Grey areas in interpreting situations

sculleywr

Member
I was an intern at the SERID conference a couple weeks ago. Among other duties, I was the introducing person for Dee Henderson at a workshop called "Backseat Interpreting". The focus of the workshop was the times in an interpreter's career when the waters get muddy and right and wrong are unclear. A few of the instances were:

Speaker in a large class, where you do not have the opportunity to ask clarification, has a strong accent that makes many words unclear. Example: One speaker Dee interpreted for used a phrase that sounded like "The Porpoise of Chit Shits". After 8 weeks in the class, wherein Dee interpreted it according to the sound, a hearing person asked for clarification. The teacher wrote on the board "The Purpose of Cheat Sheets."

You are interpreting for a band you have never heard of and the music is drowning out the voices of the band. What do you do?

In a psychiatric evaluation, your Deaf client goes from normal ASL syntax into a state where he uses only nouns or verbs, with no grammatical order or discernable meaning. Do you inform the doctor that the client has stopped using proper grammar? or do you simply interpret what is said verbatim? (She gave huge warning to NOT make stuff up on this one, which I thought was kind of obvious)

These and other situations could pop up while interpreting. So, question to the forum, what are some sticky situations you have gotten into? and what advice would you have for others who might end up in a similar situation?
 
Read up on current research by Dean and Pollard about the demand/control schema which speaks directly to issues like these. No one can say, "You should always do X when Y happens," because every situation has a unique constellation of demands. What may be appropriate and effective in one situation may not be in another, and might even be unethical.
 

ecp

Member
In a psychiatric evaluation, your Deaf client goes from normal ASL syntax into a state where he uses only nouns or verbs, with no grammatical order or discernable meaning. Do you inform the doctor that the client has stopped using proper grammar? or do you simply interpret what is said verbatim? (She gave huge warning to NOT make stuff up on this one, which I thought was kind of obvious)

These and other situations could pop up while interpreting. So, question to the forum, what are some sticky situations you have gotten into? and what advice would you have for others who might end up in a similar situation?

The "pourpise chit shits" actually made me laugh. A bunch of my profs are non-native English speakers with thick accents and with my profound hearing loss, relying on my audition results in hilarious mistranslations.

In the case of medical interpreting, especially psych interpreting, a very important thing is that the way someone says something can provide clues and insights into their mental state.
For example, (just FYI-I'm profoundly deaf but studying to be a doctor and worked in an ER for the past 2 years) some forms of strokes present with the patient understanding questions but being unable to answer the questions (they can't find the word etc). A variant of that is, for hearing patients, is completely nonsensical speech. A deaf patient would likely sign things that make no sense.
It is important that the interpreter conveys to the physician that the patient is not making sense.
The important thing here is that in most cases a physician can determine where in the brain a stroke occurred based on how much speech/sign the patient understands and how well they respond.

In the case of psych patients it is similar. If the patient is not making sense, interpret what they are signing. The doctor should be able to understand that the patient isn't making sense. But maybe don't try to put the patient's thoughts together in a way that makes sense to you.
I remember a psych patient who said that "the radio is why I stabbed the baby then the towers fell". These things were all connected for the patient but completely different in reality.

I'm not an interpreter and honestly don't quite grasp all that goes into interpreting but I have worked with interpreters for hearing patients who do not speak English.
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
The "pourpise chit shits" actually made me laugh. A bunch of my profs are non-native English speakers with thick accents and with my profound hearing loss, relying on my audition results in hilarious mistranslations.

In the case of medical interpreting, especially psych interpreting, a very important thing is that the way someone says something can provide clues and insights into their mental state.
For example, (just FYI-I'm profoundly deaf but studying to be a doctor and worked in an ER for the past 2 years) some forms of strokes present with the patient understanding questions but being unable to answer the questions (they can't find the word etc). A variant of that is, for hearing patients, is completely nonsensical speech. A deaf patient would likely sign things that make no sense.
It is important that the interpreter conveys to the physician that the patient is not making sense.
The important thing here is that in most cases a physician can determine where in the brain a stroke occurred based on how much speech/sign the patient understands and how well they respond.

In the case of psych patients it is similar. If the patient is not making sense, interpret what they are signing. The doctor should be able to understand that the patient isn't making sense. But maybe don't try to put the patient's thoughts together in a way that makes sense to you.
I remember a psych patient who said that "the radio is why I stabbed the baby then the towers fell". These things were all connected for the patient but completely different in reality.

I'm not an interpreter and honestly don't quite grasp all that goes into interpreting but I have worked with interpreters for hearing patients who do not speak English.
Yes, that is how it was explained to us during the mental health interpreting workshop training. We are supposed to let the doctor know that the patient is not using standard signing, and then voice what is being signed without and grammatical "repairs" or guesswork.
 

