Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

“Are you going to blog me?”

October 6th, 2006

I wasn’t planning on it, Wanda Toots BOSS, but then – after you showed up LATE to our job, and then became DISTRACTED and DIDN’T INTERPRET, I was still gonna let you off the hook. I mean, we’re all human and it’s not like I haven’t been late once or twice, or gone to the wrong place, or (heaven forgive me) totally FORGOTTEN I was supposed to even work. But THEN I learned through the grapevine that you totally decomposed, with a student, in laughter, in front of an entire classroom of sleeping math students. What kind of a professional demeanor is this? Of course, the thing that weirds me out the most is how all the non-deafies ignored the event, as if Deaf folk and interpreters are operating in an alien dimension which cannot be comprehended and therefore shouldn’t be disturbed.
Communication, anyone? :-/


Categories: Interpreting

9 Responses to ““Are you going to blog me?””

  1. dd says:

    tho i don’t think i’m the ‘wanda du jour’, it seems so obvious why we’re invisible… we are basically non-entities… we establish invisibility by being relatively unresponsive personally (if/when we have to become ally, we aplogize for our human-ness)… we establish ourselves as un-respons-able. – group recognition- hmmm. How would the uninitiated possibly know that it’s okay to laugh when we snort or “whistle” or lose our stuff publicly – eg ‘decomposure through laughter!’ If we present our physical, human selves, with integrity, respect and deference to our consumers, doesn’t that set everyone at ease? It seems that behavior emphasizes our similarities rather than our differences. (and I like how it moves away from the machine model that I was raised on.) [eeh gads, I’m public again!] ps… i heard you whistle today, and I did laugh… ok… just a smile, but I did!!

  2. JPB says:

    Not soooooooo…Consumer, are you out there reading this? Dont you remember that I sat there and remained in the room? Help! I’m being berated in a blog! HELP!!! :-0 ! If I’m not mistaken, the consumer left TWICE! Just LOST it!!! It was a picture to behold..The prof did ask what was so funny, and a couple other people looked at me as though I knew something they didnt. (Indeed, I did!) I think there was even a little spitting laughter going on :-))). It was sure worth snorting over! However: I remained in perfect control. the only person who saw me silently laughing was the one who could see my face.
    Now — about that vacuum cleaner with the face painted on it.

  3. Steph says:

    I’ve whistled before – obviously! And folks ignored it. Too strange. Then, yesterday a young man walked up to me and launched a conversation as if we were best buds. “The test wasn’t so bad,” he said, “about half passed and half failed.” I was doing a mental scan: yeah, his face is familiar, has he been in one of MY classes? No no no. (That would have been too embarrassing.) Test? Where have I been involving a test? What the HECK is he talking about and why does he assume I know him? It finally clicked, “oh, he’s in one of the classes I interpret.” So, yes, we’re “invisible” for the interaction, but “known” outside of the situation.
    I can’t help you, JPB, with feeling watched by inanimate eyes, but there are some other sweet things about that class – a teacher who responds to visual cues, asks for feedback and (!) actually works with it, and non-deaf students who have figured out how to time their comments (or repeat them) when the deaf student is actually looking at the interpreter.

  4. Juia says:

    One of the problems here is a general lack of understanding on how to deal with a deaf student or the interperter. I am sure it is annoying for the interperter to be ignored in the context of the setting as it when someone speaks to the interperter rather than the deaf person. There are times when using an interperter that I feel disconnected from the conversation. This happens very often when placing an assisted call (Text or Video Relay), pronouns shift from ‘you’ to ‘her’. This has happened even during an in person conversation when someone says to the interperter “Tell her…” There is no quicker way to feel like an outsider than that. I can only imagine that there is a similar disconnect for the interpeter.
    There is a type of dance that goes on between the instructor and the interperter during the lecture so that both can do their jobs in an efficent manner. There is yet another dance that occurs during the more interactive discussions. I had a pause to realize how important my non-verbal communication was in this situation. I spend a lot of time watching others non-verbal communication and sometimes forget my own. But, I realized that I sent cues to the interperter that I needed help at this moment with the conversation.
    My question is does the use of these non-verbal cues cause the interperter to feel invisible?
    (sorry for running on quite a bit)

