one can belong to RID, and one can comport oneself with various principles of professional behavior. Professions are a way of understanding interpreters as a collective.
- As a field, interpreting depends on a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions about language, human behavior, and ethics – none of which are unique to either the skill or profession of interpreting, per se. Depending on training, education, and experience, individual interpreters are on a spectrum of ability to identify and discuss these assumptions.
If we view interpreting as a field, we can start to understand why research might be helpful and how we can engage with current research. In fact, one of my hopes is that interpreters could have more of an impact if we would make substantive contributions as a field (which intersects with many academic perspectives), and not only as a profession (which only applies to people who actually work as interpreters).
The objectives are pretty self-explanatory.
- Objective 1: Participants will recognize key organizations, researchers, and academic disciplines that are currently producing research related to interpreting.
- Objective 2: Participants will be able to identify and retrieve current interpreting research, including academic articles, books, and reports.
- Objective 3: Participants will be able to read, summarize, and evaluate research materials.
- Objective 4: Participants will be able to incorporate research into daily practice, professional development activities, and contribute to future research.
- Objective 5: Participants will improve their receptive and expressive academic ASL skills.
Even though I’m writing this workshop in English, the original was presented in ASL. The workshop also offered voice interpreting, but since none of the registered participants requested it, there was no voicing.
I was treading a fine line on an important issue at RID conferences that is reminiscent of Hamlet: “To sign, or not to sign.” I chose to sign. The reason was, I really do think that all interpreters should have the chance to learn and to present in their second language. It’s an important and fun (yes, fun!) challenge that will make you a better presenter, better signer, and better interpreter.
I have empathy for those who say they would prefer to learn in their first language. I also want to honor (and not alienate) those who are new to interpreting or who have never had the opportunity to be in an immersive ASL environment.
I also want to say that my goal in presenting was certainly not to show off or to provide a language model for ASL. I’m definitely not qualified for that.
What was the feedback on language policy?
I was curious to know how participants would feel about the language policy. I received only two comments on the language policy in the feedback:
- Really grateful this was in ASL :) Great Presenter.
- (…) BRING BACK SPOKEN WORKSHOPS!
I suppose you could read those remarks either way you wish. I choose to think that even if not everyone preferred to learn in ASL, everyone probably benefitted from it.
I want to emphasize that in keeping with the principle of language access that defines our field, OCRID was happy to provide voice interpreting as requested. No attendees requested those services.
What do you think?
What do you think of the above language policy? What would you change?
- About Me: This includes two photographs that I’ve taken, the first from Toronto (one of my favorite cities ever), and the second from a sadly decaying house in rural Ohio.
- How many?: I learned ASL alongside newly enrolled Deaf children. Here’s me trying to sign “HOW MANY?” as in “How many toy elephants are there?” – which, if you’re five years old and don’t know ASL just looks like “Please take these toys and throw them in the air!” Which the endearing student did immediately.
- Deaf Geography: This is from our sessions on Deaf Geography at the AAG in New York City. A beautiful mess of language: hearing people, Deaf people, Deaf people who sign ASL and BSL (British) and QSL (Québéçois) and Turkish Sign Language… some hearing people can speak to each other but can’t sign to each other, some hearing people who can’t speak to each other (different spoken languages) but can sign to each other, some Deaf people interpreting between hearing people… just wonderful! The person on the right is an excellent CDI who was fantastic at working between BSL and ASL.
I live in Columbus, Ohio. Even though I work as an interpreter, interpreting has never been my main connection to the Deaf community. My first involvement in the community was as a dorm counselor and classroom aid in a school in Puerto Rico. It was here that I developed a passion for language, communication, and cultural context. When I moved back to Ohio I enrolled in an ITP and graduated in 2006. I eventually went on to study chemistry and geography at Ohio State University. I was later accepted into a combined MA/PhD track in geography in 2009, where my research on U.S. immigration enforcement is driven by an interest in space, power, and law. I have had the experience to work with other Deaf and hearing graduate students and faculty who are thinking through the relationship between the Deaf community, space, and language. My own goal in this project has been to assess the ways that the Deaf community is imagined and represented in interpreting texts, and how this shapes interpreters’ behaviors.
