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Meet, Engage, Learn & Inspire: Mentoring and Sign Language Interpreters

Meet, Engage, Learn & Inspire: Mentoring and Sign Language Interpreters

Mentoring is often cited as a way to bridge the “readiness gap” for emerging sign language interpreters. Kim Boeh outlines the benefits of mentoring relationships and tips for successful interactions.

You find yourself sitting in a classroom surrounded by your peers and realize that you will soon graduate from your interpreter education program and you experience a moment of panic. You realize that once you leave this college community of peers, instructors, and total comfort zone, you will be all on your own out there in the “real world” of interpreting. What will you do when you need advice? Who will counsel you when you don’t know if you are permitted to wear the swanky new outfit to the assignment or if it is okay to take that picture and post it on Facebook or is it ok to….? What you really need is a mentor.

[View post in ASL]

There appears to be a need and perhaps even an outcry for mentoring in the field of sign language interpreting. There is a dearth of qualified and trained mentors available across the board due in part to lack of availability, lack of training, and lack of feeling qualified to mentor. Mentoring, if done properly, truly has a lot to offer both the mentor and mentee. RID’s Mentoring Standard Practice Paper (2007), stated that mentoring is a learning and growing experience for everyone involved in the process and the experiences that are gained through mentorship foster a higher level of professionalism for each individual practitioner. For many in the field, mentoring is considered an essential component of interpreter education but in many instances, mentoring is a component missing from interpreter education (Winston & Lee, 2013).

Bridging the Gap

Cokely (2005) and Ball (2013) mentioned a gap emerged once sign language interpreters started being trained in colleges in lieu of being chosen for language proficiency and groomed by the Deaf community. Some solutions to decreasing this gap in the education of interpreters that have been suggested in the past include implementing mentoring opportunities for students (Delk, 2013; RID, 2007).

I know what it is like to walk alone into the unknown from college training programs to real-world interpreting. I did not have much access to mentors during my interpreter training program or the first several years working as an entry-level interpreter. There were not enough mentors available to meet the demand at the time. I have personally experienced the lack of support and guidance that many entry-level interpreters encounter. I have witnessed first-hand many new graduates struggling with entry into the field, and this has deepened my belief that mentoring is the key to successfully transitioning recent graduates from college to work-readiness. I say this because I became a mentor in my local community and saw the benefits that occurred when I worked one-on-one with new graduates. We each learned from the experience by collaborating and working together. Collaboration can increase rapport, trust, and unity among interpreters.


For my master’s thesis, I asked over 400 interpreters and interpreting students in the United States and Canada one specific question referring to their feelings of how important it is to have mentors available for entry-level interpreters. The collected data from that question shows there is a strong belief in the importance of mentorship in the interpreting field by those currently working, preparing to work or previously having worked in the field. I also asked if mentoring were made readily available who would take advantage of the mentoring opportunity? A total of 82% of the participants replied they would take advantage of mentorship if available. I believe mentorship could help to bridge the gap that exists between educational preparation programs and work-readiness in the profession of interpreting. It could also lead interpreters to expand their knowledge base, provide professional development opportunities and guide them to becoming more highly-skilled interpreters regardless of their time in the field.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Connect with the Community

Leslie Janda Decker wrote an article for StreetLeverage entitled Sign Language Education: Returning to Deaf Heart. She mentions having D/deaf individuals as mentors and tutors for ASL students and interpreters. Having the D/deaf community and the professional interpreting community come together for the advancement of the field and the services to the communities is paramount. Having mentoring available either in person, via email and/or via live video chats could greatly improve the field of interpreting and the confidence of interpreters.  

Create Awareness and Positive Change

Mentoring can bring about positive changes to the profession. Implementing small group mentoring situations can prevent future students from feeling fearful of entering the profession and feeling alone. Upon graduation, a new interpreter could be assigned a deaf and/or hearing mentor to guide him down the path from student to professional. Mentors are also useful to veteran interpreters wanting to improve a specific skill area or branch out into a different setting they have not experienced previously (e.g. legal). Mentoring can benefit each and every interpreter in a myriad of ways:

  • building trust and rapport in the community
  • learning new signs/expanding vocabulary
  • building self-confidence
  • discussing ethical scenarios
  • exploring new settings (e.g., mental health, legal, freelancing)
  • keeping abreast of new technology
  • staying current with social media sites and apps related to the profession
  • learning proper business practices
  • expanding business opportunities/networking

We all need to work together to fill the void that is missing in our field and mentoring can help.

Understanding and Overcoming Barriers to Mentorship

If so many people are interested in working with a mentor, then why are so few people working with mentors? Is it lack of availability? Cost? Fear? Traumatic experiences with previous mentors? Perhaps there are no skilled or willing mentors locally? How can we overcome the issues of not having enough qualified and willing mentors and interested mentees? One thought is that we all have something to offer. The student may learn a new technique or approach that was not around 20 years ago, and they can share this with others in the field. The veteran interpreter has “been there-done that” and can share experiences to shed some light on different scenarios to the novice interpreters entering the field. No matter where you are in your journey, you have something to offer to others and something to gain from others. More of us can set up study programs, workshops, and discussion groups to build camaraderie and share knowledge.

Key Tips to Mentoring

  • Determine what you want to gain from the mentorship (Skills development? If so, pick two elements of your work you want to focus on such as fingerspelling errors and use of space.)
  • Seek out an experienced, professional who is respected in the community and see if they have time to watch your work live or via a video and give feedback on just the two elements that you are working on (e.g., fingerspelling errors and use of space)
  • Feedback should be given and received without the use of evaluative language (e.g., good, bad, should have, you did/didn’t). Instead say, “What I observed was clear, effective fingerspelling. The use of space was ineffective in this sample due to items being set up in one space but referred to in another space, leaving the message unclear.
  • Focus on the WORK, not the interpreter. The goal of mentorship is to assist in accomplishing goals, and it is never the goal for one interpreter to criticize another. When working in teams and in mentoring roles (as mentees and mentors) we should always focus on the WORK, not the interpreter.
  • Give back! If someone offers to mentor you, find a professional way to give back to them and or the community. Reciprocity makes the world go round.

In Conclusion

We all have something to offer, so let’s find out what that is for each of us individually and share with our colleagues regardless of how long they or we have been working in the field. Whether you choose to start mentoring or become a mentee yourself, there is so much more out there if we are all just willing to take that next step to meet, engage, learn, and inspire. What are you waiting for?

Questions to Consider:

  1. If academics believe mentoring is one solution to help minimize the work-readiness gap in the field, what can we do now to make mentoring available nationwide?
  2. What do you think the requirements should be for someone who wants to be a mentor?
  3. How can each veteran interpreter find a way to assist the novice interpreters entering the field?
  4. How can each novice interpreter find a way to assist the veteran interpreters in the field?

For a more in-depth look at the research by Kimberly Boeh please visit http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/26/.

References:

Ball, C. (2013). Legacies and legends: History of interpreter education from 1800 to the 21st century. Edmonton, Alberta Canada: Interpreting Consolidated.

Boeh, K.A. (2016). Mentoring: Fostering the profession while mitigating the gap. Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies (MAIS) Theses. Paper 26.

Cokely, D. (2005). Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in the relationship of interpreters and the deaf community. In M. Marschark, R. Peterson, E. A. Winston, P. Sapere, C. M. Convertino, R. Seewagen & C. Monikowski (Eds.), Sign language interpreting and interpreter education: Directions for research and practice (pp. 3-28). Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Decker, L.J. (2015). Sign language interpreter education: Returning to deaf heart. Street Leverage. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/01/sign-language-interpreter-education-returning-to-deaf-heart/

Delk, L. (2013, February 28). Interpreter mentoring: A theory-based approach to program design and evaluation (Rep.). Retrieved from National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers website: http://www.interpretereducation.org/ aspiring-interpreter/mentorship/mentoring-toolkit/articles/.

Ott, E. (2015). Horizontal violence: Can sign language interpreters break the cycle? Street Leverage. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/03/horizontal-violence-can-sign-language-interpreters-break-the-cycle/.

RID. (2007). Standard Practice Paper. Mentoring. Retrieved December 20, 2015 from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLdcGktcFhxaS1jSUE/view

Winston, B. & Lee, R. G. (2013). Introduction. In B. Winston & R. G. Lee (Eds.), Mentorship in sign language interpreting (pp. v-viii). Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

 

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What Makes Us Tick? Sign Language Interpreters, Values & Motivation

What Makes Us Tick? Sign Language Interpreters, Values & Motivation

Knowledge of personal beliefs and value systems enhance a sign language interpreter’s professional practice. Audrey Ramirez-Loudenback posits articulating our “why” may positively impact job satisfaction and longevity in the field.

I embarked on this research as a student in Western Oregon University’s MA in Interpreting Studies with a belief that our motivations will influence every part of our professional practice. Literature confirms that values are the foundation for any decision making process, whether a person is consciously aware of this or not (Amentrano, 2014; Brown, 2002; Rokeach 1970, 1974). As sign language interpreters, our responsibility is to start identifying and articulating the values that are expressed through our choices.

[View post in ASL]

Values have been discussed by many in the field of sign language interpreting (Bienvenu, 1987; Cokely, 2000; Dean & Pollard, 2013), including here on Street Leverage (Meckler, 2014). My research attempted to take what we know about values and collect information via an online survey from a large sample of sign language interpreters and interpreting students about their own personally held value systems to see what kind of patterns and trends emerged.  

Values That Motivate

The survey included the Portrait Values Questions (PVQ), an instrument used to collect data that was designed by Dr. Schwartz, a researcher and teacher in the field of Psychology (Schwartz, 1994, 2012, Schwartz et al., 2001, Schwartz et al., 2012). The survey also included questions about demographics and one open-ended question. I received 298 completed responses from interpreters and interpreting students all over the United States. A large portion of the research results centered on the responses to the open-ended question; respondents were asked to briefly describe their reasons for becoming an interpreter.

My findings showed that most respondents described reasons for entering the field that were not congruent with the value system expressed in their PVQ results (Ramirez-Loudenback, 2015). One recurrent example of this incongruity was a response that described a pleasure derived from using American Sign Language. A common example of this was “I fell in love with the language”. Most respondents that had a response similar to this example had results from their PVQ that did not match the values expressed with this idea of loving a language.

Much work has been done in the area of occupational fit and values (Amentrano, 2014; Brown, 2002; Watt & Richardson, 2007). This literature shows that values are an important part of choosing an occupation. One question that emerged from my research was about the consequence of having reasons for choosing to become a sign language interpreter that are not in-line with an individual’s personal value system (prioritization of essential values). I believe that we should be encouraging all emerging interpreters to consider how their values are being expressed in the choice to pursue this profession. This will lead pre-professionals to consider if interpreting will provide a career in which they can have the longevity and satisfaction that comes with an occupation that is congruent with their value system.

Values That Divide & Unite

My research also indicated a variation in value systems from respondents who did not identify as “White/Caucasian” compared to those that did identify as “White/Caucasian”. It is natural for individuals from distinct cultures to prioritize values differently. In fact, one of the reasons Schwartz developed this theory and model was to examine values across cultures (1994; Schwartz et al., 2001). The proportion of respondents (11%) who identified with an ethnic group other than “White/Caucasian” (89%) matches fairly closely with RID’s membership data, which was 87.7% (Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, 2014, p. 58). Within the small number of respondents who did identify as “Asian/Asian-American” or “Latino/Hispanic,” a stark contrast in the prioritization of values with the overall group emerged. Those that identified as “Latino/Hispanic” or “Asian/Asian American” ranked conformity the highest of all ten value types. Conformity includes the values of “Politeness, obedience, self-discipline, honoring parents and elders” (Bardi & Schwartz, 2003, p. 1208). The mean for the overall sample, of 298 participants, ranked conformity 5th out of the ten value types. I believe this leads us to some important questions as a professional community of sign language interpreters and interpreter educators regarding recruitment and retention of interpreters from diverse cultures. What is the experience of being raised with and having a value system that often seems to contrast or even conflict with the majority of your peers/colleagues? How does the majority’s value system create barriers for others to be heard and understood?

