WWYD? #2: Working with Interpreters

After high interest with my “What would you do?” vlog two months ago, I would like to share my other thought on working with interpreters. Share your thoughts!


  • Noah Buchholz 17 years ago

    You make an excellent point about looking at interpreter directly since we ask hearing people to speak to us directly. However, I got to admit this, I always sign toward interpreter, because I would be able to read her lip, seeing if she uses right words. For instance, in one of my classes I signed “group”, caught my interpreter voicing “class” by reading her lip, and corrected her. But with interpreters I trust the most, I would sign toward hearing people instead. Thank you for bringing this up!


  • Virginia L. Beach 17 years ago

    WOW! Good and interesting question, Joey! It’s a little tricky for me to answer this, because very honestly I tend to use my own voice 90% of the time. However, when I have requested the interpreter to voice for me, I have tended to look at the hearing person.

    Maybe part of that is because I grew up oral and thus I am used to looking at hearing people anyway? I dunno.

    Could it be that these Deaf individuals are not used to communicating with non-signing people on a regular basis…or their attempts to do so have generally been so frustrating, that they just kinda fall into the trap of signing to the interpreter because it’s more of a “comfort zone” thing and it just feels more natural? I dunno

    Or maybe it’s that interpreters know how to give little “visual cues” of feedback and understanding that the Deaf person relies on and maybe they aren’t getting that same feeling from the hearing person – the hearing person sits there showing little expression or body language or whatever and that feels so strange to our culture that again we find ourselves seeking out that comfort zone.

    I do remember one time going to an NAD board meeting where as part of the evening’s “entertainment” we watched some local young Deaf high school students doing public presentations to the audience. One student in particular kept looking directly at the interpreter sitting up in the front row and made very little if any eye contact with the audience. Afterwards, I did notice that NAD leaders did mention to him in a polite but corrective manner that the proper thing to do is to look out at the audience, not to keep looking at the interpreter.

    This did lead me to wonder if we are in fact teaching our Deaf students how to work with interpreters properly. I do think this is something that need to learn, and should be taught in the schools. When I’ve worked in Deaf Services with young adults who just recently graduated from school or whatever, I am always amazed at how little many of them really seem to know about working with interpreters – at least in the “outside world” as opposed to the educational setting.

    So yes, I do think that Deaf individuals should make an effort to look at the hearing person, but of course check in with the interpreter from time to time to assure they are following the conversation accurately. When possible, seat or position the interpreter where they can be seen alongside the hearing person so one has a view of both. If I am fingerspelling or using vocabulary the interpreter might not be familiar with or I want to make sure they voice accurately, I might look at them directly for that moment, but otherwise I try to look at the hearing person as much as possible.

    But again, as I said… I do tend to use my own voice in most situations, so I might not be the best person to ask!

  • Sandra Goldstein 17 years ago

    I use interpreters everyday. I always sign to the hearies who know no sign language. It is proper for deaf people looking directly to the hearing person in place of the interpreter. However, from time to time I do look at the interpreter if she follows me appropriately. Sure enough sometimes the interpreter does not follow me. Thank goodness I happen to be a good lipreader.

    Some deaf people do not feel comfortable to sign( speak) to the hearing people who do not know sign language. They feel comfortable to speak to the interpreters who look at them. The interpreters always look at the deaf signers in order to voice for them.

    We should educate all deaf people to look at the hearies not interpreters as well educate hearing people look at the deaf people in place of interpreters.

    Of course we, deaf people, feel funny to talk to the hearies like speak to the wall because they do not understand the signs. Same with the hearies would feel uncomfortable to speak directly to the deaf people who do not understand them. Deaf people must look at the interpreters who sign for the hearing people.

    It is weird but this is the way we are supposed to do.

  • Beth 17 years ago

    Joey –

    OMG! I never thought of that! That is so TRUE! When I talk with hearing person w/interpreter I tend to “sign to them” to look at me, as if you’re talking to ME – not the interpreter. Then when the interpreter is done signing to me, the reason I look back at the interpreter is because “automatically” I already HAD eye contact in the first place with interpreter.
    For example I ask a hearing person “How are you doing”, after the interpreter verbalized this, the hearing person would ask me “How are you doing??” then automatically I would respond “to the interpreter” because he/she is signing to me. It’s the DEAF EYES!!! 🙂

  • Betty Broecker 17 years ago

    Hello Joey! It is always so good to see you ASLing away! I have also noticed deaf people watch the interpreter while signing to a hearing person or persons. I think it is because we have not been using professional interpreters for long, and also because we need the “feed-back” that our message is being received by the other party/parties. I would like to suggest we learn to establish eye contact with the hearing party/parties. This would provide us with what we are seeking by “letting go” and working WITH the hearing party/parties as our “feed-back” system. It is not easy. We leaders need to show the way and this is one more exercise in a Deaf Studies class for young deaf people to role-play.

  • Dennis 17 years ago

    I tend to direct a person. If I see the person’s fascial express seem off, I will know that an interpreter might misunderstood somewhere. I will stop to check if any misunderstood in our communication. Ensure the communication is accurate as long as it stand. When the communication is completed, talk with interpreter to see any issues might be solved before a person leave. Some interpreter run away in hurry for next schedule somewhere. It should be some good gap time between them for next schedule. Sometime I do understand some interpreter are in tight schedule if some interpreter call in sick or something happens.

  • Heather 17 years ago

    i think it is because deaf people never really had the “training” of using interpreters in the right way. we, deaf individuals, will need to educate and make the use of the interpreters better 🙂 i would have talked to them and suggested them how to communicate in right way. perhaps you should set up a workshop “HOW TO USE INTERPRETERS” intended for both deaf and hearing people. i will need to look around and see if i get the same results as you!

  • Caveman 17 years ago

    It is matter of trusting interpreters regardless their credentials (NAD, RID, IQAS, EIE, CODA, etc.). The more you spend time with that particular interpreters, the better trust-building it would be. In most case, it would take a number of assignments with that particular interpreters before you become confident by not looking at interpreter anymore.