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
...Speaker in a large class, where you do not have the opportunity to ask clarification, has a strong accent that makes many words unclear. Example: One speaker Dee interpreted for used a phrase that sounded like "The Porpoise of Chit Shits". After 8 weeks in the class, wherein Dee interpreted it according to the sound, a hearing person asked for clarification. The teacher wrote on the board "The Purpose of Cheat Sheets."
That brings up a good general point. Interpreters aren't expected to have better hearing or comprehension than the general hearing public that is in attendance. It also means that since the deaf member is supposed to get the same level of presentation as the hearing people, sometimes that equates to crappy. If the hearing people are getting a lousy presentation then the deaf people can't expect to get a better presentation, only an equal one. (In reality, sometimes the deaf person gets a better presentation than the rest of the audience if the interpreter had access to the speaker's notes ahead of time.)

You are interpreting for a band you have never heard of and the music is drowning out the voices of the band. What do you do?
Question: Why would you accept an assignment like that in the first place? Music and theatrical interpreting is a specialty that requires advance planning and rehearsal. It really shouldn't be done "on the fly." If the terp did have advance notice and time to prepare and rehearse, then this wouldn't be a problem.

To be fair, sometimes the terp is blindsided by an assignment. I was sent to an assignment that was supposed to be a summer-time Christian camp meeting for youth. Each evening was supposed to be when all the groups came together for announcements and preaching. Well, I wasn't told that this was a contemporary group, and that their meetings would include contemporary "Christian" (rock) music that would be heavily amplified. Fortunately for me, most of their songs consisted of repetitive choruses that were projected on a screen, so once I saw the chorus, it was easy to repeat. The very bad part was that I was positioned inches in front of an amplifier that was taller than me. The sound was so distorted that I couldn't hear or think. I felt ill after. If I had been warned ahead of time that music was included I would have made other arrangements.

After the general meeting, they broke up into small groups for "sharing" time, which was no problem. I had a few minutes in-between in order to recover from the music blast.

In a psychiatric evaluation, your Deaf client goes from normal ASL syntax into a state where he uses only nouns or verbs, with no grammatical order or discernable meaning. Do you inform the doctor that the client has stopped using proper grammar? or do you simply interpret what is said verbatim? (She gave huge warning to NOT make stuff up on this one, which I thought was kind of obvious)....
Both. Inform the doctor, then give it verbatim.
 

sculleywr

Member
That brings up a good general point. Interpreters aren't expected to have better hearing or comprehension than the general hearing public that is in attendance. It also means that since the deaf member is supposed to get the same level of presentation as the hearing people, sometimes that equates to crappy. If the hearing people are getting a lousy presentation then the deaf people can't expect to get a better presentation, only an equal one. (In reality, sometimes the deaf person gets a better presentation than the rest of the audience if the interpreter had access to the speaker's notes ahead of time.)

Good points.

Question: Why would you accept an assignment like that in the first place? Music and theatrical interpreting is a specialty that requires advance planning and rehearsal. It really shouldn't be done "on the fly." If the terp did have advance notice and time to prepare and rehearse, then this wouldn't be a problem.

To be fair, sometimes the terp is blindsided by an assignment. I was sent to an assignment that was supposed to be a summer-time Christian camp meeting for youth. Each evening was supposed to be when all the groups came together for announcements and preaching. Well, I wasn't told that this was a contemporary group, and that their meetings would include contemporary "Christian" (rock) music that would be heavily amplified. Fortunately for me, most of their songs consisted of repetitive choruses that were projected on a screen, so once I saw the chorus, it was easy to repeat. The very bad part was that I was positioned inches in front of an amplifier that was taller than me. The sound was so distorted that I couldn't hear or think. I felt ill after. If I had been warned ahead of time that music was included I would have made other arrangements.

After the general meeting, they broke up into small groups for "sharing" time, which was no problem. I had a few minutes in-between in order to recover from the music blast.

This is the problem we have at my school (loud music). I have chronic migraines, and am required to go to the chapels. As I do not interpret the chapels (Thank God!), I do not need to be up front, and I sit in the back with earplugs in my ears. even with high quality earplugs, I can hear the music and words so loudly that I am tempted to have an audiologist or neurologist give me doctor's orders to refrain from coming to chapel services during the music portion. I'm not kidding, my co-workers across the street say they can hear the music understandably in the kitchen, with all the machines going.

I am going to do all of my interpreting fieldwork outside of campus chapels because I cannot stand that noise.

Both. Inform the doctor, then give it verbatim.

That was the answer Dee Johnston gave in the workshop.
 
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