Through my study of this topic and my own experience with Supervision Sessions as a Supervision Leader for Western Oregon University’s Professional Supervision of Interpreting Practice (PSIP) program, I have noticed that most ethical conflicts can be reframed through the lens of values (Cokely, 2000; Dean & Pollard, 2013; Glover, Bumpus, Logan, & Ciesla, 1997; Karacaer, Gohar, Aygun, & Sayin, 2009; Meckler, 2014). Most dilemmas can be rephrased by asking: How are the values I am prioritizing conflict with my team/consumer/setting in this moment? Using Schwartz’ Motivational Values Theory and Model we could teach interpreting students and emerging professionals to view professional ethics in a way that is less deontological (right vs. wrong) by framing them in terms of competing values. This could improve professional discourse and lead to deeper reflective practice. When we have the language to articulate those conflicting values, I believe we can engage in a more productive conversation about how to navigate a conflict, one that honors the integrity of all involved.

Start Early for Positive Outcomes

Beginning this self-assessment of personal value systems early in an interpreter’s career may lead to richer dialogue about the impact of those values on ethical decision making. Values not only have profound impact on the choice to become a sign language interpreter, but also the choices in which settings to work, which consumers we feel we ‘match’, and the ethical standards we practice every day.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What motivated you to become an interpreter?
  2. What values do you see represented in your response to question 1?
  3. Which values do you hold dear that have the greatest impact on your work?
  4. Identify a time in your professional history when you thought a colleague was acting unethically. How can you reframe their choices and your own choices in terms of values that were being prioritized and conflicted?

References:

Amentrano, I. R. (2014). Teaching ethical decision making: Helping students reconcile personal and professional values. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92,154 161. doi: 10.1002/j 1556-6676.2014.00143.x

Bardi, A., & Schwartz, S. H. (2003). Values and behavior: Strength and structure of relations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(10), 1207-1220.  doi: 10.1177/0146167203254602

Brown, D. (2002). The role of work and cultural values in occupational choice, satisfaction, and success: A theoretical statement. Journal of Counseling & Development, 80(1), 48-56. doi: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2002.tb00165.x

Bienvenu, M. J. (1987, April). The third culture: Working together (M. L. McIntire, Trans.). Address delivered to the Sign Language Interpreters of California. Retrieved from http://www.stringham.net/doug/uvuasl/3330/ 3330_bienvenu_thirdculture.pdf

Cokely, D. (2000). Exploring ethics: A case for revising the code of ethics. Journal of Interpretation 10(1), 25-57.

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q. (2013) The demand control schema: Interpreting as a practice profession. North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace.

Glover, S. H., Bumpus, M. A., Logan, J. E., & Ciesla, J. R. (1997). Re-examining the influence of individual values on ethical decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(12/13), 1319-1329. doi: 10.1023/A:1005758402861

Karacaer, S., Gohar, R., Aygun, M., & Sayin, C. (2009). Effects of personal values on auditor’s ethical decisions: A comparison of Pakistani and Turkish professional auditors. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(53), 53-64. doi: 10.1007/s10551-0091012-4

Meckler, A. (2014, June 17). Beyond Ethics: Rules Versus Values for Sign Language Interpreters. Retrieved November 20, 2014, from http://www.streetleverage.com/2014/06/beyond-ethics-rules-versus-values-for-sign-language-interpreters/

Ramirez-Loudenback, A. (2015). Are we here for the same reason? Exploring the motivational values that shape the professional decision making of signed language interpreters. (unpublished Master’s thesis). Western Oregon University. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/25

Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (2014). The Views. Winter, 2014. Retrieved from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3DKvZMflFLda0pDVkZqZDRqYUk/view?usp=sharing.

Rokeach, M. (1970). Beliefs, attitudes and values: A theory of organizational change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Rokeach, M. (1979). Understanding human values individual and societal. New York, NY: The Free Press.  85

Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and contents of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50(4), 19-45.

Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An overview of Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Reading in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). doi:  10.9707/2307-0919.1116

Schwartz, S. H., Melech, G., Lehmann, A., Burgess, S., Harris, M., & Owens, V. (2001). Extending the cross-cultural validity of the theory of basic human values with a different method of measurement. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32(5), 519-542.

Schwartz, S. H., Cieciuch, J., Vecchione, M., Davidov, E., Fisher, R., Beierlein, C., Konty, M. (2012). Refining the theory of basic individual values. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(4), 663-588.  doi: 10.1037/a0029393

Watt, H. M., & Richardson, P. W. (2007). Motivational factors influencing teaching as a career choice: Development and validation of the FIT-Choice Scale. The Journal of Experimental Education, 75(3), 167-202. doi: 10.3200/JEXE.75.3.167-20

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IEP: Faculty Composition Impacts Sign Language Interpreter Readiness

IEP: Faculty Composition Impacts Sign Language Interpreter Readiness

By investing in a faculty rich in diversity, skills and experience, Joseph Featherstone believes Interpreter Education Programs can enhance sign language interpreting students’ readiness while upholding high standards of practice.

There’s been a lot of focus on interpreter readiness, especially for recent graduates of Interpreter Education Programs (IEP). As a Deaf person who often uses sign language interpreting services, as an educator teaching university-level ASL courses, and as a CDI, I want to share some observations and insights that will increase the likelihood that an IEP will turn out graduates who are ready to function as effective interpreters.

[View post in ASL]

Identifying Gatekeepers

I remember once getting a call from a friend who teaches ASL. She had a question about a former student of mine.

“Should I accept her into the program? Or is she going to waste a spot for a potential interpreter?”

It hadn’t occurred to me how my ASL classes impact the Deaf community by feeding ITPs and educating prospective interpreters.

At that moment, I realized, as an ASL instructor, I was a gatekeeper.     

Historically, Deaf community members acted as exclusive gatekeepers and chose who would become interpreters (Ball, 2013., Cokely, 2005., & Fant, 1990). In the 1960s and ‘70s, sign language interpreters were most often those who were already connected to the Deaf Community – children of Deaf parents, close friends, siblings, and pastors of congregations (Cokely, 2005). With time, though, government support for sign language interpreting grew, new trends emerged, and the mode of gatekeeping shifted.

Nowadays, the most common way to become an interpreter is via classroom education through schools and interpreter training programs (Ball, 2013). Due to this change, the role of gatekeeper has now expanded to include a variety of instructors from these schools and programs.

In his article, It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter, Brian Morrison says, “Rather than viewing interpreter education programs negatively or putting the sole onus on them for having not taught students all they need to know, we can shift our focus to building on their existing foundation.”

I couldn’t agree more.

After the phone call from my friend, my epiphany snowballed. I realized that as an instructor and a gatekeeper, I had the unique opportunity to prepare my students to connect into the Deaf community. I wasn’t on just one side anymore; I had a responsibility to set high standards and teach my students to these standards.

And I’m not the only one. Every instructor along a student’s journey, from those teaching introductory ASL to those teaching the most advanced IEP courses, have a dual role—teaching and gatekeeping. Everyone.

As Morrison says, it takes a village.

For that reason, I encourage IEP directors to evaluate their faculty’s backgrounds and experiences. It does take a village to raise a sign language interpreter, and it takes a village to keep the standards of sign language interpreting high.

The Village

The village, like the gatekeeper, is a metaphor. Village members represent members of the Deaf community in all their variety. In earlier times, the village helped mentor and nurture a budding interpreter to grow in language and cultural fluency.

Today, sign language interpreters are graduating and passing certifications without being immersed in that surrounding village, leaving a gap between them and the Deaf community.

As an interpreter, instructor, and Deaf individual, I’ve seen how this gap affects all of us involved in the IEP student’s journey and how it affects our roles as gatekeepers.

In addition to more and more encouragement (or a requirement) to go out and spend precious time participating in the Deaf community, I propose that IEP directors and boards bring a little bit of the village to the interpreter—for preparation and evaluation.

This sampling of the village cannot replace the knowledge, skills, and experience interpreting students gain by spending time in the Deaf community. But, a faculty that reflects the diversity of the village can help students more quickly build their knowledge, skills, and cultural fluency. And time is short to prepare interpreters to reach graduation.

Who, then, do we bring in from the village?

I’d like to introduce you to four of what I call the village elders: the Native English-Speaker, the Native ASL Signer, the Bilingual Native, and the CDI.

The Village Elders

The Native English-Speaker:

Instructors who are English natives, for whom ASL is an acquired language, aren’t difficult to find. These are hearing instructors. Because they are common, their role in the village can become ambiguous without the context of the other faculty.

As a Native English-Speaker, this elder has the distinct trait of native fluency in English. They share this English first language acquisition with most of their interpreting students. The depth of their understanding of the nuances of English can only help as they interpret in situations rich with jargon or cultural queues (e.g., a hospital visit).

In large part, Native English-Speakers can identify with their interpreter students’ journey because it is one they had to make themselves: they once had to pass by gatekeepers and gain entrance to the Deaf community and the village.

The Native ASL Signer:

Typically a deaf teacher with native ASL fluency, having a Native ASL Signer teaching ASL or ITP classes cannot be undervalued. It’s always preferable in terms of language acquisition to have a native speaker teaching the mother tongue rather than someone who learned it later. Often, the ASL native not only has a primary language learner’s understanding of ASL but also can share their experience and knowledge as a member of the Deaf community.

In the classroom, they represent the Deaf perspective on sign language interpreting. Through their instruction, IEP students can gain a better appreciation for the Deaf community and can develop a basic cultural fluency to build on outside of class.

Many IEPs do not employ Native ASL Signers for classes other than ASL. There are classes that could benefit from a Deaf native’s perspective, like ethics and translation. Wouldn’t it be amazing if each of these village elders could teach an ethics course each semester and offer their different perspectives?

The Bilingual Native:

Bilingual Natives have native fluency in both ASL and English, such as Children of Deaf Adults (CODA). Because they most likely grew up with ASL as their first language, the Bilingual Native more intimately understands the Deaf way. That’s not to say that that they are more invested in the Deaf community than those who learned ASL in school, but that their relationship with the Deaf community is more direct, and as such, they are greatly impacted by the state of the Deaf community.

Bilingual Natives also have a strong understanding of English and can teach on the intersection between the Deaf and Hearing communities, especially as it relates to interpreting.

The CDI:

This may be the most under-utilized Village Elder. A CDI can be instrumental in the holistic development of an interpreting student. Their experience as a Deaf community member and a certified interpreter helps them bridge the perspective gap between ITP students and the Deaf community. They understand the feelings of being a client, and they understand the pressures of being a sign language interpreter.

Sometimes interpreting students view Deaf teachers as skilled in the language but less able to identify with the mechanics of interpreting. CDIs like myself are able to relate on both levels. We are Deaf. We are also not just interpreters, but interpreters who are more often called in for extreme, high-stress, high-stakes interpreting situations. We typically have more experience in the trenches where interpreting mistakes can be disastrous.

The unique CDI role provides us with a distinct perspective and understanding of the interpreting process, the Code of Professional Conduct established by RID, as well as the feelings of interpreters and the recipients of interpreting services—not to mention, CDIs know firsthand the best practices for team interpreting with other CDIs and hearing interpreters.

CDIs have a lot to offer IEP students. It’s been my experience that recent graduates from programs with a CDI on faculty exhibit a more refined situational awareness.

In The End

To rephrase Morrison: “Imagine the outcomes when the new student and the [Village Elders] learn and grow from sharing their knowledge with each other.”  Skill development is quickest when in the community. For our students, that means taking every opportunity to encourage their interaction with allies, advocates, and members of the Deaf community and providing them with a faculty that reflects the strength and diversity of our community.

Questions For Consideration

  1. What skills or perspectives do you and your faculty have that contribute to the sense of the village in your program? What additional skills or perspectives could benefit your program?  
  2. How do you think IEPs can better build a sense of the village and gatekeeping?
  3. Why do you think it takes a village to raise a sign language interpreter?

References

  1. Ball, C. (2013). Legacies and legends: History of interpreter education from 1800 to the 21st century. Edmonton, AB: Interpreting Consolidated.
  2. Cokely, D. (2005). Shifting positionality: A critical examination of the turning point in the relationship of interpreters and the deaf community. In M. Marshcark, R. Peterson & E.
  3. Fant, L. (1990). Silver threads: A personal look at the first twenty-five years of the registry of interpreters for the deaf. Silver Spring, MD: RID Publications.
  4. Morrison, B. (2013). It Takes a Village to Raise a Sign Language Interpreter. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from https://www.streetleverage.com/2013/09/it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-sign-language-interpreter/
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Where’s the Welcome Mat? Opening the Door to Deaf Interpreters

Where’s the Welcome Mat? Opening the Door to Deaf Interpreters

Deaf Interpreters (DI) bring a wealth of cultural and linguistic experience to Interpreter Education. Jeremy Rogers investigated the DI experience with Education Programs resulting in some practical recommendations for how to better welcome them to the table.