    Do we have ability to look other way when using Video Relay Service?

  • MikeS 17 years ago

    I’ve been working with interpreters in employment and education environments the past 15 years and yes, at times, I tend to look at interpreters. In the past, I talk directly to the hearing person and very often, I am interrupted so my attention is shifted back to the interpreter. Also, I may use PSE to give interpreter a chance to follow me properly because it got to the point that I do not want to repeat myself too often in front of large crowd of people. My interpreter saw my vlog and said, “Wow, you ASL on vlog, but in class, PSE!” I told interp I had no choice since I do not want to be embarrassed by several interruptions in my dialog with someone. Lately, I do 50/50 or like you mentioned, look back and forth to interp and person of interest.

  • Kathy 17 years ago

    I have always have my eyes contact with Hearing people when have interview beside interpreter there.. I have always done that all the time keeping my eyes straght to hearing’s lip.. I do lipreading well. If I miss something I look at Interpreter. That’s good point. I have grew up in hearing world all my life and now I am in deaf world. I still have my habit to do that.

  • Aidan Mack 17 years ago

    Hi, I’m glad that you brought it up. I have been using interpreters all my life. I’m sorry to say this but from my experience of many years using interpreters. 90 percents of them are not skill at translating from ASL to English. But they do a little bit better at translating from English to ASL.
    I HATE to say that but I’m good at lip reading. I wanted them to deliver my messages that meet my intellectual level. I face some problems because of interpreters’ translation.
    I trust some of top interpreters that I work with. I don’t look at them at all the time.
    But when I know/see that they are not good at it. I have to read their lips and to make sure they deliver my message/context/concept right. I meet with important people everyday. I want to look good as a speaker and as a Deaf person.
    Some interpreters would speak in broken English because they are copying my ASL. It’s because they didn’t develop their skills in translating from a to b and b to a. I have to code switch to SEE from ASL so they can copy me. That is so insane..
    By the way, it’s good to see you in Vlog.

  • Carl Schroeder 17 years ago

    Here’s my response.

  • Ted Henry 17 years ago

    Oh yeah, I am with you, I think it’s the proper way to look at the person who you are talking to, not to an interpreter. I am sure Ann Landers would agree if she was deaf. LOL The person who I talk to is the one I want to see the reactions, not interpreter. The reactions help me to adjust the speed of conversation. I think, by reflex, we would look at interpreter if suspect bad interpreting.

  • yodelgirl5 17 years ago

    For those who can not lipread, should pay close attention to their interpreters most the thime. Peroid! Can’t afford to miss any important of what is being said in court or meeting, by doctor, etc.
    They can look at the hearing speaker, leader , judge or whoever from time to time, but not too much.
    That is my opinion.

  • JohnABC 17 years ago

    Response to Joey: CLICK HERE

  • Aidan Mack 17 years ago

    I forgot to add one more thing. What should we do? It is hard situation. I care about message to be delivered than worrying about which person to look at. It is a nationwide problem that there are not many high-qualified interpreter for us as advanced ASL users and to have an ability to translate fluently from A to B and B to A. I will discuss in next Vlog. It is called Interpreting: Parasite


  • RLM 17 years ago

    Carl have best concepts of handling interpreters.

    Awesome and innovative video enclosure in ASL response, Carl.

    I did mention about why not using video clip response in ASL on Chris Leon’s blog (what happened to Chris so far??) last December 2006 on the issue of Bay Area reception for UFG protestors.

    Let’s go back to the point about using terp on the ground floor, instead of stage/podium. What about other deaf people sitting in the back row viewing terp on the stage?? How can you resolve this related situation? If the front seats already taken by other people? What about deaf people arrive pretty late and don’t want to make any distraction for attendees sitting there.

    What about the terp hirself refuse to stand on the ground floor? How can we resolve this issue?
    Y know how some terps could be unreasonable or say some kind of excuses – “You are not paying my bill, point out to the speaker or conference coordinator, etc”. I did encounter with very few terps said “I can’t!!!!! I never done it before!!”, etc

    More and more terps begin to disquell some deaf people savvy of their rights and undermine them. I witnessed those kind of situation arose. Those deaf individuals ever treated terps with such respect and get sh**ty treatment from terps.

    Ever getting on the scene half hour or hour before the beginning of lecture or event, terps sometimes hid backstage til lecture or event begin. What could we do about those terps issue?

    I mostly have no problems with terps from time to time, but some terps let hir personal dislikings or feelings affect their professional behaviors toward deaf users.

    For example, one to two terps tried to make sexual advance toward me or other deaf people. I usually draw a line from getting involved with any individuals from the service industry. Some terps really do not know to seperate “professional” and “personal” sphere. Those terps intentionally get wrong idea when I was much willing to have conversation with them outside somewhere. So terps envisioned the idea that I am interested in them because of my willingness of having conversation with them in public places.

    Joey, I could not view your vlog presentation on my computer so far. That’s why I have to wait for someone to make comments. So I could follow what others view your vlog presentation.

    How true about lack of consumer training for deaf youngsters and people at the educational facilities of the deaf about proper handlings with terps or relay service! Why not! What about deaf consumer education class? Invite terp or relay service representative to talk about how we could use terp or relay service in more effective way, etc.

    Robert L. Mason (RLM)

  • Michele 17 years ago

    Joey, I’m happy you are bringing up this issue, this is sorely needed to be discussed among the deaf community and interpreters.

    Last weekend when I took a class required for my job, I got two interpreters (one being coda and very fluent in sign language but tending to sign more in PSE and moves her mouth often — remember I grew up lipreading) and then another interpreter who had her mouth closed and signed in poor ASL. My goodness, I had a very hard time following her, she didn’t really make any sense in her translation. After the break, I told her that she needed to move her mouth more often so I could understand her better. I felt that there was a gap, like if the coda interpreter would switch over, I was feeling very comfortable and could follow the teacher but when the poor interpreter came on, I instantly felt lost and frustrated! Joey, can you bring this issue up at a later date about two interpreters as it is frustrating when one interpreter is better than the other one.

