Hearing Interpreters: The Danger of Being the Public Face of ASL

November 15, 2014

When ASL is seen publicly, it is often vis-à-vis hearing sign language interpreters. Aaron Brace examines the impact this has on public perceptions of ASL, and suggests strategies that create opportunities for Deaf interpreters to authentically represent their language and culture.

I’ve been asked a few times by family and friends to explain what was going on when a CDI/hearing team delivered the interpretation of NY City Mayor de Blasio’s press conference on Ebola. The very notion that Deaf people can work as professional sign language interpreters is new for most hearing people; indeed, if they see ASL at all, it’s usually hearing interpreters like me, or signed music videos of questionable value (also by hearing people) on social media.

[Click to view post in ASL]

One of the reasons I sometimes have a hard time explaining this service model is that feeling of an existential threat, which doesn’t necessarily disappear just because I know it to be false. But another reason, which I’d like to focus on here, is that I haven’t fully come to grips with the implications of hearing sign language interpreters like me being the public face of ASL. Rather than learning how to do it better, I’m learning how to let it go.

Navigating the Changing Dynamics in Interpreting

I first began thinking about hearing sign language interpreters as the public face of ASL a number of years ago. Like many who are reading this, I’ve been one of the go-to interpreters for public-facing work for most of my career. Although my focus has always been on serving the people relying on my work, I’ve found myself enjoying the opportunities to stand out, to be trusted in jobs where my work would be broadly seen. I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback afterward, the status it has given me among my colleagues, and the chance to share what I’ve learned about ASL and the Deaf community. For a large part of my career, that was simply the water I swam in. I didn’t consider that there was anything else. After a while, as painful as it is to admit this, I began to think it was my right.

I have also regularly worked at conferences for national and international organizations. I have typically been on stage at their conferences, handling keynote presentations as well as presentations by other prominent speakers.  There came a time, though, when several of these organizations, with Deaf people in decision-making roles, decided that Deaf interpreters were to be on stage at all plenary sessions. I was relegated to small breakout sessions and working into English through a closed loop; I wasn’t on stage any more. It took me longer than I like to admit to get over losing the opportunity to do the plenary work, but I had the presence of mind to observe the work being done by the Deaf interpreters. Sure, the quality varied, but so much of the work that I saw was exemplary, and qualitatively superior to what I, or other hearing colleagues, typically produce.

More importantly, that model of service was chosen for high-profile work due to the involvement and leadership of knowledgeable Deaf people. Not only did they consider what would best serve the participants, but, surely, they were also influenced by the desire to authentically represent Deaf people’s language and culture to a broader audience.

Positioning My Ability

Like others, I began calling my work ‘bilingual/bicultural mediation’ soon after that terminology entered our professional discourse. Of course, that’s how the researchers in our field began describing what effective interpreting should be. It never crossed my mind that I was lacking the ASL fluency and cultural competency needed to actually do that kind of work. A Deaf friend recently told me that applicants to Gallaudet’s MA Program in Teaching ASL have to pass the ASL Proficiency Interview at a level 4 or higher…before beginning their studies. It took him three tries. Not only would I have failed to meet that bar before I began training, I’m quite confident I couldn’t meet it now.

I’m not qualified to go on about theories of bilingualism. I mention it only because it has become clear to me that the general public is primed to impute to me, to all hearing interpreters, a level of linguistic and cultural mastery that I simply don’t possess. Even if I’m relatively aware of the limits of what I have to offer, I don’t quite know how to articulate them to hearing people in a way that won’t undermine both their confidence in me as well as my own. Silence speaks volumes, as I already have the glamour of the words ‘professional’ and ‘interpreter’, and letters after my name. Oh, and I’m hearing. That’s probably the biggest factor in eliciting other hearing people’s high opinion of work they don’t understand.