 

In 2014, Eileen Forestal, PhD, RSC, presented at StreetLeverage – Live in Austin, Texas. One of the most poignant statements she made was, “Deaf Interpreters have been involved every step of the way since the beginning of the profession. Deaf Interpreters are here to stay. We will shape the future of the profession for all interpreters whose work includes American Sign Language and English” (Forestal, 2014). In 2016, I found that working Deaf interpreters and Deaf interpreting students did not share the same outlook.

[View post in ASL.]

I was introduced to the concept of Deaf interpreters early on in my college education. Originally majoring in elementary education, I decided to take American Sign Language to fulfill my language requirement. I randomly selected an ASL 100 course that fit into my schedule. The instructor happened to be a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). Eventually, I changed majors to interpreting and transferred to Gallaudet University for my Bachelor’s in Interpretation. While at Gallaudet, I regularly observed Deaf/Hearing interpreting teams, as well as Deaf/Blind interpreting done primarily by CDIs. Having such consistent exposure to Deaf interpreters falsely led me to believe that working with Deaf interpreters was common practice. I quickly realized after I returned to California that this was not the case.

When I began working as a Video Relay Service (VRS) interpreter, I was again surprised to find that we did not have Deaf interpreters in the call center. Staffing Deaf interpreters seemed like such a logical component in video relay settings, especially having such high call volume for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) calls. What was even more surprising was the number of colleagues I had whom had never worked with a Deaf interpreter before. Some colleagues even scoffed at the idea that they would need a Deaf interpreting team; after all, they knew ASL and had been doing this for years! I soon realized this was no longer a simple theme I was encountering; it was a very serious problem.

Research Process

I began my graduate studies at Western Oregon University in 2014. After considering dozens of topics of interest, it struck me: What is Deaf interpreter education? What does Deaf interpreter education look like and how can it be most effective? The magnitude of these research questions was overwhelming. I needed expert guidance, and so I asked Carole Lazorisak, a working Deaf interpreter, to join my research committee. There was no way I could define most effective approaches to Deaf interpreter education, as I am not a Deaf interpreter; I could, however, reach out to working Deaf interpreters and Deaf interpreting students to gain insight into their educational experiences. In June of 2015, the first national Deaf Interpreter Conference was held in St. Paul, Minnesota. I mailed consent forms to St. Paul to be distributed at the conference; out of 208 registrants in attendance, 52 registrants completed and returned a consent form. 8 additional participants completed the consent form. In the end, 9 participants were selected for an interview. Interviews were conducted via videophone or online video conferencing platform and screen recorded for documentation. Interviews were then transcribed from ASL to English; initial transcriptions were returned to the interviewees for feedback and corrections, and, once approved, the transcripts were coded for data.

 

Findings of Research Study

While the full findings of the research study can be found below, I would like to share the more unexpected findings that came to light. I was disheartened to discover that there was such a common theme of interpersonal/intrapersonal strife amongst Deaf interpreters; that is, the negative perceptions that Deaf interpreters had of themselves, not only because of the experiences they had in interpreting programs, but also working in the field alongside hearing interpreters. Several interview participants reflected on their experiences in both interpreting programs and workshop settings and noted a strong sense of distrust by hearing interpreters; many of these same Deaf interpreters criticized the constant emphasis on interpreters’ hearing status rather than the skills and abilities they had to contribute to the interpreting process.

Perhaps the most disturbing theme that arose from the interviews conducted was the resigned acceptance of the conditions of our current climate. Several participants concluded that even though they recognized the injustices in place, there was very little to be done if they hoped to continue to work as Deaf interpreters. One participant went so far as to state, “I take it from hearing interpreters right now because I am working toward building my reputation and securing more opportunities for myself. If I am not careful with how I react, I am risking my job security” (Rogers, 2016). Another participant commented, “If the bickering and arguing and discord between Deaf and hearing teams continues, hearing interpreters are going to continue being resistant to working with us. And that means less work for us in the end” (Rogers, 2016).

Recommendations by Participants

Participants were asked for their insight and recommendations for improving Deaf interpreter education in existing interpreting programs across the nation; both working Deaf interpreters and Deaf interpreting students made the following recommendations:

  1. Stronger Deaf presence in interpreter education: participants stressed the importance of hiring more Deaf faculty members to teach in interpreting programs, as well as maintaining higher numbers of Deaf interpreting students so as to avoid any perceived or actual tokenism. Participants also encouraged interpreting programs to invite the Deaf community into the classroom to participate in interpreting exercises; this would allow for more authentic interpreting practice.
  2. Skill sets to be focused on: a strong emphasis was placed on Deaf interpreting students’ command of both English and American Sign Language, noting that being a heritage user of either language did not qualify a Deaf student as linguistically capable. In regards to curriculum design, participants generally believed that hearing and Deaf students should learn together in interpreting programs, but that some courses should taken independently to address skills specific to Deaf interpreters (i.e. gestural communication, expansions techniques, ethical decision-making practices).
  3. Support for Deaf interpreter education on a national level: as most of the participants were in attendance at the 2015 Deaf Interpreter Conference (DIC), there were several comments made in reference to the DIC. All comments made were supportive of the conference and many participants stressed the importance of continuing to provide opportunities for Deaf interpreters to gather at a national, or even regional, level; this would encourage a sharing of ideas and information, thus nurturing the growth of Deaf interpreters’ education and practice.

It is time for us, as a profession, as a community, to reflect on Forestal’s words and remember that Deaf interpreters are here

to stay. As a hearing interpreter, I am humbled and honored to have been afforded the unique opportunity to record and share the experiences of Deaf interpreters who came long before me; I wish to again thank all of the participants of this research study for their time and commitment to our work.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are your thoughts on Deaf interpreter education and curricula design?
  2. How can we address the interpersonal/intrapersonal issues plaguing the dynamics of our field?
  3. How can Deaf interpreter education gain more support on a national level?

References

  1. Forestal, E. (2014). Deaf Interpreters: Shaping the Future of the Sign Language Interpreting Profession. Street Leverage. Retrieved from https://www.streetleverage.com/2015/02/deaf-interpreters-shaping-the-future-of-the-sign-language-interpreting-profession/
  2. Rogers, Jeremy, “Deaf Interpreter Education: Stories and Insights Shared by Working Deaf Interpreters and Deaf Interpreting Students” (2016). Master’s of Arts in Interpreting Studies (MAIS) Theses. Paper 31. http://digitalcommons.wou.edu/theses/31
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Taking Ownership: Defining Our Work As Sign Language Interpreters

Taking Ownership: Defining Our Work As Sign Language Interpreters

As sign language interpreters, we understand the importance of accurately communicating concepts in our choice of words and signs. It’s time to start applying that knowledge to the way we talk about our own work.

Semantics Matter: Using Precise Language

In the field of sign language interpreting, there recently has been a shift toward doing what Napier, McGee, and Goswell (2010) have suggested – naming the actual languages involved in the interpretation. This means that the term “voicing” should not be used as it does not appropriately state what we do when we render a signed utterance into a spoken one. We interpret from ASL into English. Kelly (2004) stated that the term “voicing” is “merely a vocalization of the signs used, not a true interpretation” (p. 1). I have thought about this shift of terminology and it is befitting to better describe what we do as sign language interpreters. That trend can be seen in Interpreting Programs where classes that were once called “Sign to Voice” or “Voice to Sign” have now been renamed “ASL to English” or “English to ASL”.

[Click to view post in ASL]

If you think about it, sign language interpreters are not avatars; we do not have a script that we read off of like voice actors, we do not say exactly what the Deaf consumers with whom we work sign, we interpret. This means that we take into account the pragmatic information about the assignment, the background knowledge, culture, educational level, body language, facial expressions and what is being signed. From all of that, we then interpret what is being said, selecting words that reflect the Deaf consumer’s purpose and are idiomatic to the situation. The goal of a good ASL to English interpretation is to make it sound as natural as possible and to ensure our word choices flow with the communication context taking place.

Culturally Accurate Language Use

Somewhere along the way, sign language interpreters started to use the term “voicing” and this morphed into more than just meaning to interpret from ASL to English; now it is being used to as a synonym for talking (using audible speech) in the interpreting community. This is not how the majority of hearing culture speaks. How often have you heard someone who is not associated with the field of interpreting say, “Is it okay if we voice?” Normally, in hearing culture one may ask, “Is it okay if we talk?” It seems we forget how to speak like those outside of our field.

Sign language interpreters should be considering the hearing consumer as much as they consider the Deaf consumer. The interpretation should be such that neither of the consumers have to re-interpret what was said to make sense. Sign language interpreters should speak in idiomatic terms that sound natural to English speakers. In the hearing world the term “voice” is not typically used as a verb. It is not used to mean “speaking.” As professionals who are supposed to be bilingual and bicultural, we need to know how to make the message sound idiomatic for all parties involved. Kelly (2012) noted that the message needs to “sound or look as normal as possible to the consumers involved in the interaction” (p. 7).

At a Video Relay Service Interpreter Institute (VRSII) Interpreter Educator Symposium, Sharon Neumann Solow made a good point about the term “voicing,” explaining that to many outside of the sign language interpreting field, that term means to have an opinion included. We hear people say, “I want to voice my opinion about. . . . ” As sign language interpreters, we learn that we are not to interject our opinions into our work. When we state “I will be interpreting all communication from ASL to English and from English to ASL,” this clearly defines what we do as interpreters.

At a presentation I attended at Gallaudet, Dirksen Bauman said that he did not know he was “hearing” until he was close to twenty years old (I cannot recall the exact age he gave). For those of us who were not born into the Deaf community, we did not know the term “hearing” before we entered this field . Members of American majority culture do not use that term in their vocabulary. Carla Mathers has noted in her legal trainings that the word “hearing” should not be used when interpreting into English as it holds a completely different meaning in the courts. Again, it is important we are using terms that are used in the communities in which we work. By doing so, we are ensuring the Deaf person sounds natural and the hearing consumers do not have to reinterpret what was just said because they are not familiar with the terms used by the interpreting community.

Differences or Disservices?

If we are not using terms that are used by the hearing majority when we interpret into English, are we truly matching the speaker in a way that can be clearly understood by all? Are we doing a disservice to the Deaf consumers by making them sound “different”? If we are, are we truly bilingual? Are we truly interacting and collaborating with others in words and phrases that clearly explain the work we do?  I know that I personally can think of a few times when I used a term such as “voicing” or “hearing” and the hearing consumer asked me about it. Those terms are not native sounding in English to those outside of our field. This does a disservice to the participants. Terms are used that are unfamiliar to the hearing clients which often reflect negatively on the Deaf consumers.

We are active participants in the interpretation.  As Robert Lee stated in his StreetLeverage article, “Interpret + Person: Presentation of Self and Sign Language Interpreters”, “by not utilizing the cultural and linguistic identities we have to communicate between the Deaf and Hearing parties more naturally, we end up creating more problems.”

Over the past few years, the trend of accurately naming our work – interpreting from ASL to English – has been increasing as we work to elevate our profession. It seems that, at times, we ignore the needs of the hearing consumers and focus solely on the needs of Deaf consumers. Both are equally important and deserve messages that are delivered in ways  that are readily understood. All parties deserve an interpretation that is conveyed in a natural way.

Application

To raise the status of our profession, we should challenge each other to speak in terms that precisely state what we do. Change does not come quickly or, at times, easily. The challenge is for all of us to start owning our work and stating what we do: we interpret into English. This can be accomplished in many simple ways. When you see the sign “VOICE”, interpret it as “speaking in English” or “spoken English” or “interpreting into English” (depending on the context). When you see the sign “VOICE-OFF”, interpret it as “there will be no speaking English” or “there will be no talking” or “do not use spoken English”. The same can be said with the sign HEARING: this can be interpreted as “people who can hear”. Teachers who work in interpreting programs should encourage students to start speaking in terms that are readily understood by the hearing populations with whom they will work. Talking to other colleagues in the profession about the work and looking at it from a more objective point of view will help all of us improve our skills. The change starts with you. We interpret from ASL into English.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What resistance may there be to stating what we do?
  2. Are you willing to change how you speak?
  3. What positive impacts can you see happening based on this slight shift in how we own our work?
  4. What other terms do we (interpreters and the Deaf community) use that could be stated more clearly?