    Anyway, it would depend on the situation, I would be more inclined to look at the interpreter to make sure she is voicing what I am saying. I have noticed that (not all the time) when I look at the hearing person, the interpreter may not voice it right and have to ask me to repeat which makes the situation a bit uncomfortable because the hearing person may be losing their patience or whatever. So I look at the interpreter’s face as a way of controlling things and making sure she understands and voices it in the right way so that my message is clear to the hearing person. If the interpreter is exceptionally skilled and I feel very comfortable, then I would look at the hearing person, knowing that I won’t get any interruptions from the interpreter which can cause train of thought to fall apart.

    Thanks for bringing it up, Joey. One more question, there seems to be very very few interpreters who are skilled in ASL, many of them sign in PSE. It is a dangerous avenue when an interpreter signs in pure ASL and misses the information conveyed to them and then I end up not understanding the interpreter at all. For interpreter who use PSE, the information and messages get across more clearly. Why is it like that?? me wonder!

  • Rebecca 17 years ago

    I am glad to watch your vlog today because today I had interpter for my doctor appt and we talked about that kind of situation. The interpter admitted to me that she felt awkard for me not looking at her because I kept signing at the Doctor and lipreading her while she signs away so When I get lost with lipreading I look at her. I have expressed to the interpter that I have to trust the interpter voicing my ASL because its her job and know what she needs to do !! Yes You re right 70 % Deaf people i have seen always look directly at the interpters !! Happy VLOGGING Keep up the good work Joey !

  • Jennifer 17 years ago

    This is so true. I often find myself looking at the underqualified interpreters to be sure s/he is conveying accurate information. Unfortunately, I don’t have the guts to say: Lets postpone the meeting because the interpreter is not qualified to meet my means of communication. After time I have learned to work with the interpreting agencies to ensure they provide the top qualified interpreters for my meetings. The more the interpreters are qualified, the confidence we become to look at the hearing party without hestitation if our messages are conveyed accurately.

  • Orkid : ) 17 years ago

    That’s interesting thought. I often look at both the interpreter(s) and the teachers, musueum lecturers, presenters, or interviewer so I can read the body language same time (I wish I have my 3rd eyes in my forehead). However if I focus too much on the interpreter(s), a hearing person will feel not “important.” I recalled one time my hearing English teacher got so mad at the interpreter that the entire students were watching the ASL interpreter with fascination. She got so furious with red face. She asked the interpreter to move all the way in the back of the classroom. Can you imagine that? I had to fight back several times with the teacher that moving the interpreter is not her rights to do that. How many of you guys out there have that experience before?

    – O.

  • teresa maxwell 17 years ago

    well-to be frank, i think we have common sense on how to use the intepreters. i would look directly to the person who is speaking to me or me to the person. i cant imagine looking at the interpreter and not to look at the person? i think it’s more of an innate since birth. i couldnt speak for others, but when im born deaf-everyone has its innate. it is not we have learned through experiences. the same principle with when acquiring the language (ASL), it is easy to acquire because of the innate. when to handle situations with the interpreters, it is just right there and you know what to do.

  • Mandy 17 years ago

    I agree with John ABC. That s what I am doing.

  • kira 17 years ago

    great vlog! i missed u smile..
    speaking of interpreters, it depends on situations..if i know some interpeters, i dont look at them, if interpreters are new, sometimes i look at them in case if they translate exastly what i say. hope it helps u 🙂

  • Jerry 17 years ago

    I am hoh (seriously deaf) and work in deaf ministry at church and have many deaf friends. Because there are few professional interps in our area I sometimes interp in social and religious settings when I’m able. Before starting I always tell deaf and hearing to look at each other as much as possible because as the interp I’m just the “wire” connecting them. I’m really not comfortable having the hearing looking at me when they’re talking to the deafie. I understand that the deafie sometimes needs to watch me to verify that I am understanding both people. That’s okay fine, and I want the deaf to tell me if they think I’m wrong. I’d rather be embarassed than to fail in what I’m trying to do.

  • Valarie Tarrence 17 years ago

    Thank you Joey for bring up this issue. I am completing my Interpreting program and will graduate in May of this year. I am always interested in what I can do as an interpreter to better serve the Deaf client. It is good to hear from the Deaf what things concern them in the communication process, and what things we as interpreter can improve.


  • Amy Cohen Efron 17 years ago


    So glad to see you online again! Welcome back, bud!

    Excellent topic! Often times when I am in a situation where I used an interpreter to communicate with hearing people (i.e. parents at a school setting, doctors, etc etc…) and I was complimented frequently by interpreters with those statements how clear I was. It is my job to make communication clear, not an interpreter’s job. It does not mean that I resort myself to PSE or SEE or anything, its ASL with steady pace, adding fingerspelling to emphasize the specific word, and I always maintain my eye contact with a hearing person.

    In a rare instances, when I look at the interpreter, is when the communication breakdown occurs. Interpreters KNOWS that when I look at them, means I am repairing the serious communication breakdown. I would sign to the interpreter, “it appears that we are having a communciation breakdown, and I am going to repeat what I am going to say.” Ooooo the interpreter has no choice, but have to ‘voice’ to what I am signing because they can see in my eyes that I am insisting them to voice to what I am saying. This gives an interpreter a sense of accountability. Then we end up having a good rapport afterwards. The ‘third party’ – the hearing person was very impressed in how I am able to handle this conversation. Eventually, I realized that I was teaching the hearing person a certain skill when there was a communication breakdown, the hearing person will look at the interpreter. Ah… I know that is a communication breakdown!