This became painfully clear to me once, when I told one of my sisters that I’d be interpreting a play with a team that included a Deaf person as our Sign Master. She looked puzzled and said, “After all this time, Aaron, isn’t that what people ought to be calling you?” It was embarrassing to realize that I had never positioned my profession, myself, or, my ability to her in a way that she could have thought any differently. To her, I was the exemplar of ASL fluency. Who knows? Maybe I need to believe my own hype in order to have the nerve to do this kind of work at all.

Shifting The Focus

I realized recently that the more effort I put into preparing to interpret something like a play, the more I begin to worry. I worry not only that the hearing audience may think they’re seeing me produce a work of ASL literature, but that I might even start to believe it myself- all without anyone saying out loud that’s what we’re thinking. I worry that the Deaf poets, actors, storytellers, translators, teachers, and the friends I try to emulate in these instances will have far fewer chances than I, if any, to stand before a similar audience, with the same authority that’s imputed to me – but which I have only borrowed from them.

When I stand up at a public or televised event before a predominantly hearing crowd, on a real or virtual stage, under a real or virtual spotlight, I worry that some ASL student will decide to become a sign language interpreter in an effort to seek out the same kind of attention that I’ve realized I can be overly fond of.

But when a qualified, certified Deaf interpreter, like the one working at the Ebola press conference, gets asked questions about what interpreting is and how it serves the Deaf community, I don’t worry so much. Not only because his answers are likely to contain observations I couldn’t legitimately make, but also because it begins to shatter hearing people’s frequently-held stereotype of Deaf people as needy receivers of information. Deaf children also benefit from seeing qualified Deaf professionals modeling one way to represent their language and culture. If we quibble that not all CDIs are as experienced, or as able to give a good account of our profession, well…that’s never stopped the rest of us, has it?

Stepping out of the Spotlight

In her article, Are Hearing Interpreters Responsible to Pave the Way for Deaf Interpreters?, Anna Mindess listed some excellent, practical steps for us to take in expanding opportunities and visibility for CDIs.  In addition to hers, I’d like to add a few more. Some of these I’ve already implemented for myself, others are aspirational. Some may be more practical in some geographic areas than others:

  • work with Deaf colleagues and the local Deaf community to determine what an increased public presence of Deaf signers, including but not limited to CDIs, might look like and how to work towards making that presence a reality;
  • enlist as allies any hearing hiring agents who understand the value of CDIs;
  • consider working, on occasion, for reduced rates or pro bono in order to get more hiring entities to try using Deaf/hearing interpreting teams. This may be a controversial idea, but I believe that, used judiciously, it can be an effective tactic in getting more native ASL out where hearing people will see it;
  • share exceptional Deaf- or Coda-made videos on social media, along with a description to hearing friends of what makes them exceptional.
  • And finally, develop the reflex to step aside and team with a qualified Deaf colleague at every opportunity that comports with your own community’s values. Deaf people, even CDIs, may disagree strongly about when it’s necessary or even just preferred to have a Deaf face as the public face of ASL. It’s a process. I choose not to hinder that process, but to foster it.
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54 Comments on "Hearing Interpreters: The Danger of Being the Public Face of ASL"

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Member
I would like to have this blog made into a vlog, by the author, for the purpose of sharing with the deaf community and people referred to in this article. In its current form, it cannot be shared with all that need to see it and may have a response to share since, after all, the article is asking professional interpreters to be the catalyst for change. For this to happen the DI’s the article suggests we begin to incorporate into our work need to know the reason why this change may be on the horizon. One Ebola conference with… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi Ruann… after the first paragraph, above, is a link to click for the ASL version. I confess that my ASL version didn’t get as much prep and practice as my original English version. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Cheers,
Aaron

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi again. .. Elizabeth Morgan’s post made it clear that I misunderstood your comment, Ruann. I apologize. It would be great to have that video in a place where video replies can be posted and discussed in ASL. That would also give me a chance to clarify things that I didn’t sign so well. I’m not sure how to have that happen as part of StreetLeverage’s platform. Anyone have suggestions?

