Interpreter Wanted, But does the interpreter want it?


You’ve all heard about out-of-state agencies hiring up interpreters and putting ASL-specific agencies out of business. I’ve been thinking about this recently, too. As someone who doesn’t run an agency or really work full-time, I haven’t felt this as first-hand as some of you. But the other day I received this unsolicited email asking if I would like to contract for an assignment far out of my driving range. I didn’t respond, and I don’t plan on it. I also don’t have any personal antagonism towards the solicitation or towards the agency. The only point here is to show what these emails look like.

Has anyone else received this kind of solicitation?

Dear Interpreter,

I got your name and contact info from RID registry online. We at [interpreting agency] provide on-site and telephonic interpretation and written translation services to our clients nationwide. We hold a few corporate contracts with [general customer] including [specific customer] and we provide ASL Interpreters for their deaf students in several States.

Right now we are looking for additional ASL Interpreters for an ongoing assignment in [Ohio city]. Their deaf student will start attending classes sometime in [month] of this year, the assignments are [x] hrs long, couple times a week, teamed. We were not provided with a complete schedule yet therefore I don’t know at this point if the classes will be in the morning or afternoon.

If you are interested in taking assignments in [Ohio city] – please submit your Resume and rates for consideration at your earliest convenience.
Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best Regards,

[Name]
Vendor Coordinator, [Interpreting Agency]

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13 thoughts on “Interpreter Wanted, But does the interpreter want it?”

    1. Strange isn’t it? I just wonder how an agency would provide support or accountability when they are several states away.

  1. Thanks for bringing up this topic, Austin. Every interpreter I know gets these emails, yet I do not personally know anyone who has accepted work through one of these types of solicitations. I would be very interested to hear from someone who may be currently working in this manner or has had past experience doing so…. how’s it going?

    1. Yes, me too. I’d love to know what it’s like. On the one hand, work is work. Yet, I’m uncomfortable with the collective effect on the local- and state-level interpreting economies.

      1. Wow — I hadn’t even thought of THAT possibility. But I suppose we take that risk with any new agency we work for. My concern is quality of services I provide — especially the remote interpreting option. These agencies don’t know our consumers’ preferences, don’t know my strengths and weaknesses. How can we go into an assignment with confidence without that important pre-screening process, and if the job doesn’t go well, how do I have a conversation about that with a provider who knows nothing about Deafness/ASL/Interpreting process? But, maybe I am being overly skeptical about this ..

  2. I get these all the time as well. I have done a few jobs for some of them. While most of them pay, the ONLY time in 21 years I have been burned was through one of these agencies.

    I am very skeptical any more because it is too easy for them to blow you off when it comes time for payment.

    1. That’s interesting, Dwight. Sad, but interesting. Like Shalene, I hadn’t thought of that either. We take so much for granted.

  3. No Shalene, you are not being overly skeptical.

    I have found most out of state agencies to have a serious case of “Warm Body” syndrome. They just want to fill the job. I have seen instances where total unqualified interpreters get selected to do hearings for Social Security Admin. Hearings. This happens, in my opinion, because the agency does not know or does not care about the skill set the interpreter may or may not have. They are seeking the least expensive option so they can maximize profit. Ergo, a qualified interpreter who charges $65 per hour will loose out to someone willing to take $35 an hour just to get the job.

    Additionally, I spend a great deal of time having to educate out of state agencies on CT state laws related to interpreting. I have found myself being teamed with interpreters who do not follow the registration process in CT as required by law. Occasionally, as soon as I bring it up to a coordinator, they just stop talking to me.

    Having said all of this – there are some very good agencies out there and I have had very positive experiences.

    Here are a few things that I do and watch out for:

    I have clearly outlined contractual language that I insist be accepted in writing before I work.

    I withdraw from any negotiation if I am not asked for a CV (That shows me they don’t care what my skills are).

    I immediately excuse myself if I have to argue for a team when a team is clearly needed.

    I will excuse myself and terminate the assignment if a team is not legally registered in the State of CT as required by law.

    If you are considering working for out of state agencies I suggest that you develop a well planned list of your fees, policies (cancellations…), etc.
    Make sure you are strong enough to advocate for yourself.
    Stick to your policies even if it means throwing $ away. Your reputation and ethics are more important.

    I wish someone with more time than I have would develop an “Angie’s List” type website for interpreting agencies. That will happen faster than waiting for RID to issue any type of SPP or agency registration / certification.

    Jumping off my soap box.

