Important questions

Why do people feel the need to move their hands and fingers in a weird motion when they ask me about “sign language”? 

And why is it always the most awkward person in the room who wants to talk to me for 15 minutes about their niece who “signs for the deaf at her church”?

Why was this the first image that came up when I search for “sign language funny”?


Interpreting for Wil Haygood – Photos

I was really proud to interpret for Wil Haygood, author of The Butler (that became a movie), as well as his most recent book about Justice Thurgood Marshall called “Showdown“. The photographer, Paul Rehg, was kind enough to share these with me. As usual, it’s impossible to look dignified when you’re interpreting.




Introduction to Deaf Culture by Thomas Holcomb

I just received Thomas Holcomb’s book on deaf culture published in 2013. There’s no way I’ll have time to read the whole thing, but I’m really only interested in his chapters on defining deaf culture. As many of you know, I’ve long been interested in how conceptions of culture have been incorporated into deaf studies and interpreting studies. Holcomb’s book is the most recent engagement with deaf culture by a leading member of the deaf community. 

Have any of you read this book? I’m curious to know what you think.


We hire people for the wrong reasons.

By watching the hiring process for a new faculty member the other day I realized something that I think matters.

Typically when departments, organizations, or agencies hire a new faculty member or a new executive director, etc., the question they ask is, “do we like this person?” And the question the applicant asks is, “How can I get them to like me?”. This makes sense, because if there’s chemistry between the hiring committee and the applicant, the applicant gets a job and the organization gets a new colleague.

I remember going through this same process when I was on a board that hired our first executive director.

There’s a downside to this, however. The downside is, when you’re in a marginal field – interpreting, geography, etc. – it’s just as important to hire people who can sell the field and keep it alive, not just people who we like and who likes us.

We need to think strategically.

Which means instead of hiring people based only on disciplinary expertise, we need people who can lead. We need people who know how to organize people and coordinate projects and conduct efficient meetings and sell our specialization to the world.

If we don’t change how we hire interpreting faculty, recruit RID board members, and build broad professional expertise, we will have a hard time sustaining the profession through ongoing economic and cultural pressures. 

Job Cancelations are Wonderful!

Every interpreter I know works their hands off to provide great interpreting services. This usually means spending far more time doing assignment preparation and professional development than they can bill for. Most of this work is thankless, socially undervalued, and quite often ignored. Not to mention, with the abundance of under qualified interpreters out there, being a great interpreter (with a corresponding wage) can just as often mean not getting the job. Also, clients can be fickle and cancel or re-schedule assignments repeatedly causing a loss in real wages if a canceled booking prevented other billable booking. 

So when an assignment gets cancelled and it’s still billable, an angel in heaven gets its wings. Every interpreter loves the feeling of having an hour or two of breathing time. Most of us use it productively: catching up on professional development, checking email, billing, paying bills, reading for fun, or grocery shopping.

We don’t talk a lot about cancellations, though, so I’m curious what you do with your “down time.”

What do you do with your extra time from cancelled assignments? 

Yosemite cuts sign language interpreters


In an article from Mashable called “Left Speechless”, Claire Trageser describes significant cuts to interpreter services at Yosemite National Park. In short, while the park used to have rangers who were–themselves–certified interpreters and/or fluent in sign language, the park now relies upon contract interpreters to serve the declining number of Deaf visitors.

This is too bad. Mainly because, in my view, the best way to fully serve members of the Deaf community is to create circumstances where professionals know sign language and can communicate directly, rather than relying in interpreters to fill in the language gap. In this sense, the institutional changes as Yosemite are the opposite of progress.

Do you know of any situation where a public or private entity has signing staff instead of hiring out interpreters? I’m sure it’s rare, but it must be out there.

New Research in Interpreting Studies: Western Oregon University

Western Oregon University offers one of the hottest degrees around: an online MA in interpreting studies that gives working interpreters a chance to earn a graduate degree, network, and produce original research. I found their website with recent MA theses today and I think you should know about. Any time another interpreter produces original work, it’s worth having a look. Plus they have a cool map of where their students are from. Check it out.