Member
Jody Prysock

Wow… Thank you for this provocative, candid, and eloquently written article!!! I hope this is shared and read widely!

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thanks, Jody. I’m curious/anxious to see the discussion it may generate.

Member
Elizabeth Morgan
Thank you, Aaron, for taking a stand and explaining your process! I would like to also suggest places that change can be fostered: 1. Interpreter referral agencies – if you own/operate a referral agency or are in any position where you can reasonably exercise some discretion in the selection of interpreters, think “out of the box” as to where CDIs can be included. I found that when someone has an attitude of “how can we make this work” with regard to CDIs, there are many people that can receive top-tier linguistic access, which is beneficial to all. For example, my… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi again, Elizabeth. I’m glad that you mentioned the option of a CDI working in some situations where a HI isn’t needed. We’ll only be open to seemingly counter-intuitive ideas if we understand more fully what intuitions (and hopes and fears) we’ve been operating on.

What are your thoughts on how agencies might tackle this kind of thing with the increased competition and price undercutting from foreign language agencies?

Member
Speaking of situations were a CDI is the only interpreter needed for a given situation, I have been blown away by the use the British make of their DIs whose English is really good: translation services from text, and TV reporting translations from text. It’s a huge market, in fact. Interpreting from CART is more problematic, since the captions are more or less prone to errors and the lag time can be considerable. Another great model of DI use is the last CIT conference, where CDIs in International Sign were working from Deaf presenters’ signing or from ASL interpreters…
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi Elizabeth. I’m replying on my phone, so I’ll likely have more to say when I can see your whole reply on my computer screen. I wholeheartedly agree about the responsibility of more seasoned interpreters setting the example, in collaboration with DIs and our local Deaf community, for how to change how we talk about and do our work. We also have to acknowledge the real fear that if the most experienced HIs don’t take jobs unless a DI is assigned, some much less experienced HI will be eager to take the job alone. So, I also strongly agree with… Read more »
Member
Maria Holloway
Aaron – kudos to you for writing this piece! It takes courage to (publicly) acknowledge the amount of privilege that one holds as a hearing interpreter. I would imagine it takes even more if you’re someone who’s become accustomed to high-profile interpreting work and enjoys, as you put it, “opportunities to stand out, to be trusted in jobs where my work would be broadly seen”. Also, thank you for providing some suggestions for ways we can all work to expand opportunities and visibility for CDIs. (For what it’s worth, I plan to also find the article written by Anna Mindess,… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi Maria. Thanks for bringing the word ‘privilege’ into the discussion. I didnt use it, but I didn’t consciously avoid it, either, and I guess that is what I’m talking about.

I think my reference to Anna’s piece is a hot link, so you can go straight to it.

Like I told Elizabeth, more to come. Smart phones don’t lend themselves to thorough replies.

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi again, Maria,

I don’t personally feel courageous… I’m pretty well-respected and in demand and am not likely to lose any of that. In fact, putting this kind of thing out there is kind of freeing.

Now, some of the other ideas I’ve been mulling over… THEY would take some courage to write about here on SL 🙂

Member
Miriam Lerner
Aaron, it was wonderful to read your post ! And I really appreciate your courage in admitting to enjoying the figurative and literal stages we often occupy. I don’t know how many of us started out as theater kids, frustrated thespians who found this wonderful work and community. I know I was one of them, naively thinking when I entered my ITP that interpreting theater would become my career, then later realizing and embracing the fact that theater would be occasional, everything else ( college/university, medical, community free lance, substance abuse and mental health) would be my passions… To take… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi Miriam,

Somehow, my reply to you showed up under Becky’s post, below. I say that like I’m surprised, but this stuff happens to me with some frequency.