    Of course, a hearing person tends to watch an interpreter while speaking,and I was very gentle by reminding them that they can look at me, and I try my best to keep my line of vision watching to the hearing person and use my peripheral vision to watch an interpreter, or I’ll ask an interpreter to stand next to the hearing person, so I can truly maintain my eye contact and rapport with an hearing person.

    Interpreters are service providers and they are supposed to accommodate with you and hearing person, and it takes a skill to use an interpreter.

    Don’t look at the interpreter, because it removes you away from the rapport with a hearing person. Just look at the interpreter when there is a communication breakdown, and believe me that will keep interpreters on their TOES!

    Amy Cohen Efron

  • Tara (MO) 17 years ago

    I must say I agree with Carl and JohnABC…I tend to be in control when coming using an interpreter to my comfort and standard level of communication skills.

  • Gary Brooks 17 years ago

    I wish I have four eyes! so I can see both Interpreter and hearing person. Well in my wild dream everything is possible! good points Joey!

  • C 17 years ago

    I look at the interpreter all the time because I don’t trust most of them!!!! I’m hard of hearing and I decided I’m going to voice for myself instead. I see interpreters not signing ASL to English, they just don’t most of the time! There are very few excellent interpreters, but, sadly, we need more than a few good terps!

  • Kate 17 years ago

    Amy – YES! You are so clear, it is a true pleasure to watch you sign! I get so excited because I understand you so well, and then I watch someone like Deaf Chipmunk and go “AAAH! I will never be good at sign!”

    Aidan – you said “It is a nationwide problem that there are not many high-qualified interpreter for us as advanced ASL users and to have an ability to translate fluently from A to B and B to A.” I love your vlogs, but you are definately kinda hard to translate into English. You tend to do a lot of movements…very ASL, very cool, but definately hard. I actually plan to show your vlogs to a friend of mine who is better at ASL and ask her how to voice you. Haha, thanks a bunch for vlogging, all of you.

    — Grateful Student

  • Jean Boutcher 17 years ago

    From my lifelong experience, I have learned to always look at an interpreter to ensure that he be able to equivalently translate word for word I utter to a hearing person. To do that, I would have to let the hearing person know in advance that to ensure that the communication be completely transmitted or to prevent from communcation breakdown or mistranslation, misunderstanding, I would have to look at the interpreter all the time and would, if needed be, use PP (pen and paper) if the interpreter repeatedly fails comprehensing my fingerspelling. No offense intended, I must assure him and and ask him for his understanding. He would always accept it very understandably. Fingerspelling is practically invariably the numero uno weakness of most non-CODA interpreters. Many times would I catch an interpreter being lost whenever I fingerspell. So I would have to write on paper and read it to a hearing person who approves with a nod. You would not have to look at a person like the top notch Dr. Elizabeth Benson today. More and more interpretetrs of today are poor at receiptive skills in fingerspelling. I have noticed that Dr. Fernandes would look very intensely at an interpreter every time she signs without looking at an audience. It is evident that she has experienced mistranslations. She is a proficient lipreader, so she can catch an interpreter’s misinterpretion.I cannot help but I can perfectly well understand why some deaf people have to look at interpreters. Hearing translators at, say, at the United Nations, are top-notch translators, not like sign language interpreters. No one had to look at Daddy when he translated for him in France, Italy, and Spain. Back to square one, I realise that some CODA intepreters are not necessarily proficient. For example, my doctor hired his neighbour to interpret. I could understand her absolutely nothing. A while later , I learned that she was an oralist of oral deaf parents.

  • J.J. Puorro 17 years ago

    Yes, what ABC said.

    It depends on the situation and the relationship I have with the interpreter. A new or a bad terp gets my attention more, but I still maintain eye contact as much as possible.

  • Susan 17 years ago

    I tend to look at interpreter because most of the time I don’t trust the interpreter is able to convey what I wanted to say! ha 🙂

    Lots of times I have trouble following discussions with hearing people because the interpreter didn’t make sense. I prefer to talk with hearing people via email or pen and paper.

  • ASLisRisen 17 years ago

    I agreed with John the ABC and Carl. If I do not know who the interpreter, I tend to make sure the hearing to know what’s going on. If the communication does not flow smooth between the hearing and me, then I will know there is something wrong with the interpreter skills . Sometimes, the hearing has to book up another appts for private meetings with qualified certified interpreter.

  • Jesto 17 years ago

    hmm.. i got my opinion. They got low-definition on themselves. Once they know their definition, they would do okay on everything that what you are expecting right now.

  • Nehemiah Brock 17 years ago

    Good point. I always often make eyes contact with hearing Person as reason to have good relationship with person. I like to add one issue about interpreter,
    All interpreter should be realize that Deaf community are help hearing people who are interpreter, their Agency Business has success business with good paying per hour Money Flow. And I notice more hearing has their own Agency business to profit greedy. WHY NOT Deaf has their own Agency Interpreter? To control their interpreter to be respect Deaf Community. To training them sign language properly.

  • Caveman 17 years ago

    I wouldn’t want to look at hearing person if they lacked facial and body language such as emotionless, stone-faced, or in another word “too plain” while that hearing person has variable tones, it would be better to look at interpreter because they will convey the tone of the message.

    Tyrannosaurus here, gonna go……

  • White Ghost 17 years ago

    “know each other” vs. “Not know each other” interpreters

    How can you figure them out?

    At this point, I tend to depend on “know each other” interpreters, so that I can make the eye to eye contact with the person whom I directly talk with. I do not have to make the eye to eye contact with the interpreter. It is professionally appropriate.

    As for the “not know each other” interpreters, it is my job to make sure these interpreters to understand my sign language, therefore, I have to make the eye to eye contact with these interpreters.

    White Ghost

  • Scot 17 years ago

    Very thought-provoking! I know that I try to look at both the interpreter and the hearing person(s) when I am using an interpreter to maintain the flow of communication.

    I can’t help but wonder if VRS has something to do with this? Many of us who use VRS to call other hearing people are gradually getting conditioned to looking straight at the interpreter through our video phones. It would be interesting to see how much this has influenced how we use interpreters!