Welcome to “Making Research Count: Your Travel Guide to Researchistan”.
A few comments on the title. First, I chose the title “making research count” to point to two related ideas: the idea of countability and the idea of making an impact. Strange, isn’t it, that to make something “count” is to increase the value of something, as if quantity is tied to quality? And yet, in academic research — certainly in the interpreting field — this powerful assumption guides how we value research. I remember on several separate occasions, other interpreters telling me that Metger’s book “Deconstructing the Myth of Neutrality” had limited value because it was only based on a few observations. (I disagreed, of course. That argument misses the point of the book.) So I want research to be valued, but I hope that interpreters will not assume that quantitative research implies quality research. On the contrary, I believe that interpreting research could benefit the most from understanding the kinds of qualitative misunderstandings we make, and why those misunderstandings matter.
Second, and more simply, I want research to be valued. I see this as the responsibility of the entire professional interpreting community, which includes researchers, community interpreters (including CDIs), Deaf and hearing leaders, and ITP instructors.
Third, the subtitle, “Your Travel Guide to Researchistan”, was intended to give us a picture of research as a journey that required:
- packing our intellectual suitcase, i.e. take thinking seriously
- learning about how to get to a new place and meet the locals, i.e. how to obtain and read a basic research article
- getting home safely, i.e. not spending our whole lives in research-land.
In any case, the subtitle seems weird to me now. But there you have it. Nothing more to say about that.
So let’s get started.
Blog-a-workshop coming up!
At the 2014 OCRID (Ohio Chapter of RID) Conference, I presented a workshop called “Making Research Count”. Before I presented it, I promised that I’d share the entire thing on this blog. But I wanted to wait until I received the feedback, so I knew how to respond to questions and criticisms. I received the reviews back today, so I’m ready to go!
Please post comments, questions, and criticisms (especially criticisms) in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you think, as would the other readers.
What does the US DOJ tell police to do when working with Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals? I found a hard copy of the following flyer the other day at an assignment, and then found a PDF version online. What do you think of the content? What would you change? Add? Remove? (link here also)
Here’s a great short film about the closing of the Bristol Deaf Club. Thanks to David Ellington for excellent editing and subtitling.
We’ve published 100 posts on the Interpreting Report blog! Now that’s pretty cool. This is a fun project, and I’m glad to see the readership grow. Thanks, folks.
If there’s anything that bridges my work as an interpreter and my research as a graduate student, it’s court interpreting. While I don’t do any court interpreting myself, I have had the privilege of working with court interpreters and talking with those who work in immigration courts.
We may think that justice is justice and that’s that. But for thousands of people each year, justice – in the traditional, legal sense – remains illusive because they aren’t able to understand court proceedings in their most proficient language. This is where court interpreters come in. Even though interpreters do not truly provide equal access to court proceedings, they soften the gross disparities by at least bridging some of the linguistic gaps.
In the New York Times article below, there’s some great information on court interpreters, mostly voicing concerns about the costs of interpreters. There’s no question: the costs are not insignificant. But what is the cost of justice? Or worse, what is the cost of injustice?
At worst, it can be death, as Alfred Weinrib (see previous post) reminds us.
(Reposted from the New York Times)
Today is June 16, the day that Ulysses Joyce uses to chronicle one day of Leopold Bloom’s fictional life in his famous book Ulysses. June 16 has become known as Bloomsday, a celebration of that wonderfully erratic, nonsensical novel of linguistic hyper-flourish.
Bloomsday is important for interpreters, though, not just for literarily curious – although I should hope that many interpreters love literature, as well. Bloomsday is important because Joyce pushed the boundaries of language and literature, by slamming grammar against the page until grammar itself shattered into fragments throughout the book. Many have called Ulysses a prank, or even the epitome of senseless post-structuralism. But interpreters know better. We know that Joyce usefully and productively crossed the line between fiction and reality, by showing how nonsensical language often is in everyday life. Interpreters are often called in to make sense of the senseless, and to fill the impossible gap between two languages with something like a provisional, rickety, already-decaying bridge that creates the possibility of situational understanding against all odds.
Happy Bloomsday to us all.