Member
Becky Rosenthal
Aaron, I am Deaf and a consumer of interpreting services. I appreciate your article and you said it well. Thank you so much. I have never thought of the hearing interpreter being the ‘face’ of ASL until your article and it all makes sense now. It’s mind boggling to think about this and how much influence the profession (hearing interpreters) have on the Deaf community and the barriers it unintentionally creates for the Deaf community. Now we need to put on the brakes, stop and think about this. What can we do to change this perspective? We will have a… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi Miriam, That sounds like an overwhelming challenge! The first thought that comes to my mind is, “Is ‘interpreting’ what’s really called for here?” Maybe the hearing and Deaf poets, with hearing and Deaf interpreters/translators could come up with a new model… some kind of ‘live annotation’ (the best term I could come up with in the moment), that doesn’t seek to create an equivalent that can stand on its own, but is more like a tour guide into the world and form of the piece being performed. Another thought that comes to mind is that some of us hearing… Read more »
Member
Miriam Lerner
Hey, Aaron – Yes, actually, I’m starting to realize that “translation” might not actually be the right framing…. perhaps the whole process is more like ekphrasis – a poetry inspired by a work of art, in which case our work becomes more like an “inspired by….” instead of a “translation of…”. Then the idea of “interpretation” reframes to OUR interpretation and delivery of the work, not narrowing the focus to the process of going between ASL/English or English/ASL or Hearing/Deaf ! A new template – or ANY sort of help at all !- is clearly what is needed for us… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Oops, looks like my reply to Miriam popped up under Becky’s post. Hi Becky! Great to hear from you after all these years! Yes, I remember fondly those first couple of years in the Art House dorm. Who knew they’d lead me to the path I’m on now? I’d love to see Deaf and hearing interpreting students learning together throughout their education. Of course, that’s a big investment for the Deaf students to make if the work isn’t going to be there when they graduate- and it’s hard to build the work opportunities until there’s a sizable pool of qualified… Read more »
Member
To Aaron and all like-minded CHI (Certified Hearing Interpreter) allies, I humbly say thank you for trying to keep the gates unlocked. One day we shall be free to roam on our lands. As a Deaf consumer of interpreting services, I find it pleasurable and soothing to see a Deaf face on platform, interpreting fluently into my native ASL. This extends to many other public places where CHIs are commonly seen such as in court, lectures at universities, educational workshops, media, festivals, Deaf Community Centers (I.e. a social worker from the county explaining what CPS does) etc. My 76 year… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi Nikki,

Do you have any thoughts about my suggestion of local CDIs, CHIs and Deaf leaders trying to formulate a vision for what they’d like to see and how it might happen? One of the challenges that CHIs often face comes from Deaf people who, for their own reasons, don’t want to CDIs working. I’d love to see community norms develop organically around that.

Member
Vivian Liang
Hi Aaron, great article, enlightening, touching and above all sincere. I am a Chinese postgraduate student and currently writing my graduation thesis on CSL interpreting, mainly advocating DIs in China.(We don’t have a certification system for deaf interpreters.) I have been to several conferences including SIGN7 recently held in China, and I was totally blown away by outstanding DIs on stage(every panel we had DIs using International SL and CSL) I really hope that Chinese SL interpreting system can be improved and public awareness towards SL interpreters(both HIs and DIs) can be clarified and renewed. Hope there are more and… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thank you, Vivian. Your experience was similar to mine, and part of what spurred me to write this essay. Will your thesis be available for us to read when it’s finished?

Cheers,
Aaron

Member
Terri Manning

Aaron, you are an exemplar of humility. Thank you.