Related Posts

Sign Language Interpreters’ Attire Leaves a First Lasting Impression by Jackie Emmart, Matt Etemad-Gilbertson, Kristy Moroney,  Lena Dumont, SooJin Chu, Laura O’Callahan, and Will English.

Do Sign Langauge Interpreter Accents Compromise Comprehension? by Carol Padden

Sign Language Interpreters and the Quest for Cultural Competence by Marlene Elliott

References:

Kelly, J. E. (2004). ASL-to-English interpretation: Say it like they mean it. Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

Kelly, J. E. (2012), Interactive Interpreting: Let’s Talk. Alexandria, VA: RID Press.

Napier J., McKee, R., & Goswell, D. (2010). Sign language interpreting: Theory & practice in Australia & New Zealand. Sydney: Federation Press.

Bienvenu, MJ (2014). Bilingualism are sign language interpreters bilinguals? http://www.streetleverage.com/2015/05/bilingualism-are-sign-language-interpreters-bilinguals/

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Critical Path: A Reboot of Sign Language Interpreter Education

Critical Path: A Reboot of Sign Language Interpreter Education

It’s time for a reboot of sign language interpreter education.  Two year interpreting programs should become pre-professional programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree in interpreting.

As professional sign language interpreters and sign language interpreter educators, we all understand the difficult work we are tasked with and we recognize when it’s working and when it’s not. Recently, four such professionals met over a three-day period to think about the current state of interpreter education and how sign language interpreter preparation needs to change. Each of us in that group of four brought differing experiences to the table and more professional hats than we care to count. We believe that many in the field have known this conversation is desperately needed, but more than that, it is time to act.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Our group includes interpreter educators, a Deaf professional, an interpreter educator with Deaf parents, a parent of Deaf children, and a leader in a post-secondary interpreter education program. We worry about the skills of the interpreter who arrives to interpret for our Deaf mother and father, about whether our Deaf children will understand the interpreter who comes to basketball practice, and if we will be able to find an interpreter who is adequately prepared for the highly academic and intellectual meeting we attend. We each choose to believe we can make a difference. It was Margaret Mead who stated, to “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

It is time to radically examine how we prepare sign language interpreters nationwide. For far too long we have recognized that the preparation of an interpreter is nearly impossible to do in a two-year time period – whether those two years are part of a two-year associate degree program or the last two years of a baccalaureate degree program. We believe it is now time for community action. Collectively, we need to rethink how we prepare sign language interpreters and recognize that it takes a village to fully prepare interpreters. We are answering the call to action asked for by Cindy Volk in her Street Leverage article Sign Language Interpreter Education: Time for a National Call to Action.

The proposed reformation is a three-legged stool; that is, the seat is a new way of preparing sign language interpreters who are linguistically and culturally empowered to making a lasting difference, and the three legs are what we need to do to support this change, namely empowering educators, enhancing the curriculum and establishing a strong foundation in language and culture.

Empowering Educators

More often than not, we teach how we were taught. This is a widely accepted notion and one that rings true in many fields of study. Consequently, there is a need to provide training on how to effectively teach, assess our students on their progress towards mastering course outcomes and develop the curriculum. If we are to reform how we educate sign language interpreters, we have to first give educators the tools they need to not only rethink interpreter education but to change it. We need to prepare educators of today to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Enhancing the Curriculum

It has often been stated that the challenge of preparing a student to be a sign language interpreter in a two-year program is simply insurmountable. The four of us have heard repeatedly from faculty in associate level programs that they just can’t get it all in the allotted number of courses. We’ve heard from faculty at baccalaureate level programs that all too often they receive students from associate programs who do not possess the necessary language skills to proceed. We all need to be held accountable and take action to correct this.

Four-year programs need to be able to depend on two-year programs to fully prepare students for entry into the major of sign language interpreting. Two-year programs need to depend upon four-year programs to close the circle and complete the preparation so that students leaving are well-prepared for the field. Both two-year and four-year programs need to be involved with preparing interpreters in a complementary way rather than a competing or exclusive manner.

We suggest a reconsideration of the purpose of two-year programs. They should be pre-professional programs, with a focus on the foundations of interpreting. Courses should include ASL, translation, social justice, Deaf culture, pre-interpreting skills, and a stronger emphasis on the English language. In addition, interpreting programs should capitalize on the general education curriculum by creating a two year initial sequence that enhances the outcomes of students who are fully prepared to enter into interpreting programs with all the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to succeed.

 Ensuring Strong Foundations in Language and Culture 

As Lou Fant stated in 1974, “Prime prerequisite for an interpreter of any language is mastery of the languages he wishes to interpret. It seems so obvious that one feels embarrassed, almost, to mention it, yet I fear it is too often not given sufficient attention.”1 We would all agree that one of the most critical aspects of preparing future sign language interpreters is the development of a strong foundation in the languages they will use as interpreters. It is impossible to learn skills in interpreting, while also learning a second language. As a field, it is time we acknowledge this and require a strong foundation in ASL and English before entry into a sign language interpreting program. Rather than use two-year college programs to try and prepare students for the interpreting profession, why not use such programs to give students the linguistic and cultural foundations needed to then enter an interpreter education program?

Recommendations

  • Establish a taskforce to examine a Deaf/hearing co-teaching model to develop foundational fluency in ASL for students entering interpreter training programs.

  • Establish a track at the CIT biennial conference to address the need for reformation.

  • Begin discussions about the possibility of adding specialty areas of preparation (education, legal, medical, etc.) to interpreter education programs.

  • Examine the proliferation of interpreter education programs to determine if the need truly exists for so many programs.

  • Begin a discussion between program directors from both two-year and four-year programs on how to develop a national interpreter education curriculum and outcomes.

  • Research how competency-based education may be a model for our field.

  • Research how theories, models and frameworks of spoken language apply to the preparation of signed language interpreters.

An Example

An example of how two groups (e.g., two-year and four-year programs) can work together is the recent efforts of University of Arizona (UA) and Pima Community College (PCC).  Currently, these two institutions are collaborating on the development of a framework that will  address many of the issues raised in this article. The goal is to create a 2+2 program whereby students will begin at PCC with a focus on ASL skills and pre-interpreting skills. Students would then transfer to UA where they will study the interpreting process and further refine their skills as sign language interpreters. The language and culture foundations developed at PCC will be critical to the success of the students at UA. Both PCC and UA encourage other such programs in the United States to engage in similar collaborative efforts and, thus, reform how interpreters are prepared.

Conclusion

This type of reformation needs leadership and direction. We recommend that the three key organizations in sign language interpreter education – the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT), the American Sign Language Teachers’ Association (ASLTA), and the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) come together and move forward in realizing this vision. It is our recommendation that the Presidents of these three organizations meet to examine how they can individually contribute to, collaborate on, and lead this reformation.

Reforming sign language interpreter education to graduate skilled, well-prepared interpreters should not be the concern of only a few people, but rather an urgent priority for all stakeholders, including sign language interpreting agencies, VRS companies, parents of Deaf children, children of Deaf parents, ITPs, and Deaf people. The time is indeed now – we must reform sign language interpreter education.

We want to acknowledge the ideas and contributions of several people who helped frame the ideas we’ve presented here. Thank you to Leslie Greer, Jimmy Beldon, and Amy June Rowley.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. How can your program make significant reformations in interpreter education?
  2. Do you think the time is now for such reformation in sign language interpreter education? Why or why not?
  3. Are the ideas presented in this article feasible/possible in your community, state, and in the nation?  If not, why not?

Dr. Carolyn Ball has been an interpreter educator for over 25 years, teaching at Brigham Young University, Salt Lake Community College, William Woods University and the University of North Florida. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the VRS Interpreting Institute (VRSII) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Taralynn Petrites, M.Ed., is the lead faculty of Sign Language and Interpreter Training as well as Department Chair of Behavioral Sciences at Pima Community College (PCC) in Tucson, Arizona. Taralynn has been teaching American Sign Language and Interpreting courses since 2002. She is currently working on her dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership.

Len Roberson, Ph.D., SC:L, CI, CT, has been involved in the fields of deaf education and interpreting for over 28 years. He is an active researcher, interpreter, and interpreter educator. Dr. Roberson is currently Associate Vice-President of Academic Technology and Innovation at the University of North Florida (UNF) and a tenured professor. His current research interests include the study of interpreting in legal settings, distance learning effectiveness, and service-learning in interpreter education.

References

1Fant, L. (1974) JADARA (Journal of Rehabilitation of the Deaf) Volume 7, Issue 3, 1974 (pp. 47 – 69).

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Deaf Interpreters and Repatriation

Deaf Interpreters and Repatriation

This is a cri de coeur that in our headlong rush to commoditization, we not forget our community roots.

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? Mark 8:36

Not long ago, Sign Language interpreting was snug in the hands of deaf communities. Deaf people exerted great influence over the field, as practitioners and as leaders. There was little question then of where interpreting belonged or to whom the benefits of interpreting should accrue. The events of the past 50 years have changed much of this. The re-emergence of Deaf interpreters is hailed as a lifeline to our original purpose as interpreters.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Remembering the Past

Until October 10, 1973, I lurked in the shadows of Deaf World. On that day some of us were hanging around a television. We were actors in a touring theater company, and Harry Reasoner and ABC News were telling us that Vice President Spiro Agnew Had Just Resigned! At least they were telling those who could hear. Some of us who couldn’t hear, were rather too quick, I thought, to demand that I make known physically what Harry Reasoner and ABC News were going on about.

At this point I was nine weeks into Deaf World. I soon discovered some things from my old world that were no longer available; things like literacy and sense of humor in particular. In Deaf World my main schtick of being verbal was less useful, most of the time, than the ability to be funny, smart and/or skilled in physical ways.

But I was an actor, and I had seen interpreters work. I knew I could play the role of interpreter, if not do the job of interpreting. I remember fondly the encouragement from some of my audience, who assured me that my performance was certain to improve with practice and experience.

This was the way it had ever been. Interpreters were forged in the crucible of Deaf communities. Deaf people actively participated in the selection of who would interpret for them and when, and often, how. Deaf people in positions of authority in interpreting were the norm. The adolescent RID from Maryland, USA still lived in its parents’ basement on Thayer Avenue.

But adolescents grow up and grow away. RID moved into its own place and before you know it, here it is 2015, and CDIs are a welcome and growing presence. Of course, deaf people have been involved in interpreting for deaf people ab ovo. Shared access to information is woven into the culture. The RSCs of yesteryear are today rack focused as CDIs.

From Community to Curriculum

For 40 years, interpreting education has wandered the scholastic wilderness: finding prosperity in some few hospitable locations, but barely subsisting in many others. IEPs are often ‘orphan’ programs in their institutions. Sometimes housed in Language departments, but sometimes in Communicative Disorders. Sometimes yoked to vocational programs like air conditioning repair and auto mechanics. The relatively small number of students enrolled makes it difficult for many programs to secure adequate funding from their schools.

There has long been a desire to move interpreting education back, closer to its community roots. Deaf interpreters are an assurance that deaf people will remain strongly represented in and by our field going forward. Both community and interpreting have moved significantly in the last 50 years. Here is a rare opportunity to bridge that gap. By making deaf interpreters stakeholders in our educational programs and in our practice, we are respecting the past and protecting the future.

But why is it so much easier to champion this cause than to accomplish it?

From Curriculum to Commodity

The curricular impact of including deaf students into interpreting education programs is enormous. The inclusion of deaf students into IEPs demands the re-examination and revision of the entire curriculum in terms of standards, equity, and outcomes. This inclusion can have many wonderful benefits, but benefits that might come at significant cost.  The plight of plugging deaf students into existing curricular structures designed for hearing students is considerable. The simple solution of offering instruction exclusively in ASL grossly oversimplifies the problem. Students who cannot yet express themselves adequately in their L1 are not advantaged by being forced prematurely into an L2-only mode. It also disregards the needs of those deaf students whose English fluency wants improvement. MJ Bienvenu does well in reminding us of the importance of interpreters being bilingual.

Similar challenges exist in melding deaf interpreters into existing workforces. Fundamental aspects of team interpreting with deaf interpreters are little understood, little explored. Roles, boundaries, responsibilities, and workloads vary widely, as do standards for education, training, and certification. Much work needs be done on creating norms for teams of deaf and hearing interpreters and for the inclusion of deaf interpreters into the practice of interpreting. NCIEC has done some early, brilliant work in this regard.