  • Casper 17 years ago

    Awesome situation! I work for a call center with 175 employees. I am the only deaf person working in that center. I rely on interpeter(s) everyday to communicate with my employees. I have a position called Administative assistant/Interpeter. Rarely will I need to use a different interpeter so my situation may be different than others. She would do administrative work and interpret for me when needed. Since I’ve worked with this interpeter for over two years I still make some eye contact with my interpeter only to check the pacing. Sometimes I may sign too fast and not notice the interpreter is behind or sometimes I sign too slow and I can speed up a little bit. Also sometimes I will look at the interpeter to check on the word of choice that was used. If I’m using a different interpeter then I notice I often will “study” the interpeter’s syle and evaluate her skills as we go along. With this, sometimes I will have to make adjustment.

    To make things easier we should take the responsibility to meet with the interpeter 15 minutes before the actual assignment. Just have an informal conversation about anything and allow the interprter to evluate whether you are a strong ASL user or not. This will also allow us to get the feeling of how good this interpeter is. Or the interpeter and I will discuss open about this assignment and expectations.
    This should help to minimize eye contact on interpeters.

  • Kim Hungerford Carwile 17 years ago


    Thank you for bringing up your idea to discuss the use of interpreters.

    I work in the related field; I use interpreters every other day while I am working and taking coursework.

    Last week I found this very interesting during the meeting with the heads. The heads had conveyed their speaking message to the interpreter and the interpreter signed their message in ASL to me. Interestingly, they got my attention by stopping their message and the interpreter’s signing message was fully stopped because they wanted me to see their faces and we made sure our communication was facilitated smoothly and understood. It was a neat way to work in team with an interpreter, speakers, and signers together in any meetings.

    It requires a lot of time and patience to educate hearing and Deaf people how to hire interpreters. It’s really worth a benefit to have the full access to communicate with interpreters to anyone in the majority.

    Thanks again, Joey for bringing it up!

  • IamMine 17 years ago

    Well lookie here… lots of comments!!

    Good comments…but I”m joining the vloggers’ responses. 😀

    My Response

  • Ron Fields 17 years ago

    Joey, you bring up very good question.
    Many years of experience with interpreters leads me to bring up suggestions.
    1) Always have a warm up chat with your interpreters before go to meetings. This helps me to adjust my signing and interpreter’s scope of understanding along with ability to translate.
    2) Fish in for some background information such as Coda? Level? Certificated in? This helps me to see where I stand and how interpreter have ability… for example no certificate but Coda… then we talk more abou signing before the meeting.
    3) My eyes always in contact with hearing individuals, once in a while looking at interpreter to make sure my signs are followed.
    only time I look at interpreter is when the hearing talks to me and still i do make eye contacts during that time.
    4) Always stop hearie talking when he says “tell him…”


  • RLM 17 years ago

    After viewing your vlog presentation, Joey. I comprehend much better what you try to convey message with questions arisen about what approriate way for us dealing with hearing person and terp.

    Eye contacts with hearing individual to be dealt are basically necessary for successful human rapport (Efron)

    Or the hearing person would see you as an insecure person if you seems paranoid or untrustworthy with terp from eyes fixated on him/her. Just frequent eye glances and facial responses like grin or eyebrow raises or hand gesture to show that you respond to the ongoing conversation within hearing person and terp.

    Just a common sense and American custom in general .

    Some deaf people have talents like multitasking, ex. responsive rapport with hearing person. I have ADD myself which is much easier for me to look back and forth from hearing person to terp to hearing person.

    Well, there are ongoing cross-cultural strife between hearing and deaf people thru such misunderstandings and lack of awarness about hearing people’s perspective on eye contacts, body language and hand gestures.

    Every of us know about how senstiive many Arabs are about us showing shoe soles in front of them. That is a cultural expectation of how we avoid to offend someone right now to ourselves.

    Many educational facilities of the deaf and parents of deaf youngsters rarely bother to educate us what we are suppose to behave with hearing people, especially not banging on tables or shouting aloud or waving arms.

    The Northern Virginia Resource Center (NVRC) facility serving deaf residents of Northern Virginia recently offered the workshop on how to get best out of using interpreters. I did not go at all. NVRC run by Cheryl Heppner, current Gally BOT member.

    Gotta go now. Many thanks, Joey and everyone leaving comments. 🙂

    Robert L. Mason (RLM)

  • Morris 17 years ago

    Hey Joey, excellent vlog! In the business world, I control the interpreters period!

  • Jonathan U. 17 years ago

    Really interesting about this.. I think depend on people like fcous on the interpreter more flexable more communication than hearing person not talk me at all or else or like ASL to hearing person like talk by myself. when hearing speak to me. like I cant hear from their. like bad habits with Deaf Culture. more match of Deaf people. If hearing know more ASL would be fine and more fcous too. that my opinion and perservise to deaf people.

  • Deaf Oregonian 17 years ago

    Joey, it is a valid question. We all handle the situation differently, depending on comfort zone. I had used interpreters frequently while I was working. I found that if I did not establish rapport beforehand, I tend to look at interpreter to make sure they use the right choice of word. Interpreters can make or break a deaf person as a professional. Carl gave some excellent points to control interpreters but what about choice of words??? Amy implied that use of PSE or SEE is the only way to communicate clearly. I am out of my comfort zone to use SEE. I think it is interpreter’s responsibility to be flexible and be able to use right choice of words in any given situation.

  • Silent Hands 17 years ago

    Hmm. I’ve wondered about this before. For me, I like to look at the interpreter and the hearing person.

    By the way, do you have a son named Conrad?

  • Interpretrator 17 years ago

    As an interpreter, I have a couple of thoughts about this (and I hope they are not unwelcome).

