ethics question

sculleywr

Member
I don't exactly know where to post this, but this is an important question, nonetheless. I have been living at the Union Gospel Mission in Chattanooga TN for nearing on 10 months. I had mentioned in the application that my major was Sign Language Interpreting, and that, in situations of necessity I would interpret, but that I would prefer if they, if in a situation where they would need interpreting on a regular basis, could get a more qualified interpreter as soon as possible. Now, for the last nine months, this has been no big issue, because we had no Deaf people coming into the Mission, and the Mission people only had indirect contact with a Deaf person at the Salvation Army when they stayed there for a short while.

However, the problem I have been dreading has finally arrived and I have some serious questions over which is the ethical way to go about this. A Deaf guy, who will go unnamed, under the alias of John, started coming down to the Mission a few weeks ago and, with little preparation, I was pushed into an interpreting position at the place during chapel and even once in the office of the Mission.

I wouldn't have a problem with this if I were, say, a year further in my studies, but I am not, and I know where my weaknesses lie (I know Junior level classmates of mine with A+ grades on their interpreting classes who would balk at trying to interpret a medical description of how Christ was crucified), and I also know that I am nowhere near my idea of ready to interpret on a regular basis. Yes, I have interpreted before, mostly for music-related things, which I find easier, but to keep up interpreting dialogue for an hour is harder for me than interpreting music for four hours (I did that once for a Deaf guy from Alabama at the SGM convention, because he specifically requested me.).

My question is two fold, is it right for me to keep interpreting for the Mission chapels?

Also, is there anyone who knows how to find a person who is willing to work pro-bono for an hour each day that said Deaf person shows up that is qualified for the job?

As an aside, I am now apparently teaching my mentor and two or three others ASL, or at least the basics, since my ASL department head apparently sees me as knowledgeable enough to do so. I have learned that knowing a language and interpreting it are two separate monsters to deal with.

Help me if you can, cause I am sure there are going to be people who are going to feel like whacking me or the guys at the mission with a mallet. I need not that, just someone to point me in the right direction, because I am clueless. For any help that is given, I say in advance:

Arigato gozaimasu
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
Can you approach the interpreting faculty members about this? How about the terps who are affiliated with Tennessee Temple deaf ministries? Maybe you can at least get someone to team with you for help and feedback.
 

sculleywr

Member
Can you approach the interpreting faculty members about this? How about the terps who are affiliated with Tennessee Temple deaf ministries? Maybe you can at least get someone to team with you for help and feedback.

There has been considerable difficulty with that. There are only two male students both qualified and willing, and because of difficulties experienced with some of the transients being provocative towards the female interpreters, both the Mission and the SLID (Sign Language Interpreting Department) heads agreed to a policy prohibiting the girls from interpreting there. I don't propose to know how it is outside of TTU and Harvest Deaf Ministries, but it seems that church ministries for the Deaf tend to have more female terps available than male terps. The problem is that I have been unable to reach either of the two male terps at the school (they interpret on a daily basis for the county school board and are on busy schedules themselves, so reaching them is difficult). As for the rest of the affiliated terps, contact difficulty increases ten-fold.

To think, I am finding this more difficult to decide what to do than asking the girl I am interested in out, and I don't have our common spoken language as my first language (why am I more confident talking to a person who's language I am less adept in than talking to one with whom I can speak fluently?)

Oh, great, there is my rant for the day:shock:.
 

OpheliaSpeaks

New Member
As a general rule, there are more female than male interpreters available in the community at any given time.

I understand and respect your reservations. It is wonderful that you are able to recognize your weaknesses and level of comfort with interpreting.

If you are uncomfortable interpreting, don't do it. If, however, you feel confident that he understands you and you can understand him, it is not unethical for you to interpret. It may benefit you to remind him that he has the right under the ADA to request a certified interpreter.

I occasionally interpret for a woman with developmental disabilities. She understands me and I understand her. I would not feel comfortable interpreting in a medical emergency at this point, but for routine appointments and conversation I am quite confident in my skills. I do, however, remind her that she has the right to request a certified interpreter and I ask her if it is ok if I interpret for her.