It is still early days in this most recent episode of the evolution of sign language interpreting and interpreting education. Those in positions of influence ought to explore deaf interpreting and to do whatever possible to support its natural growth and development. This is the best chance we’ve had in a very long time to bring our practice into balance with our original purpose.

But how do we best support this? Blanket provision of DIs in the absence of demonstrated need simply will not fly in most places. Of all the changes wrought in interpreting over the past half-century, one of the most profound is commoditization. Today Interpreters are both cross-cultural mediators and variables in profit maximization formulae. Interpreting has become a highly competitive billion-dollar industry. Interpretation is a commodity that is readily available at a wide variety of price points.  In this economic climate, it is critical to distinguish need from preference, and cost from value.  Given our recent history, it is not hard to foresee the implementation of Deaf Interpreters being underbid by providers more dedicated to profit than to best practice.

Where Does Interpreting Belong?

Who is to say where interpreting belongs today? Both the defining of interpreters and the definition of interpreting have become quite elastic, allowing for new, remarkable perspectives on the provenance of our craft. Culture and Community have always held strong sway on interpreting. Now, Business clamors about having a proprietary interest as well. Whither interpreting?

The resurgence in Deaf Interpreters could not come at a more auspicious time.

Questions to consider:

  1. Regarding interpreting, how do community standards, academic standards, and professional standards align?
  2. How best to include deaf students in our IEPs and deaf interpreters into our practice
  3. How do we reconcile the new “commodity” value of interpreting with the old “community” value of interpreting?

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Interpreter Education: History is a Relentless Master

Historical Reflections

This presentation was originally shared as part of the 2014 Interpreter Education Month celebration. Special thanks to Dennis, Anna, and Wing for their work and to the National Interpreter Education Center (NIEC) for their support of the session.

Dennis Cokely and Anna Witter-Merithew presented, Interpreter Education: History is a Relentless Master as part of StreetLeverage’s Interpreter Education Month celebration. This presentation  focused on the critical lessons that the field of interpreter education continues to grapple with, the contribution of federal funding to the growth and development of interpreter education, and the lingering questions that need to be answered.

You can find the PPT deck for their presentation here.

[Note from StreetLeverage: What follows is an English translation of Dennis and Anna’s presentation. We would encourage each of you to watch the video and access the presentation in ASL directly.]

[Click here to view presentation in ASL]

Interpreter Education: History is a Relentless Master

Wing Butler:

Hello to all of you joining us from your computers, laptops, mobile devices, etc.  Welcome to this StreetLeverage webinar. We are thrilled that you are all able to join us! We truly have participants from around the globe today, which is amazing to see. We are delighted to have you all here.  My name is Wing Butler and I’m a part of the StreetLeverage “Street Team” providing and supporting social media, advising and a variety of other endeavors. Brandon Arthur has tasked me today to facilitate today’s webinar. I’m thrilled and grateful to Brandon for his confidence in allowing me to facilitate today’s exciting event.

I want to give special thanks to the National Interpreter Education Center (NIEC) for hosting today’s webinar. They are providing technical and staff support, as well as coordination for this event. We are grateful for their participation and assistance in making today’s webinar possible.

I would also like to express our gratitude to our two speakers, Dennis Cokely and Anna Witter-Merithew, for joining us today. It’s an honor to have you both here. As an interpreter, I’ve had the opportunity to observe your work, read your writings, etc. Though you may not be fully aware, you have both educated me from my start as a new interpreter.  As I was up and coming in the field, reading your books and articles, as well as seeing some of your presentations on video, influenced and formed me in my interpreter life. I’ve been interpreting for about 17 years and your work has had a profound impact on my career thus far. So today, I’m especially excited to have the opportunity to be here for your presentation, “Interpreter Education: History is a Relentless Master.” We’ve got quite an event ahead of us. In today’s webinar, you’ll be looking back on our history and the impacts that history has had on the present, in hopes that this reflection can empower us as we consider our path into the future. Thank you both so much for being here.

Obviously, I could provide an extensive description of each of your backgrounds, but I’ll suffice to say that you are both incredibly accomplished individuals and simply pass the presentation into your capable hands. Thank you for your time for today’s presentation. I’m eagerly anticipating this webinar. Thank you! On to you.

 

Anna and Dennis:

Thank you.

 

Anna:

Thank you, Wing, for your introduction. In preparation for today, Dennis and I have met several times to talk and reflect on this topic. I think the biggest takeaway for us after all of that is realizing the number of changes which have occurred, as well as realizing how many amazing people we’ve had the opportunity to meet in the course of our careers.  Many of those wonderful individuals were Deaf people who taught us, led us, provided support and helped us to progress in our careers. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us to reflect on the past, both professionally and personally – to remember parts of our own history and, at the same time, look at the broader history of interpreter education.

Both Dennis and I became involved in interpreting via invitations from the Deaf Community. Our lives have been rooted in the Deaf Community for many years. Dennis has been a teacher of Deaf children, a linguist, a sign language interpreter, a researcher, an interpreter educator, a program developer and has taken on so many other roles. As a leader, Dennis served two terms as the President of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. (RID) as well as serving on the RID board prior to his service as President. There are many other roles he has taken on in the course of his career. As for the roles I have had in my career, I’ve been daughter, sign language interpreter, interpreter educator, program developer, and a leader, as well. I’ve been involved with the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) as well as serving on the RID board at various times.

We are thrilled to have this opportunity to discuss our view of interpreter education from a historical perspective. As our topic indicates, “Interpreter Education: History is a Relentless Master”, we’ve come to realize that history does repeat itself, relentlessly, to teach us important lessons. We both feel there are lessons we have not learned as a profession and we see the same recurring issues which means those issues require more study, consideration and analysis. We have to determine what, if we have identified these as recurring issues, we need to do to unpack the issues and give them a more thorough examination and more reflection. We also need to use the findings from these reflections to help determine our pathway into the future of interpreter education.

Next slide please.

Webinar Goal and Objectives

Anna:

I want to talk about the webinar goal and some of our objectives today.

First, when we look at interpreter education, we must look at the context in which interpreter education exists and has developed. We are going to discuss factors that impact the context of interpreter education. We will also discuss one of the biggest influences – the contribution of federal funding and how federal law has impacted the development of interpreter education.  Finally, we will be identifying reoccurring issues and lingering questions impacting interpreter education. That’s our plan for today.

Next slide.

Socio-Political Context in Which Interpreter Education Exists

Anna:

The slide depicts a series of overlapping circles. There are many factors which influence interpreter education, but for the purposes of our discussion today, we’re going to focus on three of those factors. Education is often very insular. By the same token, interpreter education tends to be very insular, as well – isolated from other disciplines and influences and those who work in this arena often stay in that realm without venturing outside it on a regular basis.

Often, overworked teachers, program administrators, etc., do not have the bandwidth to network and get involved in other aspects of their field. They are often focused on their own program needs, keeping up with their own specialty, etc., rather than taking the opportunities to observe others and reflect on their own practice or how to apply what’s happening in the classroom to the outside world.

When we compare interpreter education at its inception to the state of interpreter education currently, we see that they are vastly different. In earlier times, Deaf people were very engaged in screening for and selecting future interpreters. That happened with both Dennis and me, Deaf Community members recognized, invited and encouraged us to get involved in interpreting, even providing guidance about the kinds of interpreting work we did in the early days. I remember feeling I was ready to take on a variety of interpreting jobs, but often, Deaf Community members would steer me in another direction, letting me know which jobs I was ready to take and which jobs I was still not qualified to do. That role in the process that existed in the early days no longer exists in the current state of interpreter education.

Dennis, did you want to say something?

Dennis:

You are right. I think Deaf people often had a mental roadmap for the progression of a sign language interpreter – which jobs were appropriate and when. This didn’t apply to only specific Deaf people – it was almost like this interpreter roadmap was part of a shared consciousness among Deaf people. In that way, Deaf people still had a modicum of control and could lead interpreters slowly through the progression from beginner to experienced interpreter. You are right about that.

Anna:

Yes. At that time, the Deaf Community had more authority to select interpreters, more involvement in the screening of interpreters. More of the decision-making power regarding interpreters fell to the Deaf community in those early days. Now, the roles have shifted dramatically. Sign language interpreting is more agency-based. Many of those agencies do not involve Deaf people and most are run by hearing people, some of whom do not even have a working knowledge of ASL. Still other agencies are foreign language agencies now tasked with hiring sign language interpreters. We’ve seen a huge shift. In the past, the Deaf Community was very involved with interpreters. For interpreters, there was involvement with and from the Deaf Community. At that time, it was one community working together. Now, it doesn’t feel like one single community. It feels as if there are two separate groups – the interpreters in their own community and the Deaf Community in theirs.

As more new interpreters gain entry into the field, there are no longer those deep bonds with the Deaf Community, with Deaf people. Some of these newer interpreters don’t have those ties, and don’t even know many Deaf people. They may have seen Deaf people on video for practice, but many have never socialized in the Deaf Community or developed deep relationships with the Deaf people in their community. We are realizing that this huge shift from one cohesive community into two separate communities has had a direct impact on interpreter education. Did you want to add something, Dennis?

Dennis:

Yes, I did. In addition to what you’ve described, we’ve seen even more detrimental results of this shift. There are interpreter education programs in the U.S. today which prohibit interpreting students from socializing or interacting in the Deaf Community. They prohibit it. One program requires the students to sign a contract indicating their agreement to avoid any social contact with the Deaf Community citing the small size of the community as their rationale. They believe that socializing in the community could create a conflict of interest if the student later had to interpret for someone they had met in the community. In my mind, that type of logic makes no sense. How can you learn the language of a group of people without interacting with them? And prohibiting that kind of interaction? It defies logic.

Anna:

Right. In addition, if I don’t interact with users of the language, how will I learn to make adaptations in my own language usage or how to set boundaries? How do I learn to negotiate in that language? Yes in this circumstance we are friendly and open, but in another role, another situation is may be different – how does one learn to navigate and put on the proper persona to represent various individuals while interpreting? If we prohibit social contact, we are limiting students’ ability to learn and develop coping skills which are a critical part of the interpreting world.

Dennis:

Right. Yes.

Anna:

So, that’s one layer of influence on interpreter education. In comparing our current situation with the early days in interpreter education, that’s a big change. Another huge shift also occurred. In earlier times, student interpreters had a much easier time finding and meeting Deaf people. They could go to the Deaf Club, attend Deaf events – there were often weekly or regular events where the community came together. The interactions between Deaf people and interpreters occurred regularly and easily. Now, Deaf people come together less regularly and rather than large-group events, gatherings tend to be in smaller groups defined by shared interests like sports, like ski clubs, or poker games, golf, etc. Many Deaf Clubs have closed which is another big change. Even if there are students who are highly motivated and want to go out into the community, where are they going to go? How will they find Deaf people now? In the past, it wasn’t as difficult. That’s another influence we have to consider as interpreter educators.

Another layer of influence is the general social attitude or social trends. When interpreter education programs were first being established, we didn’t have general societal support for ASL as a language, for the users of ASL to sign openly in public spaces, etc. When I was growing up, I remember when going out to do errands and things with my parents. They usually cautioned me not to sign openly in public. They were concerned that people wouldn’t like it, or may perceive it as being rude or that they would be dismissive. We’ve seen a big change in social attitudes and ASL is much more welcome and accepted by the general public. There are even opportunities for hearing people to learn ASL, but it is still rare to see ASL taught to Deaf people in any formal way. Colleges and universities, for the most part, don’t offer Deaf adults the opportunity to learn about their own language, its grammar and structure, etc. It remains a struggle for Deaf individuals to learn ASL as they are left to learn via social avenues only, from peers, etc., rather than in a formal classroom setting supplemented by social exposure.

Dennis:

And it is ironic because more and more hearing people are learning about ASL grammar and structure while many Deaf Community members don’t have access to that information. Hearing individuals often study linguistics and take formal ASL courses while Deaf people have not been afforded those opportunities. It creates an odd situation.