    First, I can think of many situations I’ve been in where due to the logistics of the room, if the deaf person were to sign to the hearing person, I wouldn’t be able to see those signs; that is, I’d be looking at the deaf person from the side. This is especially difficult when the deaf client prefers to use English-style signing supported by lip movements, which would be impossible for me to catch in these situations.

    Also, eye contact is not as important a linguistic function in English as it is in ASL. When I was a new interpreter, I had a strange habit of looking over my clients’ heads instead of directly in their eyes — and they called me on it. But hearing people rarely place as high a priority on eye contact. We’re used to having our interlocutors looking everywhere else when talking to us, or listening to us for that matter.

    I’m reminded of a hearing teacher who, during a conference with the deaf student and us two interpreters, blurted out “Why don’t you look at me when I talk to you??” Obviously unclear on the concept. But interestingly, that student did tend to direct his signs at the teacher and not at the interpreters.

    In the end, as an interpreter, I prefer the deaf person to sign to me only so I can be sure I’m seeing everything (facial grammar, fingerspelling, etc). If the seating arrangement is as you describe, then it’s not an issue, but it’s rarely that easy!

  • Justin 17 years ago

    Hi, I am at my second year Master at Portland State University and I used interpreters alot in classes. I have a quite an experience of “Who are you talking to” and I am glad that you share this situation with interpreter. Most of the time, I tried to face toward a hearing person but sometime I end up facing interpreter. The reason was that, I need a response from a person and making sure they understand me. For example, I need to see face to make sure I siad it clear or somekind of “agreement” like “yes, I understood.” It tough but I found a way to show that I am talking to the hearing person was to set my body toward the hearing person to show that I am talking to you, not interpreter. Like you said, you look back and forth to check the responses. Most of the time, I would catch the hearing person’s face’s message and make sure that I pause to check the communication or any correction. Most of the time interpreter will stop me and check my spelling and to clarify the sign language. I don’t mind to do that as long I get my message clear across to the hearing person. I have to trust the interpreter’s role and that role was to make sure the goal match between me and the hearing person. That is a good interpreter. The main point of using interpreter is trusting their ecthic job.
    One last thing that I did, after my meeting with the hearing person, I always check with the interpreter to make sure that I understood the person or how the hearing person’s responses (how the voice sound? clear or confuse?).
    Thank you for bring this topic to discuss about using interpreter. 🙂

  • Lu Long 17 years ago

    I would say it’s really all depends on how each interpreter’s skills in communication because sometimes I caught some cerficated and not cerifcated interpreters did not say the whole words what I mentioned which effected me to watch both sides to ensurely that the interpreter done the right job.

    In the court matters, I know it’s much differently between common living communication and court matters. I was one of these secondary ASL interpreter myself in a quite long time ago since one of these ASL cerficated interpreters felt that the Deaf person did not really understand the ASL cerficated interpreter very well during the court issues because of the system proved the judge that some Deaf people were overwhelmed and some cerficated interpreters could not really understand very clear due to how the body language that the Deaf person used. Boy! I wish I could explain this more clear by a movie like Joey done here. Smile…. I really not want to make any kind of misunderstanding in this stage as it is really some tricky and mess, too. I rather to explain this more clear by using my sign language than using this english. I know someitmes my english did not explain very clear in some ways and I am continually trying my best in anyway to use my english.

    If you have any questions or concerns about this point then feel free to contact with me. I will be more than just glad to give you my experinces information that I went through with so such many differently kind of interpreters while I been traveled.

    Hope my points helped in someways here.

    Lu Long

  • TIMBO 17 years ago



  • deafk 17 years ago

    Hey, Joey,

    When I started out after Gallaudet, I had some experiences that I wish Gallaudet or deaf center would have prepared me for the interpreting areas for career purposes. Like, how to handle interpreters on different issues. I even ended up providing a workshop on this. It was necessary, and well deserved information.

    Over those experiences, I end up looking at interpreters while I sign. Prior to that, an interpreter looked into my eyes deparately or
    “begging” that I pay attention to them instead.

    It was tough situation. Interpreters complaint that I was not native signer, like using that state “regional” signs. I am literally “mixed” signer. I learned signs from Gallaudet, and some signs from several states, before I returned to my home state. So, the situation with interpreters is something delicated, and carefully monitored continuely.

    Indeed, this is something we need to educate ourselves ongoing!


  • Nick Vera 17 years ago


    You brought good POV on interpreting approaches.

    I agreed with Amy Cohen Enfron, Carl Schroeder and John Listina’s comment about maintaing your eye contact with hearing person along the sign language interpreter.

    During my student at NTID, my instructor elaborated our classmates about the interview approaches with sign language interpreter by using the essential tools to win your career. It is good rapport relationship between you and the hearing interviewer. My tendency in ASL sometimes feel clumsy and nervous; however, I shall take calm and control my head and heart to converse with.

    Also ensure what the interpreter convey the message what his/her reception from me to the hearing person.

    Thank you, Joey for bringing this interesting topic.


  • Vans 17 years ago

    yea but a bit off the point… when i was talking to the person of interest, my dog barked… the interpreter roared “barking” at the man’s ear… guess what? he darted… left me wondering if he was scared of the sound by the interpreter, not the dog???

  • Wendy 17 years ago

    Well, I am guilty as charged when it comes to looking at an interpreter while I sign. It has nothing to do with a “comfort zone” as one respondent put it. It is more of “trust”. Like many of you said, I constantly look at a terp to ensure that s/he is conveying the information correctly. Unfortunately, where I come from, many interpreters are not ASL-proficient. Granted, I tend to sign very fast, alas a “speed” signer, but should I slow down for the sake of interpreters? No! I should be myself and sign as I please, however, as I painfully realize, that only exists in an ideal world. Too often, whenever I look at a person that I am signing to and become very “animated” in the process when an interpreter suddenly interrupts me for a clarification, killing the momentum which greatly irks me. I suppose it takes a while for a deaf client to develop a “relationship” with an interpreter if s/he does the job on a regular basis before the client can look at a hearing person directly. That is usually the case with me.