  5. Steph says:

    Julia, please “run on” some more! 🙂 It isn’t that I want people to pay attention to ME; I want them to pay attention to the communication and the relationships across the language difference.
    There definitely is a dance, especially when interpreters get up off our behinds and start to move WITH the language, rather than forcing everyone’s words to come to us, stiltifying the communicative process. The more I move with the speaker, or from speaker to speaker, the more coordinated the dance becomes, such that I now make much more subtle observations than I could before. For instance, a shift occurred with one teacher with whom I’ve been “dancing” for awhile. She writes all over the board, talking pretty much nonstop. When she stops writing she usually turns around and faces the group of students.
    The first day my closeness unsettled her. We needed to further discuss the reasons why it matters to keep a visual line of sight for the deaf person that includes the primary speaker (using spoken English), the interpreter, AND whatever material is on the board. No problem; she agreed, characterizing our movements as a dance. She needed to get used to the distraction of my presence and be assured that we wouldn’t be bumping into each other. (Which has happened (!), but only once.)
    Things progressed quite smoothly, I have to say. 🙂 Then, something shifted. It took the second class period for me to recognize it as an actual shift, as in ‘something is really different here.’ After class, I said, “the rhythm of our dance has changed.” “Really?” “Yes, it used to be when you wrote on the board, you would turn around close to where you’d written and it was easy for me to keep the three important elements in the same the visual field. Now, you write and then bolt to the other side of the room!”
    She acknowledged my observation, asking me to stay after. Turns out there’s something going on that has her a bit distracted – no big crisis or anything, but a worrisome thing that’s just tweaked her enough to interfere with sleep. “Ah! That’s it, you’re on autopilot!” Yep. Doing her job in her sleep (more-or-less). NO WONDER I couldn’t track her so well, and my interventions were more often missed and info irretrievably lost than regained.
    In the past, I don’t think I was capable of noticing such nuances. I certainly didn’t have the imagination to conceive of such an external source of interference, but there it was. Wow.

  6. Steph says:

    Oh, as to the cues…you’re referring to when you start to giggle, or raise your eyebrows, or otherwise “comment” to the interpreter about something humorous? 🙂 There are two sides to it, because when an aside is shared from the deaf person to the interpreter it makes us more visible to YOU, it’s a kind of acknowledgment of “the person behind the screen” who’s doing the song-and-dance of interpreting. The pang I feel about it is that I have to do two things: a) decide that it’s a comment “intended” for me and thus not interpret it (what power is this?!!) and b) deal with the momentary heightening of awareness that the non-deaf members of the group really aren’t paying attention to the process/relationship invoked by accommodating the language difference.
    There’s a concept someone (a psychologist?) was working on a few years ago called “vicarious trauma.” It is a phenomenon that probably occurs in many service jobs. Specific to interpreting, it is when the interpreter witnesses oppression (stereotyping, discrimination, prejudice, disrespect, disinterest, etc.). We do feel that when it happens, and perhaps – at least in some instances – moreso than the deaf persons who are its target (whether intended or incidental): we buffer and absorb the insult. You wonder why we sometimes become a tad bit sensitive? 🙂 It’s tough stuff.

  7. Julia says:

    See there are places were language breaks down somewhat to describe situations even. I find I want to say that I was speaking with the teacher “one on one”, yet you were part of the conversation. Then there are parts of the converstation in that mode where I can follow the conversation without your assistance, and you respect that by not interperting during that period. The non-verbal cues I meant are the ones that get sent to say “I need help here again.” It seems that this part of the dance can be complicated for you as well.

  8. Julia says:

    You said, “It isn’t that I want people to pay attention to ME; I want them to pay attention to the communication and the relationships across the language difference.”
    To me this seems an even bigger part of the process in the classroom when the interpertation is more ASL and less Signed English. To be able to put the concepts into a visual representation in space, rather than just echo the English words, requires an understanding of the concepts being presented by the interperter. This requires an even closer cooperation between the teacher, interperter and student.

  9. Steph says:

    Ah, yes. There are many cues while interpreting and the dance between me as interpreter and you as student is definitely as complicated as that between me as interpreter and the teacher (or any roles of signer/visual communicator and speaking/auditory communicator).
    I make a distinction between cues that are relevant TO the communication process between “the two of you” (smile) and those that are comments ABOUT the communication that are “supposed to be” between you and me. The latter types of cues are a step “outside” of the communicative situation which it is my job to allow us all to be within!
    The question then is how hard do I – as interpreter – hold us ALL within it? What are the exceptions I agree to and those I disagree with? What are the criteria for these exceptions? Do they hold for everyone in the situation or do I privilege some persons and disenfranchise others?
    I’m getting rather abstract. 🙂 Do you have examples that might illustrate this? Or does my explanation break down somewhere – if so, where?

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