Anna:

There is a dichotomy there. These issues create a unique kind of tension. I see now…well, in the past, it seemed, because interpreters came from within the community, they already knew how to or had learned how to show respect, to know that it is inappropriate and impolite to criticize a Deaf person’s signing, even if they use a sign that is not the one you would have expected. It is respectful to accept the language as it is used, incorporate it in the interaction and move on. As we see more and more people taking linguistics classes, people assume they know more and often communicate that idea to the Deaf people through criticism and correcting a Deaf person’s signs. This is a serious faux pas. Again, this creates a difficult dynamic between the interpreting community and the Deaf Community.  So, again, general society is more accustomed to seeing sign language interpreters, accustomed to encountering and interacting with them, used to seeing people use ASL in public places, even unexpected ones. In fact, sign language interpreters are becoming a more frequent topic of conversation. There was an emergency situation where a sign language interpreter was televised to provide access. Within a few days, there were a plethora of vlogs and articles from hearing people, with no knowledge about Deaf people, discussing what they saw, even to the extent that interpreters have become a part of late night comedy routines. This is a huge shift in attitude about interpreters, but at the same time, the same underlying attitudes of oppression persist. The oppression of Deaf people, their language, and their language rights continues, even in the face of these other shifts. There is still a lack of understanding of the Deaf perspective.

Another strong influence on interpreter education is legislative outcomes.  In the early years of the interpreting profession, almost no one paid for interpreting services. The larger percent of interpreting, if not 100% of all our work as interpreters, was volunteered time. Most people who worked as interpreters in those early years also worked other jobs to support ourselves, but our passion, our heart was with interpreting and in supporting the Deaf Community and their right to participate fully in society.

Another factor was that American society was more attuned to human rights issues.

In the 1970s and 80s, Deaf people and people with disabilities were heavily involved in fighting for their human rights which created more legal cases and resulted in the passage of a variety of legislation. Today, we have the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.).  This was one way to provide amazing levels of access and, at the same time, it has introduced new challenges, creating new issues which impact our work as interpreters, as well as the work of interpreter educators.

One example of these challenges is the creation of video relay services (VRS). What are the implications of the implementation of VRS? Providing interpreters without in-person contact? Meeting and conducting interpreted interactions through technology without traditional forms of interaction. How does that impact what our work looks like? How do Deaf people feel about it? This doesn’t only apply to VRS, but also to video remote interpreting (VRI), as well. The use of VRI services in hospitals, in courtrooms, etc. We are seeing VRI used in increasing numbers of settings and yet, it is still a new avenue. The technology itself has presented new challenges for the profession to address.

So, we’ve talked about the three largest factors which influence interpreter education. Dennis, you wanted to add some comments?

Dennis:

Yes, I did.  It’s been interesting to watch the progression of VRS. Interpreters have become a part of the machine of VRS. The traditional warming up, “getting to know you” part of the interpreting interaction is gone from this form of interpreting. A call comes on screen and it’s, “Go!” That gives me pause. We spent so many years convincing people that we needed to have information about the players, the goals of the interaction, the context, in order to interpret effectively. Now, all of that is reversed in an instant. VRS interpreters take call after call without any of that information. It’s something to think about. VRS has had a major influence on both the work we do and on Deaf people’s view of interpreters as a group. Now, interpreters are seen as machines that can just roll through anything without pause. VRS has had been a major influence on the field.

Anna:

And at the same time, we haven’t seized some opportunities in this. The really experienced VRS interpreters have their own strategies for gathering and finding the pertinent information to create a fluid communication event.  They’ve developed unique ways to find the goal of an interaction and ways to connect with the Deaf person in the moment. Some of those skills and abilities require a deep connection to Deaf people, to ASL and to Deaf culture. We haven’t discovered what all of that looks like yet, but we need to take the opportunity to document those skills and abilities and incorporate them into our educational strategies for future interpreters so that they can use them as they start to participate in video interpreting environments.

When VRS began, I saw many highly skilled interpreters, people who had many certifications and years of experience, go into VRS as a way to help balance the system. As time went by, those highly skilled people were pushed out in favor of hiring newer, less qualified, less experienced interpreters because the pay for those newer interpreters was significantly cheaper, making it easier to manage the costs of processing calls. That change alone has greatly impacted the quality of the experience for Deaf people using VRS. The level of job satisfaction for VRS interpreters has also been impacted. The level of connection and the feeling of accomplishment via video interaction just isn’t the same. It is also interesting to consider how VRS interpreters have impacted the hearing users of the service, as well. On occasion, I use VRS to conduct meetings or other business. When I’m acting as a hearing consumer of VRS services, I often find myself feeling frustrated. I can’t imagine how a hearing person with no knowledge about Deaf people must feel. How do they feel about the communication? About Deaf people? What assumptions do they make about Deaf people, their language, etc., based on these interactions? It’s a profound question. This is a huge challenge.

Next slide.

Interpreter Education: Early Mindset

Anna:

Lou Fant. I hope all of you watching today know about Lou Fant. Lou was a renowned writer, actor, interpreter and well-loved leader in our field. When RID celebrated their 25th anniversary, Lou wrote a book describing the history of interpreting and a history of RID.  Lou incorporated some of his own personal experiences as one of our profession’s founding fathers and one of the founding members of RID. He had an incredible ability to reflect on the past and extract ideas that were relevant and applicable to the present day.  The quote we’ve presented on the slide gives you some idea of the thinking of the time when RID was in its infancy. At the time, no one could predict what the interpreting world would eventually look like. No one could predict the future. When we look at it now, their vision for the future was a bit narrow in scope. Still, they expected to find people who had strong ties in the Deaf community, people who already knew how to sign, who only needed formal training to learn the process of interpreting, the cognitive processing required. They expected to continue to draw from that very specific pool of people. At the time, there was no expectation that they would eventually deal with people who had no prior experience in the community or with the language. They really had little insight into how much demand there would eventually be for sign language interpreters.

It really took us three or four generations of interpreters, as described in Lou’s quote, before we had a large enough pool of interpreters to start gathering data about what our work looked like, what a career in interpreting might look like. I consider myself third generation. Lou was a first generation interpreter, there was a generation between us, and then I’m third generation. I only worked full-time as an interpreter for a short period of time before I got involved in interpreter education. Back then, the demand for interpreters was so great – they needed people who could communicate their ideas and could show people how to develop interpreting skills. Many of us were plucked from the ranks of interpreters to become educators, even though we had little or no background or training as teachers. I was called to be an interpreter educator. It was a bumpy road for us, as educators, and, I believe, for the students, as well. At the same time, those of us who were teaching had a strong internal sense of what the work should look like, a sense that it was important to maintain a connection with Deaf people, etc. That fourth generation, they finally became the full-time interpreters and the pool of career interpreters started to expand. Even still, that group continues to grow.  We need more time to really assess what this looks like in our every day lives as sign language interpreters. It’s important to continue to have theory, but it’s also important to compare the theoretical with what’s really happening in the daily lives of working interpreters who are on the job day in and day out.

Next slide.

Early Recruitment

Anna:

This slide is what I was just talking about. That’s what those who created RID expected. They recognized training was critical and envisioned drawing in people who already knew ASL. Presently, we are recruiting many individuals who know no ASL. They may have an interest in the language or want to get involved, but they basically have no prior experience, which is a big shift.

In the past, in terms of norms, interpreters usually possessed more native-like competence – either they were native and had grown up in a Deaf family or they were called…I never thought of myself as a “native” signer. I always saw myself as bilingual because I was raised with two languages simultaneously. I never used one language exclusively – both ASL and English influenced me and were a part of who I am. So, near-native competence in ASL as the norm for interpreters no longer exists.  Today, there are possibly 15-20% of us who possess near-native competence in ASL. The rest of the interpreters are second language learners, most of whom have only a few ASL classes under their belt before they start learning to interpret. Even after certification, many of these interpreters still do not possess what we would label as native-like competence in ASL.

I’ll give you an example.  I still have conversations with many interpreters regarding conferences such as the RID conference, etc. In these conversations, they object to the use of ASL because they don’t feel comfortable signing for themselves. It’s such an odd response. If I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself in ASL, how can I interpret other people’s language usage? The concept is foreign to me.

Next, we will be focusing more on legislative influences on interpreter education. I’m going to turn this portion of the presentation over to Dennis to talk about some of the critical outcomes. Dennis?

Next slide.

Program Expansion

Dennis:

As you can see on the slide, there are several boxes below which outline the rapid expansion of interpreter education programs. There was an explosion of programs, yes, but we weren’t ready for it. In the beginning, we knew very little about the cognitive processes involved in interpreting, still, programs proliferated. One of the reasons for that was legislation. Various laws mandated the provision of sign language interpreters. Another reason for this proliferation was the number of ASL students who took classes until they were maxed out and wondered what was next in the process. People in the field were equally perplexed but eventually decided that interpreting was the next logical step for those people. Thus, more and more interpreting courses were offered. Often, the provision of those courses was very spontaneous – very little planning and care was involved.

Currently, we have approximately 100 interpreter education programs which are based in community college settings. In the early days, we viewed interpreting in terms of vocational training. We hadn’t honed in on the cognitive processing involved in interpreting work at the time. It was considered an easy skill to pick up and, traditionally, vocational training is housed in our community colleges. So, program expansion was a critical issue.

It’s interesting to look at present day trends. We are seeing a decrease in community college programs – they are closing due to dwindling enrollment. The number of interpreting students is decreasing while the number of ASL classes is increasing. Enrollment numbers are critical for college and university programs. They aren’t able to afford a student teacher ratio of 5:1. We are seeing that struggle in more and more programs across the country.

Also interesting – we now have graduate programs in interpreting when, in the past, there were none. I should say that there was a graduate program at Western Maryland College – they housed two different tracks. One track was for teaching ASL and one was for teaching interpreting. That program opened around 1986 or so, but it was very short-lived and only lasted three to four years. In the present day, we see master’s and doctorate programs in interpreting. Hopefully, that trend will continue, but it remains to be seen.

Next slide.

Federal Funding for Interpreter Education

Dennis:

It’s important to recognize that the federal government has contributed more than thirty million dollars to interpreter education over the years.

Anna:

That’s amazing.

Dennis:

This started in 1965, when the federal government provided funding to the NAD. NAD then created and supported RID in its infancy. That same year, RID hired an executive director who was Deaf. At the time, RID was housed inside of NAD. The money they received in 1965 ended and at the time, they weren’t sure how to pay the rent they were paying to NAD. They weren’t able to afford the executive director any longer and had to lay them off. It was a struggle. RID didn’t have sufficient funds and ended up moving to Gallaudet in a tiny office space. Eventually, RID moved closer to NAD again until they purchased their own building but the first federal money was really given to NAD.

As you can see, in 1978, the federal government provided the first support for interpreter training. There were 10 regional centers established. The money was provided for shorter trainings – one to two day workshops. In 1979, there was a meeting in Atlanta. Interpreters came together to discuss the state of affairs in interpreting. That meeting ultimately resulted in a publication called, “Interpreter Training: The State of the Art”. That was published through Gallaudet.

The following year, 1980, there was meeting in Tucson, AZ. This particular meeting consisted of about 50 interpreters from around the United States who came together to discuss and document 100 critical questions that required answers. Once we had answered these questions, we believed we would be ready to create interpreter education programs and evaluate interpreters. We requested funding from the federal government – the 10 RSA regional centers requested specific funding for the creation of a center solely focused on research in the field. The request was denied. Out of the 100 questions we asked all those years ago, I believe we have successfully answered two. Ninety-eight of those original questions from 1980 remain unanswered.

Next slide.

Anna:

Dennis, I’m wondering…now we’ve jumped to the year 2000, but I’d like to go back to the 1980s. You were a part of a group known as “The Magnificent Seven” – seven interpreters who collaborated to analyze the cognitive aspects of the work. “The Magnificent Seven”, as they were called, were the first group to do a task analysis of interpreting. Was that work funded by the federal government? How was the group’s work funded – with federal money or was it funded in some other way?

Dennis:

That was in 1983. I guess you could say it was federally funded, but indirectly. At the time, Ken Rust, from Madonna College, and Jan Kanda, who was from Kansas at Johnson County Community College, agreed to fly me, Ken, Jan, Betty Colonomos, Theresa Smith, Don Renzulli and Sharon Neumann Solow to meet.

Anna:

Were there seven or eight of you?

Dennis:

Seven – there were seven of us.

Anna:

Right. Seven – I remember it so clearly- the seven of you.  “The Magnificent Seven” – I remember that time.

Dennis:

Ken and Jan’s grants funded our travel to the two sessions we had. One was at Madonna – the first session. A few months later, we had the second session at the Johnson County Community College. Once those two sessions were over, we presented our findings at the 1985 CIT conference.

Anna:

Yes, I remember that. And you also published that work, as well as developing curriculum, etc.

Dennis:

Yes, right. That’s right.