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thank you, Terri. I don’t know that there’s anything else I could say to that that wouldn’t call into question your judgement of me 🙂

Member
Hi Aaron! Thanks for posting! When I think of the “public face of ASL” I think of Linda Bove, Marlee Matlin, the Bravo Family, MJ. Bienvenu, CODAs like Lou Fant, etc… I think of the hearing interpreters as doing a job, as well as the DI’s working conferences, platform, break-out sessions, meetings etc… To me it feels like the “east coaster” have more “press” exposure than west-coast terps. The WA DC area terps are interpreting for the more visible federal/legislative interpreting gigs. There isn’t alot of press for the WA hydro-electric dams, salmon passage, cleaning up the Hanford Nuclear area,… Read more »
Member
Gina Perozuk

Thank You! For an excellent article and for your courageous humility.
I completely share your thoughts and had often wondered why DI’s weren’t included in ITP’s; in my books it should be mandatory, great suggestion Becky.
We definitely need more honesty and willingness to be transparent in our line of work especially in regards to position’s of privilege and lack of DI”s . Thank you again for putting it out there. look forward to more much needed discussion . 😉

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thanks for reading and replying, Gina! These things have been rolling around in my head for quite some time, and I’m not sure if it was courage or, really, just a need to let them out.

I look forward to further discussion, too.

Cheers,
Aaron

Member
Shelly Hansen
Hi Aaron! Wanted to throw out there as I watch your vlog…have you read the book “Redefining the Role of the Community Interpreter: the Concept of role-space” by Peter Llewellyn-Jones and Robert G. Lee.? I just finished it a couple of weeks ago…it is a profound shift in that “bi-cultural/bi-lingual” model you are talking about. I think you would like the research presented and it would maybe change your perspective on your “representation” of some kind of ASL model guru dude to the public/hearing consumers/clients. If you’ve already read it, would love to hear your thoughts about role-space and how… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi, Shelley! Thanks for mentioning Llewllyn-Jones and Lee- their text is on my list, but I haven’t yet read it. Just to respond to the bit that you shared: your last paragraph sounds exactly like what we HIs can learn to do in many situations, and with DIs in many others. Again, this is just my reaction to what you’ve shared, but I worry (there I go again, worrying) that in order to explain how we do all that, we feel the need to say (or at least imply) a greater authenticity to our language and cultural competency than we… Read more »
Member
Shelly Hansen
Hi Aaron! Responding to your last question: I see both DIs and HIs as working toward a common goal: effective communication. That to me is the focus area…it sounds like we are looking at it as a political as well as communication goal. In other words, we want it to look a certain way to others. I think DIs are FANTASTIC and I ADORE working with them and miss them when I work alone for stretches at a time, which is right now! I also think we are practical and realize that teaming isn’t necessary all the time and is… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi again, You (and all of us, for years,) have defined the goal as “effective communication”. That certainly is *a* goal, but I’m suggesting that having that as our only goal leaves us unnecessarily open to potentially dangerous side effects. So does wrapping up our ability to provide “effective communication” with a pretty bow that suggests or outright claims full, bilingual, culture-infused interpretation. By and large, hearing interpreters have defined what the goal is, which is a little like the hammer deciding what constitutes a nail. Someone opening a can of paint as a home do-it-yourselfer might well use the… Read more »
Member
Shelly Hansen
Hi Aaron and Nikki below~ I’m sharing with you my honest perspective. I think the paint can metaphor is lacking…most HIs are trained, have been to college and have years and years of interpreting experience and that training includes hundreds of hours of input by Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Deafblind folks who have patiently trained/taught/mentored us to be better interpreters. We hold a national certification or several national certifications which are base-line indicators of proficiency. Regarding Nikki’s comment about Deaf people wanting jobs as CDIs. That is a different topic. Here is something that happened to me today. I said yes to… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi, Shelley. Thanks for continuing the dialogue. As a HI, myself, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in your first paragraph. But even assuming that all HIs achieve all of that, it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, state that we’re qualified to be the poster children for ASL and the Deaf community. You may disagree, but the point of my essay is to suggest that that *is* what we have become for the hearing public, and that by doing nothing to change it, we continue to occupy space, to suck up air, that rightfully belongs to Deaf people. We continue to… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

P.S.- I didn’t do anything to remove the “reply” button … I think we’ve embedded replies back and forth as far as the SL platform allows. Feel free to go up top and start a new reply to continue the dialogue.