    1. Dear Dwight,

      It was a pleasure reading your comment, I’ve learned a lot from your words. I am an ITP student attending a university( which will remain nameless for security reasons) :). I am currently doing research on the Warm Body Syndrome and would love your advice on this topic? I see from above how eloquently you’ve supported the cons concerning this topic, is there anyway you could help me think outside of the box to support the pros of warm body syndrome? Our assignment entails me to represent why warm body syndrome is better then providing no interpreter? After discussing this topic with other professionals in my local area here is what I have so far. If you have the time to add your expertise I’d be very much obliged and thankful for your wisdom.

      Why warm body syndrome is better then having no interpreter provided

      – The four levels of interpreting is proof that many baby interps start off on the level of unconsciously incompetent and with time and experience they improve by doing and working out in the field. However, some individuals choose to wait until they complete a program and are very selective with the assignments they take. To further ensure credibility they team with a more skilled interpreter.

      – You must do, in order to get better you have to step out of your comfort zone and overcome your uncertainty. With time and experience your skills will improve. How awesome is it to learn and apply what you are learning at the same time?

      – In a perfect world you’d have skilled interpreters at every assignment but if you take up an assignment and feel unqualified it is important to be honest with your consumer and put the control into their hands. The deceit and unethical behavior comes into play when an interpreter puts on the facade that they know everything and aren’t struggling when in reality they are missing information and they keep hidden the reality that they don’t have the skill for the assignment.

      – Our field is very small, that is why reputation is so important. We need more qualified interps in educational assignments k-12 setting, most new interpreters find themselves working in elementary school. This is looked upon as a good starting place but in truth here is where skilled interps are needed most due to the importance of providing a language model for D/deaf children. However, at this level it allows a new interpreter to build on their interpreting skill. The language and concepts are not as complex in comparison to court interpreting or other assignments that require NIC certification. You can’t jump the levels of education without proving yourself applicable. The same rule should apply with interpreting. I feel that an interpreter who passes a level of screening before being hired should be able to work in an elementary level. How else can we build on our skills if we don’t start somewhere?

      – Having a person in the room who may not be the most skilled but has the right attitude is something I witness many people in the Deaf Community say is very important. ” I’d rather have an interpreter who is willing to improve and learn rather than an interpreter with ego and off the chart skills.”

      – For emotional reasons, many children and adults feel a lack of connection and having another person in the room who signs and knows how to produce their language can be a sign of comfort.

      – There are not enough interps out in the filed, how would all the assignments and life of our consumers be able to function? Would people who seek services need to be put on a waiting list during an emergency? I feel that we underestimate the D/deaf when it comes to their ability to adapt and code switch. They have the skill to adjust, especially the individuals who were raised with oral method or mainstreamed during their educational years. They can function on a variety of communication levels and still get their message across. ( It is the skill of the interpreter and our professional standards that need to be raised to be able to eventually do the same).

      These points seem scattered to me but it is hard to think of reasons why the warm body syndrome is better then having no interpreter provided.

      1. HI Ashley,

        Thank you for your kind words and contacting me. I will do my best to assist you even though in my heart Warm Body Syndrome is abhorrent and can have grave consequences.

        To me, at least, the examples you have collected really do not include Warm Body Syndrome (WBS). They are mostly good examples of working to increase one’s skills.

        To me WBS is the act of an agency hiring and placing an interpreter with no knowledge of their skill set, their credentials, or their personality.and ability to negotiate the needs of a Deaf consumer or a hearing customer.

        The only potential “pro” for WBS that I can think of:

        From the Hearing customer’s perspective – They are providing “access” to communication and therefore they are happy that their Deaf patient, student, client has access and they know they will not be sued for failure to comply with state and federal laws.

        From the Deaf person(s) perspective – I did like the blurb that you had about Deaf people being able to adapt and code switch more easily than we give them credit for. That is assuming that the interpreter is using a signed language, just maybe not the one that best matches the Deaf consumer. Beyond that, WBS for a Deaf person at least gives them a chance to be able to participate at some level in the event. rather than being totally excluded. Although usually I hear Deaf people complain about how painful it was to “watch that interpreter”.

        At 5:30am that is about the best I can do to give you any semblance of a “pro” for WBS. If you wish to contact me directly, please do. my e-mail address is dwight.godwin@gmail.com

        I will continue to think more on this, but from the paragraphs you put out there, I think you need to work on developing a better definition of WBS and then ask some questions again. Does that make sense?

        Regards,

        Dwight

  4. Dear Dwight,

    Thank you so much for your quick response to my needed question. You have really opened my eyes to consider how I am defining WBS and I will continue to do research on this topic to better narrow in on the points I want to address. You Rock Mr. Dwight!!! I appreciate your time and patience. If I have any other questions I’ll be sure to contact you. 🙂

    Ashley

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