Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

more experimentation (and success!)

January 20th, 2006

Have had two more opportunities to practice moving instead of sitting as I interpret. Both of these were with Deaf persons who don’t do lipreading (the other two so far tend to switch back and forth between lipreading and watching the interpretation). I was anxious how it would go….maybe this method is only good for those in that in-between position of being able to get by without interpreters one-on-one but not in groups?
But no (!), both of these Deaf consumers said they felt more attentive, that it was better to follow the interpreter with their gaze and be able to see who was speaking, and that they felt more engaged.


The movement did not, however, make it automatically easier to break into the non-deaf, spoken flow of conversation. These two particular groups are so used to interpretation that they basically ignore the whole process. (That’s how they were trained, and how they’ve gotten used to it.) Even us doing something completely different like standing and walking around them the entire time (!) didn’t ruffle their composure or cause more than a glance or two of mild curiousity. No one asked. That’s a bit discouraging, but one of the non-deaf persons was involved in both groups and I was able to check and get their opinion – which was noncommittal, basically “no big deal” and “do whatever you want.”
I explained how, at one point, the group had begun speaking of something internal to their operations that all of them knew but neither me nor my team did. Whatever their phrase was to refer to an entire complicated procedure involving several people and phrases was not transparent – after explanation we knew what it meant, but not without a reference point! Unfortunately, it took a good three minutes to break into the group’s talking to get the clarification, by which point in time the Deaf person was pretty far behind on the concrete details of the discussion. Of course, we did our best to fill in the gaps, and he’s quick-minded and familiar enough with the context that he could manage, but still…..how much was lost?
It felt like a risk to try this “new” method in this “old” group, and with culturally-grounded Deaf persons. I’m pleased it worked out as well as it did, even if it’s not an instant cure for the problems of linguistic inequality.

6 Comments

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6 Responses to “more experimentation (and success!)”

  1. dd says:

    hmmm… interesting that the “experience” level of the non-deaf group may work in opposition to the desired effect of the interpreter’s physical movement. I understand you to say that you suspect that they were not phased by your ‘floating,’ whereas, I wonder if those who are less familiar with an interpreter’s presence/role may have responded more.
    Would they be more conscious of turn-taking?? or more aware of terps holding back waiting for the the thread/or “inside info” to become clear?
    I wonder if they’d have added that clarification sooner.
    I’ll have the opportunity to work with new (to me)consumers/and non-Deaf consumers this week. If they are willing, I’d like to get off my butt… one situation in particular wd lend itself nicely. My guess is that most of the non-Deaf folks have limited, if any, exposure to terps. Will this allow for a more inclusive dialogue? Interesting thoughts about the ‘privileged banter’ between Deaf consumer and interpreter… something I tend to do and which I can rationalize for days, but your points are well taken.

  2. Steph says:

    dd – yes, I think it’s generally true that the “more experienced” a group is with interpretation the less likely they are to pay attention or change. They’ve established habits, routines, methods, rationalizations etc that are “frozen” – simply unquestioned. Although the Deaf persons noticed differences (which they seemed to like), and the interpreters notice changes (one concern was getting voice feeds…harder if you’re not next to each other)… those non-deaf/hearies just don’t seem to *want* to have to think too much about whether – or how well – the communication is “working” or not.
    I’ll be curious how it goes with your new setting and new consumers if you do get up and move around!

  3. john says:

    > i had been in a few of these siutations…and i see
    > pros and cons..
    > again its relative to who is the deaf person and the
    > variables that come with the person..ie dependent on
    > lipreading, etc etc
    >
    > need to know who said what as a way to keep up with
    > office politics etc etc
    >
    > i have had good terps but lousy outcomes at
    > meetings…and vice versa…life just aint fair …
    >
    > im no sure that im telling you anything new..
    i should add that if you have an autistic person at the meeting, he might not want anyone floating in room but himself…
    good luck with your experimentation.
    >
    > take care
    john

  4. Steph says:

    Hmmm, there were also comments about this by Ben Karlin, but they must have been to a different post. John, of course you’re right that it always “depends”, but what has struck me is how little range there seems to be in actual practice for being proactive with the variables? In other words, what I’m saying is, your argument (if I understand it correctly) basically supports the notion of an interpreter NOT moving, because it probably won’t help (an assumption?) or because it might lead to other challenges (always a possibility, but not a guarantee, right?)
    In other words (you might have a baby cow when you read this!), your argument is rather conservative! 😉

  5. john jake says:

    as for above…dont want to think…OR dont want to accommodate…everybody in a hurry….we live in a global economy and these situations do not impact the balance of trade…but in small group meetings, i do see some success..
    i agree with you..”little range”…
    i do find myself in a dilemma here…cuz you know im the type that support and encourages “creative arrangements” and in most cases, i dont want my interpreter floating…
    i wish to assert that it is really subjective to being”in the right place at the right time”…
    all kind of variables sprang to mind…and i know you have been there..
    do we want floaters when there are 2 terps in the room?
    do we want floaters on the golf course?
    anywhere on a friday night?
    heck , lately i find that i hold “pre-game meetings” with my terp and saying…”dont break eye contact with mr. asshole over there… if the woman in brown sweater is talking, do point her out subtly, i want to know”…
    and i reached the age where i want my terp to sit down..im tired of straining my neck…at the last meeting i was tempted to ask the terp to sit on the floor so i could get better blood circulation.
    dunno if this is helpful..everybody is different…and comes with different needs.
    a floater behind peter pan flying on a community theatre stage…that will be the day…
    what you doing next week?

  6. Steph says:

    I surmise that conservation of energy is your top priority? [Warning: tease forthcoming.] Shifting eye gaze and turning your head are a bit too much for ya, eh? 😉 I have this philosophical notion about floating. The physical movement of the interpreter “matches” the auditory (for the non-deaf) and visual (for the deaf) “movement” of language. I don’t just mean the turn-taking between speakers although this is the most obvious. I mean the animation of language – it’s actual LIFE and LIVLINESS. When the interpreter sends down roots in one place it “freezes” the flow of language, locks it into a forced (stable?) pattern. I think this has a chilling effect, and suspect it is a big (subtle?) part of the continuing experience of many deaf folk of ‘being oppressed’ in interpreted situations.

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