Member
Hi Shelley, may I politely and respectfully differ with oh our above comment. May I share you my Deaf perspective. Teaming with CDIs shouldn’t be seen as a learning experience and fun for CHIs. Surely it can be! Why not. However, we should stay focused on the Deaf consumers and what effective communication entails. There is a huge and dire need for job security for CDIs. Most of the Deaf people who possess the true qualities of a CDI do not want to risk giving up their secure jobs for a very unstable job market. I know of some Professional… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi Nikki, Very well said, thank you! We do tend to talk about Deaf people getting what they ‘need’ instead of what they deserve. The workshop you propose sounds great! I’d also suggest including the work of some hearing interpreters doing the same scenarios, for comparison. I’d specifically think of including people who are well thought of in the community and often requested, so that it’s not a question of ability (and their egos can take whatever comes up in discussion). The Deaf participants could be guided through discussion of how they respond to the scenarios, starting to inform Deaf-centered… Read more »
Member
Minttu Laine

Thank you, Aaron, for a very interesting lead to a discussion on the topic! This is also something that we are and hopefully will be discussing even more in my home country, Finland. I hope this and other related articles as well as the contributions of our local CDIs and hearing interpreters will be used as fuel for a broad discussion in Finnish context. Many thanks also for the comments posted here!

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thanks, Minttu! I look forward to seeing what discussion this may spark in Finland.

Cheers,
Aaron

bcolonomos
Member

Aaron,

What can I say! After reading and viewing your article twice, I still have goosebumps.
For those people who need an example of Deaf Heart, you are it in my book. I just posted something related on NIDG that I’d love your input on.

I am proud and grateful that I have had some opportunities to interact with you personally and professionally. I miss you and your mind and heart! Hope we can connect soon.

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi, Betty,

Your kind words mean more than I can say. The phrase “Deaf Heart” is one that I love in ASL but always cringe at a little bit in English- but I know you meant it the ASL way, and I’m honored 🙂

Looking forward to our next hotel breakfast together (and all the rest of you can get your minds out of the gutter).

Member
Hi Aaron, As usual, a huge amount of food for thought. I expected nothing less. The other week, I was talking with a Deaf friend about the aesthetics of languages, including signed languages. *Are* some languages inherently more beautiful? I’ve heard talk about French or Italian being more “romantic” (or is that just Romance?), and German being “harsher” somehow. I don’t buy that, but I hear from hearing consumers all the time how “beautiful” signing is. The question is: if the public face of ASL were highly eloquent native signers, would the public even appreciate the difference? I am by… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hey, Dan! Great to see you here. When are we going to see something with your byline here on SL? I think your first point actually fits perfectly with my thesis. Hearing people probably *won’t* see the difference. In which case they’ll continue to defer to hearing interpreters as “the professionals”, because we’re hearing, like them, we’re obviously such good people to be doing what we’re doing (tongue in cheek), we have degrees and multiple Cs, Ts, Ss and Is after our names, and we can sway properly with the music. Well, some of us can. Hearing people, including us,… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Oops, I omitted an important affinity group: codas. Again, any given community might find different ways to arrange that.

Member
Hi Aaron, Thank you for this outstanding article. I agree strongly with one of your final points: CDIs are more appropriate for high profile work. When hearing interpreters are contacted for these assignments, we need to suggest using CDIs to the requester, as well as assisting them in locating the right people. As you so beautifully stated, a process is going on now in our professional community with regard to standards and uses of CDIs. No one should expect there to be consensus in the Deaf community regarding the specifics right now; but as long as hearing interpreters continue to… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Thanks, Dan! You put it better than I did.

abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

AN OMISSION IN THE ASL VERSION: I don’t know how I did this, but I overlooked the important suggestion, at the end, of hearing interpreters considering working for lower rates or pro bono, occasionally, if that will get more hiring entities to try using Deaf/hearing interpreting teams.

