Self Assessment: Critical for Interpreter Effectiveness

Marty Taylor’s workshop “Self Assessment: Critical for Interpreter Effectiveness,” was presented to a full house of diverse and engaged interpreters at the RID National Conference, 2013. Marty lead us through specific aspects of ASL and English, and offered skills meant to foster deliberate use of rich language.  Threaded throughout every lesson was her mantra; skills are not to be practiced while working. We must hone our skills when we are not on the hot seat.

5 Key Skills

We began by engaging in large-group ice breakers that set the tone for honest, candid and direct communication. The light banter and eye contact helped to break through the shield I unfortunately bring to workshops. Admittedly, I bring this same shield to jobs where I’m meeting a team for the first time. The next activity was an interpreting exercise with a partner, that let us get a feel for our baseline production of lean and rich skills. From there, we explored Marty’s five key skills related to interpreting. We did this through activities including discussion, translation and interpretation. When we worked with our partner, Marty encouraged us to do the best we could. The room felt like a safe place to discuss our interpretations- we stuck with the same partner and for each turn we were given a new source material.

Marty’s three hour workshop provided us with a variety of samples, ranging from one English sentence displayed on the PowerPoint, to 3 minute in-person narratives full of deliberate tone, anecdotes and humor. The texts forced us to stretch our skills while interpreting messages from a culturally diverse group, and narratives with abstract and subtle messages. By the end of the workshop, we could see each of the 5 skills permeate through our interpretations .

Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons I learned from Marty’s workshop are a given; I know I need further development as an interpreter, and her 5 skills are just the place to start.  One take away I did not anticipate was the immediate sense of growth that came from honest self-reflection.  The partnered work served as an extra set of eyes that helped me catch specific areas to improve upon.  The experience breathed fresh air into my practice of teaming and dialoguing about interpreting.  It also renewed my faith in the larger interpreting community as my partner, chosen at random, was supportive, thoughtful and patient.

The impact of Marty’s workshop will certainly have long lasting affects on the individual practices of the interpreters who were in attendance.  Marty’s guided practice and insistence on intentional development will bring practitioners a higher degree of expertise and fluency.  Marty wrapped up the workshop by asking attendees to hand-in a “Dear Marty note”.  Here is what I wrote:

Dear Marty,

Thanks for making my affect more deliberate, my non-dominant hand more active, and making my classifier for snot so real that I could feel it.


* Special thanks to Street Team member, Hayley Baccaire.

Forward-looking organizations committed to retelling the story of the interpreter.



(New York)