It is generally not recommended for interpreters to accept assignment pro bono, unless a fellow Mission member may be willing to offer services in this area. The reason for this is that it makes it difficult to maintain the integrity of the job as a profession.
 

SeanB

Member
Honestly, either you can hndle the job or can't. Do the honorable thing and leave it to someone more qualified. Don't worry about failure, treat it as a learning experience and determinne if you want too pursue this positiion further when you feel more qualified, or move on to other endeaavourrs.
 

Interpretrator

Crime fighter
Premium Member
It is generally not recommended for interpreters to accept assignment pro bono, unless a fellow Mission member may be willing to offer services in this area. The reason for this is that it makes it difficult to maintain the integrity of the job as a profession.

In my ITP we were encouraged to give back to the deaf community -- from whom we directly or indirectly receive our education -- by volunteering our services when feasible. Yes, it has to be done ethically so as not to undercut other interpreters' ability to make a living, but there are many situations where an organization would not otherwise be able to provide interpreters. For example, many interpreters volunteer their services for religious organizations; I've worked with several not-for-profit arts networks that wanted platform interpreters in case of deaf patrons at events.
 

sculleywr

Member
In my ITP we were encouraged to give back to the deaf community -- from whom we directly or indirectly receive our education -- by volunteering our services when feasible. Yes, it has to be done ethically so as not to undercut other interpreters' ability to make a living, but there are many situations where an organization would not otherwise be able to provide interpreters. For example, many interpreters volunteer their services for religious organizations; I've worked with several not-for-profit arts networks that wanted platform interpreters in case of deaf patrons at events.

It is a religious organization, and the number of Deaf has ballooned there. Last time we had them there, 7 showed up.
 

jshumko

New Member
As far as your question, is it right for me to keep interpreting for the Mission chapels?

Personally, I think religious organizations should be held accountable under the ADA as much as any other organization. But they are not.

This is what I would do if I had the guts (and after 8 years of trying to interpret for my husband in church, I finally did have the guts)...I would talk to the Mission director or minister, or whoever is in charge that you feel would be most receptive, and tell them, "I am not qualified to interpret. If you want to teach these people the Gospel, you are going to have to get a qualified interpreter or learn how to sign. If you do not, I am leaving this church." They might say "Oh you can do it. You are good at it." and then you will try to explain, which is useless.

On the other hand, if everyone around you knows you are not qualified and this is acceptable to the deaf people, and you are not going crazy, then go ahead and interpret.

By the way, threatening my church leaders was the best thing I ever did.
 

Mrs Bucket

New Member
Always remember to follow the general guidelines of the CoE (Code of Ethics)

- 'Do I feel comfortable about my interpreting with the client?'

You need to ask yourself if you feel comfortable interpreting for both the Mission and the growing number of Deaf people.

Your discomfort will be noticed & felt by others. You need to express your feelings as it is not fair to both you and others.
 

webexplorer

New Member
I don't exactly know where to post this, but this is an important question, nonetheless. I have been living at the Union Gospel Mission in Chattanooga TN for nearing on 10 months. I had mentioned in the application that my major was Sign Language Interpreting, and that, in situations of necessity I would interpret, but that I would prefer if they, if in a situation where they would need interpreting on a regular basis, could get a more qualified interpreter as soon as possible. Now, for the last nine months, this has been no big issue, because we had no Deaf people coming into the Mission, and the Mission people only had indirect contact with a Deaf person at the Salvation Army when they stayed there for a short while.

However, the problem I have been dreading has finally arrived and I have some serious questions over which is the ethical way to go about this. A Deaf guy, who will go unnamed, under the alias of John, started coming down to the Mission a few weeks ago and, with little preparation, I was pushed into an interpreting position at the place during chapel and even once in the office of the Mission.

I wouldn't have a problem with this if I were, say, a year further in my studies, but I am not, and I know where my weaknesses lie (I know Junior level classmates of mine with A+ grades on their interpreting classes who would balk at trying to interpret a medical description of how Christ was crucified), and I also know that I am nowhere near my idea of ready to interpret on a regular basis. Yes, I have interpreted before, mostly for music-related things, which I find easier, but to keep up interpreting dialogue for an hour is harder for me than interpreting music for four hours (I did that once for a Deaf guy from Alabama at the SGM convention, because he specifically requested me.).