  • Emily 17 years ago

    I agree with you. I have same situation this week with the interpreter. My teacher asks me often about why I keep watching the interpreter while i give the speech for my presentation. I told the teacher that sometimes the interpreters tends to guess if they are not familiar with some of my signs. I use most of my sign languages from East. Some interpreters are not familiar with ASL from East. For example: I say ketchup, the interpreter assumed that I mean dragon fire. The interpreter should pause and ask me what it is . I force her position to be replaced because I am concerned my perception and their sign language skills. They give me attitude face when I request to speak to the teacher about that situation. Yes, it hurts them but most of all, its my perception that will harm my grade and my future.

  • Matt Malzkuhn 17 years ago

    Hi Joey

    This is quite interesting, no question about that. Just speaking from experience and through a broad knowledge of communicative rapport between people, it could become natural for signers to align their attention towards the interpreter due to levels of competence. Simply talking directly to a non-signer would deprive the signer the benefit of establishing such rapport. However, i think it could be habit forming, on some signers part, to just remained zoned in towards the interpeter. There is no question that requires discpline on every signer’s part to switch back and forth between the non-signer and the interpeter.

  • Penny 17 years ago

    You wondered why so many deaf people have the tendency to look at interpreters when they want to convey their messages to hearing people. It is easy to give you an answer to your question here. 95% interpreters have poor qualities in interpreting. I finally figured it out why. There are many lazy ASL instructors in our country. I believe many interpreters got away with it when they were students in ASL classes. I always have to look at interpreter and often have to speak for myself too. I don’t trust interpreters. 99.999% they failed interpret for my mother and they make about $200.00 a day! Hope blogs and vlogs will encourage ASL instructors not to be lazy anymore and to improve their qualities in teaching and be stern with ASL students. They need to be sure that students can READ signs before taking further Interpreting training classes.

  • Kim Hungerford Carwile 17 years ago

    If hearing professionals/speakers are requesting for a meeting with his/her Deaf professional who refuse to use an interpreter from VRI or VRS. And also Deaf professional do have their own preferrence of getting an interpreter either from the agency or VRS. The hearing speakers refuse and want their Deaf professional to call and arrange for an interpreter with the agency. The Deaf professional feels s/he is not getting a fair privilege as the hearing speakers have and thought it was their responsible to hire and call the agency themselves as they have requested for a meeting with their Deaf profesisonal.

    Which one is will be responsible in making a call for getting an interpreter – hearing or Deaf?

    What if the private practice interpreters or interpreters from the agency are unavailable to interpret for their meeting, they want to stay with their meeting schedule without an interpreter and refuse using the VRI/VRS. What choice do you have?

    Your reply or feedback is greatly appreciated! Thanks,


  • Meme Kerr 17 years ago

    I blotched the last time so I\’m hoping my vlog reply works this time!!!!


    Thanks for bearing with me 😉

  • Shelly Hansen, CI/CT 17 years ago

    Hi Joey!

    Great v-log site! I’m new to this and enjoy watching! I have a separate question for you….about interpreting. This is the situation. As I am interpreting I have a difficult time “voicing over” a Deaf person who is signing and using their voice. There are hearing and Deaf/deaf in the audience (suppose it is a public meeting). Often the Deaf person wants to use their own voice, while signing. Usually I have some or alot of lag time when voicing. I like to know what the person is saying before starting voicing. The Deaf person (speaker) may want to use their own voice, however, there are people who can’t understand their speech. I make a judgment that I have to, as the interpreter, voice over the Deaf person, and I am lagging behind because I understand better with a little lag time, and it gets confusing, and the Deaf person may not like being voiced over, and yet it is needed for the hearing audience who can’t understand the speaker’s voice. Deaf people are used to “Deaf speech” and so are hearing folks who interact with the Deaf community. But for a hearing person with no Deaf background/interaction, alot of the message is incomprehensible (things like names, details etc… ) that the Deaf person is saying and signing simultaneously. What do you think? How should that be handled? From my perspective, it would be alot easier if the Deaf person did not voice, signed only, and had the interpreter do all the voicing. But that is not reality. So the interpreter is doing sporadic voicing for things that seem unclear for a non-signer listening in the audience and it gets confusing/overlaps, and often it seems to bother the signer (aware that voicing is happening here and there while they are signing). What would you do?

  • matt 17 years ago

    actually it varies from situation to situation.. i tend to look at the person and the body language, which i feel is critical to all communications..

    every year it seems to get worse…some interpreters dont use the words i chose..i chose them for meaningful impact, and the interpreter use another word…hmmm

    you know that 50% of requests go unfilled..i know cuz i had been in a few of those situations myself..

    one time i had a medical emergency, and they sent an interpreter who just graduated and was in the field for a month..call it what you want..mismatch, shortage, whatever..still it was unacceptable..

    some hospitals are now adding rollout laptops with webcams…i havent seen any yet..i would like to test that.

    as a habit, i send summaries of meetings or memos to other fellas to make certain that major points are covered. you would be surprised with some of the replies i got.

    it is not a perfect world and we live in it…

  • Angela 17 years ago

    You know, that is a really interesting point! I’m an interpreter and I am so used to educating the hearing person to look directly at the deaf person when talking to them and not me that I forget I should be educating the deaf client as well to look at the hearing person they are talking to. (not the interpreter) For some reason, I feel more comfortable telling the hearing person to look at the deaf person while they are talking because we are both hearing and I trust they appreciate me telling them the proper protocol. The majority of hearing people I’ve worked for, want to know how to work better with the deaf student.

    I believe some hearing clients feel awkward looking at the deaf person as they speak because the deaf person can’t make eye contact with them anyway. The deaf person must look at the interpreter so it is uncomfortable for the hearing person to not have them looking back. It definitely helps the hearing client to feel more comfortable and like they are truly talking with the deaf client when or if the deaf client glances at the hearing person, nodding their head in agreement or to smile, and then look back at the interpreter. This way the hearing person knows that you understand what they’re saying.