So, you can see on the current slides – in 2000, there was a change.  Originally, we had 10 regional centers and one national center. In 2000, the regional centers were reduced from ten to five.  However, the five centers received an increase in funding. In essence, the funding for each of the five regions doubled. So, again, there were the five regional centers plus one national center. In 2005, the national center was tasked with the oversight of the regional centers’ grants. It had to take responsibility for coordinating and evaluating the effectiveness of each of the programs. Again, that started in 2005 and is still true today. The national center surveys of interpreters, Deaf community members, interpreter education programs, referral agencies, etc. to analyze the evolution of the field, projections for the future, to determine future needs and so on.

So, you can clearly see that federal funding has played a major role in interpreter education. There has been significant financial support for many years. This included the changes in RID certification tests – the first of which came about in 1988 or 1989…1988. The first change occurred in 1988-1989 and they did receive federal money to redesign the test at that time. Federal funds were also provided for the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) for their accreditation project. The federal government also provided money to establish master’s level programs at Western Maryland College in teaching ASL and teaching interpreting. That money was from the FIPSE program – the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. So, over the years, interpreter education has received a vast amount of money from the federal government.

Anna:

But, Dennis, the federal government still doesn’t really support the idea of establishing a center that is devoted solely to research, right?

Dennis:

No, they don’t.

Anna:

How do we change that thinking? Is there anything that we can do to encourage a change in perspective?

Dennis:

Well, all of our funding and support has come from the Department of Education. We have to start looking at other agencies and other sources for funding. For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF) – is more supportive of research.

Anna: 

Yes – NSF or maybe NIDRR.

Dennis:

Yes – it feels like there are some important agencies. The Department of Education just doesn’t seem to be supportive of research, so…it is what it is. And now, our current RSA five-year grant expires in September of 2015. We don’t know if the government will renew the grant, if the structure will change, etc. We just don’t have any idea. But in 2015, we hope the grant will be renewed for another 5 years, but there’s no way of knowing at this point.

New slide.

Federal Funding for Interpreter Education Cont.

Dennis:

This slide summarizes some of the points Anna and I have just described – some of the takeaway points regarding federal funding for interpreter education.

One of the issues is that, without governmental funding for research, we have pockets of isolated research but there’s no cohesive effort. Obviously, Anna and I can collaborate on a small scale, but if we were all able to come together on a national level, we could create a national agenda, a national curriculum for educating interpreters, and develop a national plan. We haven’t been able to do that.

Anna:

What are the implications of that? You’ve already talked about that a bit, but I’m wondering if you could expand on this a little more. It seems like, with all this federal funding, we’ve been able to develop some terrific products and projects – we could mention the Multi-cultural curriculum, the DeafBlind curriculum – there are a number of products we’ve developed, but there’s no systematic approach to meeting our needs.  So, people develop products, but we don’t have information about which programs incorporate them, which don’t. We don’t have any information – it’s up to the individual program. There’s no systematic approach to creating the products and materials we need to educate interpreters.

Dennis:

That’s right. Many interpreter education programs have one full time instructor and maybe a part time person or two or adjunct faculty which means their time is at a premium. Things like curriculum development and candidate screening really take a back seat to satisfying immediate program needs.

Anna:

And a high percentage of interpreter educators are quickly approaching retirement. Many interpreter educators like me have been in education for 40 years and getting closer to our retirement. Luckily, for the next generation, we have a few graduate programs and a doctorate program for interpreter educators. I guess I’m curious to see if the next generation is really interested in pursuing interpreter education or if they are interested in other arenas. I wonder what will happen to many of the programs as this occurs.

Dennis:

Yes. That’s right. There was a recent survey that said that 26% of interpreter educators were slated to retire in the next 2-3 years.

Anna:

Wow. That’s amazing. I will be. Will you, Dennis? You’re pretty stubborn. I can see you staying for the long haul.

Dennis:

You are a third or fourth generation interpreter – I feel like I’m a sixth or seventh generation interpreter.

Next slide.

Market Disorder

Anna:

Now, Dennis was talking about some amazing things. Today we have 147 interpreter education programs. It’s pretty amazing.

We have a certification process. We have programs. We have CIT’s accreditation program, however, the larger percentage of interpreter education programs are not accredited. It’s really a small percentage even today. We have certification, but we still don’t really understand what it is supposed to look like. Most members of RID – and this is another big shift in the field – in the past, the RID membership was primarily certified interpreters. RID didn’t really start to grow the associate membership until the late 1980s, so there was a really small number of RID members who were not certified. That translated to conferences and other RID events focusing in on the needs of certified members to maintain and develop their skills. There has been a radical shift in the RID membership since that time. Currently, the largest number of RID members today are not certified. In many ways, it seems strange that the membership of our professional organization is mostly comprised of interpreters who are not certified.

So that has really had a large impact. It creates a lot of market disorder. There are very few standards. We don’t have certification standards or even agree on what a certified interpreter looks like or what it means to be certified. We see varying skill levels from certified interpreters and variation in what the work looks like. There are no standards for hiring interpreters, for interpreter wages. There is so much market disorder. We have a lot we can be proud of, but we are also impacted by many variables which impact the stability of the market.

We know how to create programs and projects and implement them. We know how to found an organization like CIT and work on projects like accreditation. That project required years of effort by numerous people – more than 20 years, in fact, to finally implement accreditation. After all the work and energy to create the accreditation program, for example, very few programs have taken advantage of it. These kinds of imbalances create a level of destabilization. We are so far behind. Our work is far from complete.

Dennis:

Still, 50 years later…RID has been around for 50 years. CIT has been around for a long time. But these two organizations are still volunteer-run organizations. Obviously, we have the national office for RID with paid staff and the executive director, but the leaders in our field, in these professional organizations, still volunteer their time. Our leaders are volunteering to serve as presidents and vice presidents of RID and CIT.  I think it is something we need to think about. Can we successfully continue with this kind of model? Can we continue to progress when we are led by volunteer organizations? It’s something to consider.

Next slide.

Behind the Eight Ball

Anna:

One thing has always struck me – we are always playing catch up. We are never in a position to be proactive, rather, we are always reacting. We always seem to be behind the eight ball instead of getting ahead. One example of this happened in the late 1970s with the passage of PL 94-142, the mainstreaming legislation at that time. Deaf children were moved from the schools for the deaf and started attending schools in their local, home district. We certainly had concerns and opinions about the implementation of the law, but we discussed these issues within our own community rather than voicing our concerns to the powers that be. We weren’t successful in creating change or coming up with an approach that was successful. We haven’t caught up with that. This is really a critical issue.  Our inability to be proactive has been detrimental. It feels like the Deaf community has suffered at our hands – that’s certainly not the only cause, but the Deaf community has been at our mercy, in large part, because we haven’t figured out how to come to the table and join the discussion outside of our own ranks. We haven’t been successful on a federal level, we haven’t been able to advocate, to participate in creating legislation. We haven’t done a great job of educating society about interpreting, what it looks like, why it is necessary. We just haven’t done a good job with that and we’re still behind the eight ball. We haven’t caught up and it feels like we sort of missed the boat in a lot of ways. There’s no way for us to really catch up. We’re certainly trying our best, but we’re sort of making progress on the fly. Ultimately, the results of this inability to be proactive are really devastating.

Dennis:

I think one of the things that has happened over the last 30 years or so is that the interpreters, as a profession, have lost control of the work. We’ve lost control of who defines our work. VRS defines our work, the FCC defines our work, hiring entities – people who hire K12 interpreters, all these external forces are controlling our work – spoken language referral agencies, etc. As sign language interpreters, we have to try to fight back to regain control of our work for ourselves and not allow external forces define the work that we do.

Anna:

Yes. That’s a really good example. We are so behind in that area. We have been so internally focused, so insulated that we haven’t really lifted our heads out of interpreter-world to use our efforts and energy in appropriate places. There are so many things we can’t agree on in our own community – we’ve been so consumed with the test, the certification test…we’ve lost sight of other critical areas that need our attention.

Next slide.

Deaf Community Involvement in Interpreter Education

Anna:

One huge impact is the decreased involvement of Deaf people’s involvement in interpreting. As Dennis mentioned earlier, in the beginning, RID and NAD worked together. NAD helped to found RID and maintained a level of involvement afterwards. Deaf people used to be involved in the screening and recruiting of interpreters, but now there is a completely different approach. It is extremely rare to have Deaf teachers involved in interpreter education. I still feel it is critical. I hope that if we grow the field of Deaf Interpreters, that’s one way to reintegrate Deaf people into the roles of gatekeeping. By having Deaf interpreters there, in the assignments, in the process, with other Deaf people, so that they can see what is required and what the process looks like, so they can feel empowered and have a better understanding of their roles. Hopefully, people can benefit from working with Deaf interpreters rather than just trying to get through an assignment.

Next slide.

Recurring Issues in Interpreter Education

Anna:

These are some of the recurring issues we see. If you read StreetLeverage posts, Cindy Volk posted an article, Sign Language Interpreter Education: Time for a National Call to Action, in October during Interpreter Education month. Her article addresses some of these recurring issues. These are issues that have not been resolved. They aren’t going away because we haven’t learned the lessons yet. We haven’t learned how to, as Dennis mentioned earlier, we haven’t learned how to be accountable and take control of what is happening within our field and in our work.

We have to be more creative and find ways to involve the Deaf community in our work and in the education of interpreters. We have to find ways to empower Deaf people to self-advocate, to fight for their language rights, to ask for qualified interpreters, to empower Deaf people so that they feel they can rejoin that gatekeeping process and join in the screening and selection of future interpreters.

We have to look at what we call “the gap”. We have to start using what we already know. We already know that graduating students isn’t enough. They don’t have sufficient skills when they graduate. The interpreter education programs say they can’t do outreach to students after they have graduated and have been in the field for three years. But the students aren’t ready. They need more time and more language exposure prior to interpreting. Perhaps that is the role of the community college, then. Perhaps they provide the language program that would feed into an interpreter education program on the college/university level. If students have two, three, perhaps even four years of completely focused language exposure – maybe you get a degree in ASL and then you do your graduate studies in interpreting. Who knows? But we have to figure out how to close that gap.

There have been a large number of lawsuits related to specific settings – courtrooms, etc., but they are really focused in the wrong direction. These places are stuck with the products we provide them. If we haven’t figured out how to consistently graduate competent interpreters, then we, and by “we” I mean the collective “we” – aren’t doing a good job. There are programs here and there which are doing a good job, but overall, there are so many graduates who enter the field who just aren’t prepared. So, they graduate, they have no supervision, no support. They are left alone to learn on the job and they aren’t prepared. They aren’t ready to work independently – they don’t have sufficient experience or knowledge. They don’t have the ability to manage what they are doing. They are still learning the language. The programs just aren’t sufficient. They don’t have the depth or breadth of skill development to prepare students for the work they are going to do on their own. I think those are some of the examples we’ve been talking about.

The next slide has a few of the many questions that need to be answered. Dennis, did you want to say something?

Dennis:

Yes. These are some of the questions related to the topic Anna was just discussing – what outcomes are necessary for graduates, etc.  So, these are some of the lingering questions we have in the field. If we don’t look at these questions and we continue to move forward without answers, nothing will change in interpreter education or interpreting, in general. We have to confront some of these very difficult questions.

Anna:

Yes, Dennis. Do you have any idea where that discussion starts? Where do we begin? At what point?

Dennis:

I think some of the conversations have already started in places like StreetLeverage, both the posts online and at the StreetLeverage Live events. The conversation has started. We have to start talking about these things at RID, at CIT. We have to make a place, we have to create a space for these discussions. When you look at the RID conference schedule, we see the list of presenters, but where are the discussions? Where are we having this conversation? Where are we making the time to debate and discuss these issues? Certainly, RID has committees and there are people having these conversations on a smaller scale, but we need more people involved in it. I still think we need to include more voices – we need more people involved in the conversation.

Anna:

Yes. I’m thinking about that. RID – we’ve been involved there. I also think community forums are a great starting place, but once that happens, how do we continue to spread the word? There are multiple levels we need to be working on – state, local and national levels.

Laughter as the slide in the presentation returns to the beginning.

Dennis:

Well, I guess that’s it.

Anna:

Our last slide got skipped. The closing point…oh. Go back. Back up. One more…oh! No? Nevermind.

That’s fine. We’re good.