Thanks, everyone, for your patience with me.

Cheers,
Aaron

Member
Brenda Nicodemus
Hi Aaron: Thank you for your thought-provoking message. It’s rare to have someone’s professional journey laid bare for all to read. Your offering is an opportunity for us to think and learn alongside you. Mortimer Adler wrote that learning is “an interior transformation of a person’s mind and character, a transformation, which can be effected only through his own activity. It is as painful, but also as exhilarating as any effort human beings make to make themselves better human beings, physically or mentally.” You clearly know a lot about learning in the sense of Adler. We are indeed at a… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace

Hi Brenda! If there’s a single benefit that I can already point to from having written this essay, it’s having people reply with more thoughtful and incisive observations that I thought of myself. You’ve given us a wonderful way to start figuring out what we *truthfully* have to offer. Thank you!

Now I’ve got to get busy reading Adler.

Best,
Aaron

Member
This is such a great article, I think that you made many excellent points in saying that the face of ASL should be represented by Deaf individuals rather then hearing individuals. I agree with you that It would be beneficial to have interpreting teams including both Deaf/CODA and hearing interpreters, maybe this will help show that hearing world a piece of the Deaf world. I also agree with Dan Veltri who stated that high profile jobs would better represent the face of ASL if done by CODA/Deaf interpreters rather then hearing interpreters. I think if we had CODA/Deaf interpreters interpreting… Read more »
Member
Vanessa Cush
I like the idea of working in a team with a CDI. It would make me feel more confident that the message is getting through correctly. Not saying I would slack off in my interpretation, or studies, or signing. Quite the opposite really. Having the opportunity to see my signs be reinterpreted would improve my skill and vocabulary level. As a student, I worry a lot about my level of comprehension and production of signs. I think the set up would be great to experience. Even more so in a classroom setting. Would it not be wonderful to take ASL… Read more »
Member
It is humbling for good stalwart experienced interpreters to watch their work on video and have to admit that, while it might be “good-enuf” clear, it’s not a native-like model of ASL, especially in highly public venues, but also in very private significant life situations… And, frankly, it’s not about just missing some of the meaning or clarity, it’s about gaps in the whole culture of passing meaning along. Yes, the parallels are striking with your recent Face Book post of the white Western Yoga teacher’s renunciation of her teaching of Yoga because of her lack of the spiritual and… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi Bill, I’m still mulling over the extent to which I identify with that writer’s experience. There are those who would leap to the conclusion that I’m suggesting that non-native signing interpreters should leave the profession. That’s not at all what I mean, though we can all think of one or two we’d like to counsel in that direction. We do need to better understand what it means to be guests in the culture, and borrowers of the language (from which we profit while, hopefully, doing good that the community sees as commensurate with our pay). Perhaps the most important… Read more »
Member
Ashley Kreutz
Amazing article. Your honesty really hit me. I am currently a student enrolled in an interpreting program. I never thought of interpreting like that before but now that I’m thinking about it I understand how us as hearing interprets could never measure up to CDIs or Deaf singers in ASL fluency and cultural competency. It makes me nervous about how I am going to be as an interpreter. I do not wish to be the publics view of ASL fluency but understand why the hearing community would think that. I have taken your advice to heart and plan to work… Read more »
abrace
Member
Aaron Brace
Hi, Ashley, Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. One way to manage the nerves you feel about how you’ll be as an interpreter (we should never lose those nerves entirely!) is to stay close with Deaf mentors and seek out opportunities to work with CDIs or DIs (who haven’t yet been certified). Develop the ability to analyze your choices based on whether they are made primarily to further your advancement as a professional or to further the advancement of your local Deaf community. Both things can be served in many instances, but they are often in conflict.… Read more »

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