Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

English Transcript for “Holding Time: The Significance of Deaf Interpreters”

June 4th, 2013

This transcript is offered instead of captions for a 14 minute videotaped conversation in American Sign Language with Deaf elders Winchell and Ruth Moore.

View the ASL vlog at



R: Ruth Moore

W: Winchell Moore

S: Steph Kent

CDI: Certified Deaf Interpreters

NAD: National Association of the Deaf

RID: Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

R: Hello. I’m Ruth Moore, from Massachusetts.

W: I’m Winchell Moore, some people call me Win. This is my wife.

R: We will have been married 51 years this June!

Wow. Time flies.

S: I’m Stephanie jo Kent. I am an interpreter from outside the Deaf community. I began learning ASL when I was 29, maybe 28 or 30. I learned very late!

R: We’re looking forward to going to Deaf Seniors of America Conference in Baltimore, MD, August 23-28, 2013.

S: I want to try and explain my thinking. I’m asking you to help me be clear because the audience watching – you Deaf seniors, you grew up  in community and remember the old ways, how Deaf people would help each other…

R: Deafheart

S: What’s the real difference between CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) and ‘regular’ hearing interpreters? It’s not only language and internalized culture. Those things are important, yes, but I think there’s something else. Something else that could be described simply and taught to interpreters to help them realize one thing to do differently.

Can I call that Deafheart? I don’t know. It’s a behavior. It’s related to the interpreter’s ‘role’ or ‘function’ or how they do their job.

That’s what I want to ask you. Because I’m not a member of Deaf culture. I’ve been watching for 20 years. I entered the field around 1990. There was a lot of conflict between NAD and RID, it was painful, insulting. Now it may be happening again.

Who am I to observe? I’ve watched the Deaf community resist and criticize interpreters, and I wondered why it started. I learned that interpreters got their model from other spoken language interpreters in Europe. So I went to Europe to see their model, and their interpreting really is a machine! They brought that model here.  And Deaf people recognized it as a machine model!

What does the machine do?

That’s what I ‘m asking, through comparing sign language interpreting for the Deaf with spoken language interpreting.

So I am not studying Deaf people or Deaf culture. I am studying the process of interpreting as a whole: with the interpreter, a Deaf person and a Hearing person, altogether that makes one system.

To look at interpreting as a system means there is a mix of, “we are all ‘guilty’ and all ‘innocent’” because the interpreting process is under a bigger system.

This is why I want your help to make sure I explain clearly. Or, if you think I’m totally off the point and have no business saying anything at all!  Please let me know! I want your feedback.

R: I’m interested in your perspective. I’ve never thought of that until today, until you brought it up, how “the machine” is running [us].

S: CDIs . . . what’s the biggest difference between CDIs and ‘regular’ hearing interpreters – like me?  CDIs grow up in the culture… and internalize something. People want to know what that is.

R: They take in Deafhood, the cultural ways of being a member of Deaf community. Hearing interpreters don’t get a full experience of that.

(turns to address W) Do you remember doctor’s appointments? We used to thank them for the medical terminology and go home to look it up in a book to learn all about it.  But ghostwriters? We never had that experience, what’s that?

S: I’m curious if people who grew up at a residential school for the deaf had that experience of knowing who was really good at English and getting help from them? I don’t know. I’m just guessing! But that concept, a team of three scholars did research in Australia and found that concept already existed a long time ago in the Deaf community. We could call that interpreting: sitting together, using two languages, watching signing and writing down the English, reading and signing the meanings back-and-forth… that is a kind of interpreting.

One name for it is ghostwriting.

One of those researchers also wrote about Deaf translators for British television. This is a little bit different than regular interpreting because they have the script in advance. They study it carefully and make a complete transformation into British Sign Language. Their goal is to make sure that the Deaf TV audience understands.

Understanding is the key: comprehension!

That researcher is Christopher Stone. In the United States, Eileen Forestal has studied CDIs.

Her work is amazing.

Her research reveals one thing that CDIs do differently than ‘regular’ interpreters.…..  there’s a name for that ….  schooled interpreters.  (Wow – sorry for the lousy fingerspelling!) – it means that they learned signing in school, at college. They didn’t grow up within the culture. Those who are born and raised in the culture are called evolved interpreters. This distinction comes from Dennis Cokely.

Most of the problems seem to be with school interpreters, because they have not had the socialization. But what is the real difference between schooled and evolved interpreters?

It’s tricky – maybe language, maybe culture but I think these hide what’s most important. The most important thing is that we give CDIs permission  - and that’s the only way we can recognize it!  Without CDIs, you can’t see the difference!

Because evolved interpreters, with Deaf parents, they are still able to hear. So we notice their language and culture but they are still under the same system with schooled interpreters. But also – Deaf people are under the same system! That’s why I say we are all guilty and all innocent!

When CDIs show up, we give them permission to make sure everyone understands. We don’t give other interpreters permission to do that.

W: Yes, but one problem. There’s never time to interrupt the teacher.

S: Yes – it seems natural! Keep the machine running! Keep going! Don’t interrupt! Don’t take over! Keep going!

But that pressure means the interpreter can’t take time to make sure everyone understands. This reflects the system we’re all in. It isn’t about hearing people against the Deaf. It could be, sometimes, that audism is involved too. But the point is time.

Today in history, we are existing as if we are in a race. We’re always in a hurry. Beat the clock. Hurry up.  There’s no time for that! You want to interrupt – oh my!  You’re consuming, wasting time. That’s the attitude behind the machine.  That value comes from overarching society. It doesn’t matter if you are Deaf or hearing, we are all under that machine. This gives the reason to say the interpreter should be invisible – that’s still the machine model.

We don’t see the machine. We expect the machine to work perfectly without a problem. We only notice the machine if there is a mistake, and then we’re upset at it. We treat interpreters the same way. The interpreter ‘isn’t supposed to be there.’

But we are there. [Here.]

This need for speed is from society. If we have to blame, blame society. That’s modernity. It is living in an industrial way, being ground up in a factory. How can we interrupt this societal machine?

 CDIs interrupt that.

R: I never thought of that. But it’s interesting. We tend to use hearing interpreters. Their language fits with ours. But we know other Deaf people who do better with CDIs.

How do you meet everyone’s communication needs?

S: We have to give permission…. The label I thought of is called, HOLDING TIME.  To ‘hold time’ is a concept I adapted from a philosopher, a communication philosopher who talks about how to show the most respect. His name is Martin Buber.

R: We all need, number one, to become more aware, including the Deaf. It would be nice to have a workshop with Deaf, hearing and interpreters, to learn about interpreting and how to work with interpreters.  To really understand what the interpreter’s job is, to facilitate communication? To make sure the communication is clear between deaf and [non-signing] hearing people.

And, as you said, the mutual respect is very important. Successful communication comes when we are sensitive to each other’s perspectives and give each other mutual respect.

It has been our pleasure to talk with you and learn from each other. We hope the Deaf Seniors of America will enjoy watching this video.

W: Bye bye! See you soon.










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Categories: addressing inequity, Call this ACTION LEARNING!, Diss Me Baby!, group dynamics, history, Interpreting, Reflexivity, Resiliency, Series

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