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The Goo at the Center of a Sign Language Interpreter

 

Complex, reflective and passionate, sign language interpreters consider themselves artists. Understanding the creative & humanitarian forces that create the goo at their center enriches the experience of knowing one.

If a sign language interpreter could reach inside and scoop out the goo that makes them who they are, a mixture of artistic judgment, emotional labor, and organic creativity would drip from their fingers.  This genuine house blend is the very essence of who they are and why they’ve chosen to do what they do.

To those who work with, play or love a sign language interpreter, it is important that you not underestimate the power of the goo because, at times, it can rival Yoda’s “force!”

So, what are you in for if you find yourself connected to a sign language interpreter?  Let’s examine the goo and find out!

Artistic Judgment

Always remember that a sign language interpreter sees themselves as a craftsperson, an artist.  They spend hours—even years—honing their skills of observation in order to understand how to most effectively deliver their art.  So, they are a quick read of people and are pros at identifying a person’s motivation.  As a result of this artistic judgment, interpreters easily make connections with the people they come in contact with.

Emotional Labor

As artists with a keen sense of observation, sign language interpreters become expert at investing in people.  They quickly and efficiently invest small increments of emotional labor (personal, professional, linguistic, and cultural mediating micro-decisions) with those they come in contact with.  By doing this, they earn the social currency needed to make adjustments in work environments, achieve consensus among meeting participants, and to deliver experiences that are truly remarkable.

Organic Creativity

Sign language interpreters are among the naturally creative.  After spending significant time with one, you’ll note they have a high general intelligence and uncanny ability to adapt to nearly every situation.  This is possible because after working long hours in new environments, they follow with periods of reflection.  These moments of creative exploration give interpreters insight into how to better deliver their art and make connections with people in the world.  An interpreter’s inherent creativity is at the root of how and why they are able to comfortably operate in unfamiliar environments.

Goo Ignites Passion

This mixture at the center of an interpreter makes them determined and extremely passionate about their work.  This passion and raw determination serves them well most of the time.  Note, it can be a double edged sword.  On the one hand, a sticktoitiveness sense of being is essential when honing their craft and is critically necessary to survive in their profession.  On the other, it can lead them into advocacy roles that may put their reputation and relationships at risk.  This due to a belief, and perhaps a naïve one, that the interests of humanity will, and should, prevail.

The Take Away

Sign language interpreters come in all shapes and sizes; most of them are passionate and extremely committed to their craft and the community they serve.  Always remember, it is the goo that makes them compassionate, highly self-aware and work to possess a high level of intelligence.  It is also this goo that drives a passion that can be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

All-in-all, to know a sign language interpreter is to know someone who cares deeply about humanity in its many forms.

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Are You an Artist or Just the Sign Language Interpreter?

Are you an artist or just the sign language interpreter?

Sign language interpretation is part skill, part smarts, and a little bit of pixie dust. What are the qualities that elevate a sign language interpreter to an artist? Brandon Arthur provides his perspective on raising the bar.

You know them, the sign language interpreter “everyone loves, everyone wants to hire, and everyone wants to work with.”  Where do people with this perfect blend of supernatural skill and inviting personality come from?  Regardless of the answer, I believe we can agree that these amazing people exist in small numbers—only a handful per community.  Though small in number, the positive impact of their work and interactions is far reaching.  These interpreters clearly approach their daily work differently and in that difference I would call them artists.

Differentiating Characteristics

I know…I know…artists are difficult to categorize and often defy classification.  While this is true, there are characteristics consistently held in common by this group of sign language interpreting artists that the rest of us mere mortals can learn from.

Sign Language Interpreter – Artists:

  1. Believe that art is a choice first, a commitment second, and never a “pastime.”
  2. Understand that it isn’t the size of the stage, number of people, or the sophistication of those they work with that defines their art or its importance.
  3. Subscribe to the notion that art is only created when it is freely given.
  4. Understand that context is everything.
  5. View the sign language interpreting profession as more than a zero sum game.
  6. Take ownership of their humanity and the mistakes and flaws in their work that result.
  7. Don’t minimize the details.
  8. Embrace the concept that meaningful change begins internally.

When you consider the scarcity of the characteristics listed above, it is clear why there are so few artists in the profession of sign language interpreting and why we desperately need more of them.

It Starts With a Choice

It occurs to me that the daily choice to overcome the inertia of a short-term industry perspective is what prevents most of us from being artists.  Regardless of how slow and imperfect the industry progresses lets choose to be among the few in our community with the courage to create art and make a difference.

While aspiring to be a Lou Fant —whose long-term perspective helped establish the early footings of our profession—might be a stretch for most of us, we can be Lou-like in someone’s life today.