I just want to leave you with one final thought. We have to remember Deaf people in all of this. Deaf people depend on the decisions we make about interpreter education and what it will look like into the future, as well as future interpreters and how we move forward. Remember why you are here and who we serve. Think of these things with deep respect, reverence and humility.

Dennis:

Yes. Respect, reverence and humility. We have to remember to be humble. The decisions we make – we don’t make them alone. We make them in our partnership with Deaf people. We are all in this together.

Anna:

Agreed.

Wing:

As we are closing this webinar today, I’d like to share a piece of my own heart. As I watched you both tonight, there was so much of yourselves in your presentation. It was really amazing. The wealth of knowledge you shared tonight was so rich, I only hope that we all can take some of that wealth of knowledge to share with others. Your years of experience and your valued perspectives are something we can gather and store and grow over time. Honestly, I feel humbled by your willingness to take time out to share your knowledge, experience and perspectives with us today. We are very fortunate – interpreting as a profession is fortunate – to have benefitted from your service all of these years. Hopefully, we can all come together to work towards a shared vision of the future. Thank you both so much.

Anna:

As we said in our opening – we both feel indebted. We are indebted to the Deaf Community. They have given so much to us in our lives. We’ll never be able to repay it. This is how we repay that debt.

Dennis:

Absolutely. We are indebted.

Wing:

In some ways, my little crayon box had a few colors, but tonight added another color. Something I can take to use and write with on my own.

Anna:

What color is it? What color did we add?

Wing:

I don’t know – something new and different. 

Anna:

Something old? The color of old?

Wing:

No, no. Just something different and inspiring.

Dennis:

No, no, no.

Anna:

I know what your are thinking – I’m the old one.

Laughter all around.

Dennis:

Old and feeling old are two different things.

Wing:

Many of the participants, as they were joining, expressed their thanks via AIM, email, etc. They are grateful for your work. They all say that this presentation is so relevant. So now, for all the participants tonight – your job is to share this information. Go to www.streetleverage.com. This presentation will be posted on the blog and you can share the link with your interpreter friends. Share it with Deaf people and the Deaf Community. Hopefully, people will be moved by this conversation and be able to contribute and help us support the Deaf Community in whatever ways that we can.

Anna:

Thank you for allowing Dennis and I to take a look back on our history. It’s been a wonderful experience.

Dennis:

Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity. I agree with Anna.

Anna:

Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity.

Wing:

Thanks everyone! Take care!  Bye now!

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Sign Language Interpreter Education: Returning to “Deaf Heart”

Returning to "Deaf Heart"

Working with Deaf mentors/tutors will help sign language interpreting students learn how to connect with Deaf people.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Before the 1980’s, when there were not many programs for students studying the field of interpreting, social interaction was a high priority. Potential sign language interpreters interacted with deaf people at churches, in their neighborhoods, at deaf schools and in many other environments in our deaf community where they developed their deaf heart. In our current era, most hearing people are learning ASL through classroom settings, with only a few teachers to help them understand the language better. They do not go outside of the classroom setting to interact with deaf people in our community, unless they are required to attend deaf events for observation and maybe brief interactions. If we continue to educate student interpreters in this way, they won’t learn much, if anything, about Deaf Heart.

Drawing Attention to the Issue

As a faculty member at the University of Arizona since 2010, I knew something was missing from our program. I teach both ASL and Deaf studies courses. Most of the students in my classes major in interpreting at UA but I could tell that when the students graduated from four years in the interpreting program, many of them were not ready to face the real world as certificated interpreters. I hope to draw attention to and provide some suggestions to bridge the gap.

Byron Bridges has a vlog which is made for teachers, interpreters, and ASL students. He strongly believes in sharing ideas topics for discussion relating our deaf culture, ASL, linguistic, teaching/learning, experience, etc.  In one of his vlog posts, he mentioned the concept of “Deaf Heart”. I am sure most of you already know about Deaf Heart, but his discussion drew my attention. In the vlog, he provided what he feels is the conceptually accurate sign for “Deaf Heart”, signed HEART-UNDERSTAND instead of DEAF HEART.

Infuse the Curriculum

From our modern interpreter programs, many students need to acquire Deaf Heart/DEAF-UNDERSTAND. Based on that idea, I started thinking about our program and the gaps I had identified. I believe all sign language interpreter programs should require “Deaf Heart” courses as a requirement for graduation instead of only requiring language classes for four years.

Structuring “Deaf Heart” Courses

Students would be a required to take a “Deaf heart” course with two units per semester with a minimum of three semesters. Students would be required to take six total units in order to graduate. Two units would be specifically for students to do 6o hours of learning outside of the classroom with deaf adults or mentors. While I know it is not easy to find deaf tutors, this type of program could help develop those types of opportunities. Once deaf tutors are hired, they should participate in mandatory training sessions to provide a clear set of rules and expectations for their roles as deaf tutors.

Inevitably, the issue of money comes up when discussing additions to sign language interpreter curriculum. Funding this type of program could be easily addressed. Many students have to pay about $200 -300 for lab fee per course. In this instance, the deaf tutors would be funded through students’ lab fees. Students normally pay for textbooks for each of their classes and one textbook tends cost between $100-300. This would make the cost of a Deaf tutor equivalent to purchasing one textbook.

The professor(s) who leads the Deaf Heart course would coordinate the interactions of 3-4 deaf people (two big D and two small d) with each student for 60 hours for the semester. Every week, students would have a list of questions to answer. The deaf tutors would support the instructor in tracking visits and evaluating students as needed. If the deaf tutor would prefer not to use written formats, students can create vlogs up to 1 to 2 minutes discussing what they talked about with their deaf tutors.

When the students finish 60 hours within the semester, the teacher will evaluate and meet with the students individually to give them a pass or fail. Once the student passes the course, they will move up to second level of “Deaf Heart” coursework.

The Value of Deaf Mentors/Tutors

Working with Deaf mentors/tutors will help sign language interpreting students learn how to connect with deaf people in a variety of ways, not simply as a professional interpreter who is only interpreting. These Deaf mentors/tutors could help to refine students’ sign language skills, teach them how to deliver an accurate message in ASL versus transliteration, and help them understand how a CDI works. They would do this by bringing students to deaf clubs, deaf schools, and deaf events, etc. It is important that all faculty, ASL teachers, and deaf people who are well educated need to get together to monitor and hire deaf tutors and pay them every semester.

It is equally important that sign language interpreting students are exposed to Deaf mentors/tutors from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. Interpreter Educators should be selecting deaf tutors from big “D” to small “d”, (“D” meaning more culturally Deaf than simply deaf “d” with hearing loss). Many deaf people come from many different families, some raised in deaf schools, some attended mainstreamed schools, some have a strong cultural background, some use voice, some are grassroots, some are from Gallaudet or NTID and many more. While deaf people have many different backgrounds, we all have similar experiences being oppressed, discriminated against, frustrated with the communicate barriers and struggling to get services, such as the provision of sign language interpreters. I think it would be good for students to interact with range of people from big D Deaf to small D deaf and to help develop and connect with deaf people by understanding our tendencies, customs and values. It is important for Deaf tutors to make sure that students learn they are not here to help the “poor deaf people”. Becoming a sign language interpreter should not be paternalistic, nor should people choose this profession simply for money.

Successful Interpreters Should Have Deaf Heart 

Sign language interpreters should take full advantage of the privilege to work with deaf people through training, and through gaining access to knowledge about what deaf heart really is and how it shows itself. They must fully comprehend deaf heart to be a successful interpreter.

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What can Sign Language Interpreter Education Learn from Wild Birds?

What can Sign Language Interpreter Education Learn from Wild Birds?

Birds raised in captivity often struggle to acquire natural communication and instincts. So too do sign language interpreters brought up in ITPs, with limited Deaf community connections and interaction. Kimberly Hale considers how interpreter education can borrow strategies from nature in raising the next generation of sign language interpreters.

The current state of interpreter education reminds me of an attempt to return rehabilitated, injured or orphaned birds to the wild, rather than allowing the natural developmental process of wild birds to occur.

[View post in ASL]

Natural Versus Artificial Development            

In the wild, chicks are nurtured and learn the way of the bird through instincts, observation, and imitation of older birds. Mature birds protect chicks and model bird behavior. Astute mother birds perceiving just the right time to send the chick off into the world, push the fledglings from the nest. Wild birds effectively raise their young who behave as birds and function effectively in their natural habitats.

In contrast to the natural development process is the artificial process employed when injured, orphaned, or captivity-bred birds are rehabilitated and released into the wild. These birds, much like student interpreters, learn the way of the bird in an artificial environment removed from natural developmental stimuli.

Gatekeepers – The Natural Approach

Historically, trusted individuals were sought out and encouraged by members of the Deaf community to act as sign language interpreters. Just as chicks are pushed from the nest by astute mother birds, these chosen fledgling interpreters were pushed into a wider variety of settings as their performance and success warranted.  As members of the “wild bird” community, they naturally gained values, skills, and knowledge needed to function as birds, albeit with unique responsibilities.

The System – Bred and Raised in Captivity

In contrast, the current model of interpreter education creates sign language interpreters bred and raised in captivity and then released into the wild. Many interpreters-in-training have never encountered the Deaf Community in its natural state and have a limited understanding of Deaf Community interactions, yet they want to join the “flock”. Initial interactions are often mediated, controlled, and contrived by the Interpreter Trainer(s), similar to the artificial environments created by bird rehabilitation specialists.  A large portion of training time is spent with other interpreters-in-training or with videos of ASL users and interpreter samples, rather than spending time with the “flock”.

Limited Exposure Limits Competence

Often rehabilitated birds are released to the wild as adults or older juveniles. They spend their formative years learning to act like birds based solely on instincts and the bird trainer’s teaching. They miss the benefit of natural imitation opportunities, protection from older birds, and the natural pecking order process. Prior to release they frequently have limited contact with wild birds. This may lead to difficulty upon release into nature.

Interpreters “raised” in interpreter education programs, just as birds raised in captivity, may lack skills in negotiating the flock.  They do not communicate and behave as naturally as those who are raised and groomed naturally within the flock. Specifically, they are more hesitant and awkward in seeking clarification. By not learning language primarily via natural interactions, they miss the opportunity to naturally learn appropriate birdcalls and signals for clarification and correcting misunderstandings, which is a critical skill for sign language interpreters.

Early Exposure Unintentionally Disrupts the Flock

Quality Interpreting Education Programs attempt to assist interpreters-in-training form connections and appropriate behaviors within the community by requiring community interactions and event attendance before release. This does not mirror the natural process either. Interpreters-in-training, without connections or formal welcome (because they are unknown to the flock), insert themselves into the wild flock. Unfortunately, this “forced” introduction and acceptance model disturbs the natural order of the flock. New awkward birds invade the wild bird territory, and the wild birds are expected to embrace, accept, and nurture the interpreters-in-training.

Early Release

Given the growing interest in the wild flock, the limited numbers of rehabilitation facilities, and the structure of those facilities (i.e., colleges and universities), bird rehabilitation programs are specified lengths. More often than not, there are not specific competency based exams to ensure that birds-in-training are ready to be pushed from the nest and fend for themselves.

Because they are pushed from the nest before they are ready to function independently and are left to fend for themselves they end up under the tree instead of in the branches among the flock.  These released birds often become the unintended recipients of wild bird droppings. Stronger birds will strive and will, eventually, learn to fly thereby officially joining the flock.  Others, especially those without appropriate support, never get off the ground.

We Need to Invest

Investment in wild bird habitat and creative habilitation solutions for birds-in-training is essential to facilitate natural wild bird interactions and nurturing throughout the development process. We – wild birds, successful captive-release birds, and bird trainers – must facilitate the renewal of natural wild-bird model of sign language interpreter education. A more effective habilitation and release program must be created. Creative thinking from all segments is required. Leaders have begun to address the concern.  It is time for those who are not yet leaders, but who are in their prime and ready to nurture the next generation of interpreters into existence to join the conversation. The nesting grounds and habilitation programs are ready for the next generation of brooders, hatchers, pushers, and trainers to join the discussion. 

Conclusion

I am hopeful that CIT’s partnership with Street Leverage to host this year’s conference will engender dialog that should continue long after the conference ends. Join the discussion of how best to habilitate new wild bird interpreters by sharing your chirps, caws, coos, or tweets.

References

The captivity-raised concept presented here is similar to Molly Wilson’s conceptualization that she eloquently describes in By-passing Deaf World in Terp Training. Interpreter education generally bypasses the Deaf community – opting instead for an artificial captivity-based training model.