    I think the reason I tend to be more uncomfortable telling the deaf person to look directly at the hearing person while I’m voicing for them is because I’m afraid the deaf person will chew me out for telling them what to do. I’m well aware of how the majority of hearing people have treated the deaf, telling them what to do or “helping” or acting like the deaf person knows nothing, so I feel that as a hearing person if I were to say, “Look at the hearing person while you sign, not me.” the deaf client would bawl me out. A hearing person who can sign telling a deaf person what to do seems like it would not be received well. If I was deaf, telling another deaf person to look at the hearing non-signer while they signed (not at the interpreter), then that would be okay. Both people are deaf and there’s no power struggle.

    Now that you mention it, I do notice that most deaf people look at the interpreter while the interpreter is voicing for them because they want to make sure the interpreter is understanding them. It would be disheartening to go on and on for awhile thinking that the non-signer is getting the whole message, only to find out later that the interpreter dropped the ball. Unfortunately, deaf clients have gotten used to “helping” their interpreters.

    NY Terp

  • Bucky the GREAT 17 years ago

    I’m now catching up on some vlogs here and there while it’s a down day at work for me (shh don’t tell my boss). I didn’t read all the responses and hopefully I don’t repeat anything here, but…

    This has always been an issue for me as well – I personally myself always look at the hearing person who I am conversing with, not at the interpreter. Actually I “trained” myself to develop that habit about 5 years ago. I agree that it’s somewhat of a conflict for us to tell them to look at us directly and yet we don’t.

    The core problem, I believe, is the QUALITY of interpreters. The majority of us deaf people have went though a phase of a certified interpreter whose standards aren’t as high as we expect them to be. Some of us got that experince being in mainstreamed schools, some in a job place and there are some others in many different places here and htere. With that experince it allows us to develop the habit of watching interpreters to make sure our voices are spoken out correctly.

    In the last 5 years, I have been very anal about who is interpreting for me. I know who is qualified enough to voice me properly without me worrying. Should there be a time when I am stuck with an interpreter who isn’t qualified in my eyes, I would probably watch more than often on that interpreter to make sure my words are voiced properly.

    Quality of interpreting needs to IMPROVE. That’s the bottom line. When that comes, we can trust them better and develop a better habit of keeping eye contact with the right person.


  • isabella 17 years ago

    Hello!I do consider myself as a bilingual member of the worldwide sl comunity.

    I am a coda interpreter, from Vienna, Austria. We speak german and use OEsterreichische Gebärdensprache OEGS (austrian sign language). 2005 our OEGS was recognized, at last!

    I was suprised about \”I use interpreters\”. I am curious about how to use interpreters (put on/off eyeglasses, switch on/off TV)?

    Me or my work can’t be used, my service can be absorbed (accessed).

    I work a lot with low(er) educated or almost none signing deaf young clients. Also I work a lot in highly challenging international settings, my experience with wide scale of deaf clients is (my subjective generalization):

    – the higher educational level they reached, or/and

    -the more inner trust and confidence of their sl competence they have, and/or

    -the more experienced they are in working with interpreters

    Leaning on the interpreters ability to handle the situation right. They intent to check, if the interpreter is (working) ok.

    As far as I could understand, they do check with the hearing by reading their facial expressions or body language.

    I see the work of deaf clients and interpeters

    more from the interactional releationship perspective, which is:

    We both work on the same matter, the better the relationship between clients and interpreter is, the better is the result. Any disturbance in this relationship is affecting the process.

    I wonder about people being shy working with interpreters. And during interpretation work our faces do funny things while voicing over.

    My experience showed, it is good to be in resonance with all clients, deaf and hearing. The approach is different though.

    I really enjoy watching VLOGs, love challenging discussions!

    I love the different camera perspectives and backgrounds.

    more, i love to see \”real\” ASL, rather than european-ASL-use.

    Wish to see more discussions via cam, though ASL is a foreign language for me,

    my capability of using it should not be published or saved on any public website 😉 (….yet).

    keep it up,

    greetings from vienna,


  • shirley 17 years ago

    This is a great topic and one that interpreters constantly deal with. Thanks for bringing it up!

  • june 17 years ago

    Hello all. I love this question.

    As an interpreter, almost every time I meet a new client they spend the first 2-5 min trying to read my lips as I voice for them.

    I usually earn their trust quicky or they give up as I tend to give them subtle cues that imply, “Im doing just fine, ya are free to direct your attention on your doctor.”

    OCCASIONALLY…this is rare, but so frustrating that it must be mentioned…I get a client who tries to “feed” me PSE all the while staring intently at my mouth. They often get confused or frustrated when they dont see EXACTLY what they want there.

    Inevitably what happens is voicing that sounds like the following:

    “My daughter, Kathleen …

    “Kath-LEEN(terp fingerspells while voicing), she is wonderful!”

    “Interpreter error, Kathleen is fabulous.”

  • SpeicalCali 17 years ago

    Unbelievable! It amazes to bring up the good point that I have never thought of your comment! Interesting! Well, it supposes to using our “deaf rule” that we should communicate directly to the hearing person with eye contacts not look at the interpreter. I assume why we tend to look at an interpreter instead to hearing person is because of comfortable and usually. Deaf to Deaf are habit to watching and signing each other and same with an interpreter. I think we need to reverse from the bad habit to the right habit and less influence to hearing person that will look and talk to an interpreter, who knows. It is better way to keep eye contacts to the hearing person once. Ironically, I was amazed that hearing person already uses to look at deaf person signs while Deaf signs to an interpreter, and hearing respond directly to Deaf too!!! Huh! Alright, I will recommend myself and you to keep practice the right thing: directly eye contacts to hearing person every time.


  • James DeMers 16 years ago

    I am sorry that first video comments yesterday. I am trying to re make it. Thank you…



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