My question is two fold, is it right for me to keep interpreting for the Mission chapels?

Also, is there anyone who knows how to find a person who is willing to work pro-bono for an hour each day that said Deaf person shows up that is qualified for the job?

As an aside, I am now apparently teaching my mentor and two or three others ASL, or at least the basics, since my ASL department head apparently sees me as knowledgeable enough to do so. I have learned that knowing a language and interpreting it are two separate monsters to deal with.

Help me if you can, cause I am sure there are going to be people who are going to feel like whacking me or the guys at the mission with a mallet. I need not that, just someone to point me in the right direction, because I am clueless. For any help that is given, I say in advance:

Arigato gozaimasu

Wow. You have a lot to deal with... First of all how could anyone even know how Christ was crucified let alone the medical description of it. Did you ever feel that this is something that is not only difficult to interpret but to even make up some facts about this? Don't you feel some responsibility towards the truth? the real truth? How do you or anyone else know?

If I were you, I would try to get a normal job interpreting at a court or a theater group. How about interpreting songs for children at schools? How about teaching sign language at ASL classes at colleges or evening high schools? Sign language makes learning English even easier for foreign students.

You seem like a person who wants to follow his heart. This mission stuff does not sound like you. Create your own job and then market yourself.
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
...If I were you, I would try to get a normal job interpreting at a court or a theater group.
Court and theater interpreting are advanced levels of interpreting. If sculleywr hasn't even graduated from interpreter training, those options aren't available. Court interpreting is definitely out of the question without certification.

How about interpreting songs for children at schools? How about teaching sign language at ASL classes at colleges or evening high schools? Sign language makes learning English even easier for foreign students.
Sculleywr is still a student of sign language, so it's probably too soon to be teaching sign language.
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
...On the other hand, if everyone around you knows you are not qualified and this is acceptable to the deaf people, and you are not going crazy, then go ahead and interpret....
That's the best suggestion. If all parties are informed and agreeable on this, then go ahead. If the situation gets to a point where the deaf parties are not satisfied, then it can be re-evaluated.
 

Mrs Bucket

New Member
...and does the client feel comfortable/satisfied with the interpreting that is being done. Yep, that's it.

You just said it.

If I were in that situation and was assigned a student still learning ASL, I would not want the student when I can get the professional.
 

jshumko

New Member
My husband use to say to me, "You are better than nothing." I suppose that might be true in some situations. But in church where the intent, I think, is to have a spiritual and uplifting experience, I would prefer nothing over an unskilled interpreter with a lousy attitude. Sometimes my husband did prefer that.
 

sculleywr

Member
Court and theater interpreting are advanced levels of interpreting. If sculleywr hasn't even graduated from interpreter training, those options aren't available. Court interpreting is definitely out of the question without certification.


Sculleywr is still a student of sign language, so it's probably too soon to be teaching sign language.

I am never going to interpret for a court session unless someone extremely close to me (wife, child, etc) were to ask me specifically to do so, even after I get certified. As far as teaching, the closest I will come to that is taking my friends through the same lessons the teacher in ASL does, helping at the Mission.
 

sculleywr

Member
...and does the client feel comfortable/satisfied with the interpreting that is being done. Yep, that's it.

Outside of the one session where the speaker went into an indepth medical description of the crucifixion, he kept asking me to interpret continually. There were WAY too many advanced classifiers in that part.
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
I am never going to interpret for a court session unless someone extremely close to me (wife, child, etc) were to ask me specifically to do so, even after I get certified. As far as teaching, the closest I will come to that is taking my friends through the same lessons the teacher in ASL does, helping at the Mission.
Interpreters aren't allowed to interpret for family members in court; especiallyfor family members.
 

Mrs Bucket

New Member
Interpreters aren't allowed to interpret for family members in court; especiallyfor family members.

Exactly. This is why we have the Code of Ethics.

To be professional, one has to know to draw the line at interpreting for the community and not to interpret for the family.

Certified or not, you still need to maintain professional conduct.
 
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