Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Logical Teaming (RID 2009)

August 2nd, 2009

Philadelphia, PA
Biennial Conference
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf

There are several concurrent workshops so keep in mind that whatever you read here is a particularized view based on the choices that most interest me.

Carla Mathers makes logical reasoning entertaining, presenting (and contrasting) the typical modes of thinking that are drilled (by professional training) into ‘the interpreter’s brain’ and ‘the lawyer’s brain.’ Carla Mathers.jpgConference planners knew she would draw a large crowd so they put her in the Grand Ballroom for this five-hour extended workshop on legal interpreting. I am always impressed with the variety and number of volunteers who agree to practice the application of new skills and techniques on stage for the rest of us to observe. Because we so often work in teams, and probably also because we simply must be seen, and no matter how shy we might be about skill level or making mistakes in public – it is the best way to improve skills and contribute to the general learning of the profession as a whole. Erin, a workshop participant, described her best/most important learning from this workshop:

“If you know your stuff, then
there is nothing that you cannot ask for and get from a judge.”

Carla created a bunch of scenarios based on common occurrences, and asked participants to gather in groups to practice applying lawyer’s logic. Volunteers then share their best attempt: stating the issue(s), the rule, their application of the rule and subsequent conclusion. Also, they have to identify which kind of logical reasoning they used to make the argument. For instance, Scenario 3 is: “A qualified ASL interpreter is assigned to interpret for a deaf witness. Once the witness shows up and introductions are made, it becomes apparent that using only a hearing interpreter will be ineffective.” Participants work together by preference, some in pairs or trios, others in larger groupings. largeInteractiveGroup.jpg
The reports made by volunteers on stage often involve a few different kinds of performance: the literal report (very professional), the tangent (someone venting about an issue they feel is relevant), and various types of humor. There are side commentaries of the presenter and volunteers about the content, about each other, and about the interaction, as well as jokes at the expense of the profession and teasing – or innuendo – about known (or perceived) personality quirks, likes, and dislikes. Despite the seriousness of (for instance) guaranteeing the 6th amendment right of defendants to confrontation and cross-examination of witnesses, we can find lots of ways to make learning enjoyable, so much so that at one point Carla laughed:

“I love interpreters so much more than lawyers.”
(She might say the opposite when presenting to lawyers, wink.)

Meanwhile, we are also able to learn collectively from errors such as leaping to conclusions. In Scenario 3, for instance, the first several reports assumed that a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) was needed. The scenario required a concrete solution so, in order to accomplish the assignment, people had to decide upon a single answer. Still, one might expect a variety of possible solutions. The apparent group think was challenged by a participant and validated by Carla – the witness may need, for instance, a trilingual interpreter because they know another spoken language, or an interpreter specializing in a particular kind of mental health disorder. As much as we need to promote the use of CDIs, we also need to remember to be attentive to the particularities of each case and argue for accommodations specific to the case rather than applying a general rule.
The implications of Carla’s legal training in regards to the interpreter’s role are fascinating. Advocacy is normative in this system, which is a radical departure from (for instance) the possibility and/or value of advocacy in the role of spoken language interpreters in the European Parliament. The type of logical advocacy presented by Carla also differs from individualized caregiving. Legal advocacy is directed to the efficacy of the system-as-a-whole, rather than to adverse effects on any particular person or population.
After lunch (with nefarious company) at Popeye’s, (in which every answer always depends on a range of situational and contextual factors), I went to Jack Hoza’s workshop, “Beyond Monitoring: A New Paradigm in Teaming.” Jack presented some of the research that is described in detail in his forthcoming book (November, 2009), Teamwork as Collaboration and Interdependence. He explained that a literature review shows that teaming (in sign language interpretation) has gone through three phases, which he labels
13 or B copy.jpg

  1. Independent Turn-Taking
  2. Monitoring
  3. Collaboration and Interdependence

Depending upon the situation and the teammate, I have used all three versions at different times, but I would say my training fits somewhere in-between the monitoring and collaboration models. As mentioned by Jack and also by Bill Moody last night during his Keynote, the Open Process Model described by Molly Wilson offers the most collaborative possibilities because it includes the deaf person(s) in the process. (As always, I wonder, [warning: sidebar!] why do we tilt the balance of inclusion to the deaf as if the non-deaf/hearing interlocutors have no stake in the process themselves? Is this compensatory behavior? Is it – in effect – a kind of inadvertent collusion with systems of oppression, a presumed “ally” and “empowered” cooperation that, through exclusion of the other party serves to reinforce the privilege of that party rather than redressing the actual imbalance?) [end sidebar]
Jack organized the results of his qualitative study into six types of strategies, three of which involve information about content. The most common strategy is confirmation – a finding that elicited some questions from the audience (and intrigues me, too). Jack put his emphasis, however, on a combination of two other strategies, the second and third most used, message feeding and collaboration, respectively. Together, these two compose nearly half of all strategies used by the team interpreters in his study. Message feeding is strictly informational (providing this lexical term or that fingerspelled word), whereas the examples of collaboration are in line with the Open Process Model, in which, for instance, the lead interpreter signals the need for a message feed or other support and the team interpreter responds with provision of the needed support or actually negotiates what is needed without losing the on-going thread of simultaneous interpretation.
Jack distinguished between the two team interpreters by using an abbreviated version of Betty Colonomos’ pedagogical model of the cognitive process of simultaneous interpretation. In these terms, the lead interpreter completes all phases and generates target language, the team completes most parts of the cognitive process – all except production of the target language. The team monitors the lead interpreter’s target language production and remains ready to provide support as necessary. independent model.jpgAlthough we all work solo at times, it is most characteristic to work in teams, and the best teams are always proactive rather than passive. This is one of the key distinguishing features of so-called “community” interpreting compared with so-called “conference” interpreting. The spoken language interpreters with whom I spoke and observed at the European Parliament (in 2005 and 2008-2009) work almost exclusively in the {what is for us} archaic model of Independent Turn-Taking, with rare dips into the second phase of Monitoring.
However, there is a different kind of cooperation performed by spoken language interpreters at the European Parliament that exceeds the immediate boundaries of each language team (which I am conceiving of as the interpreters assigned to working in the booth for each particular language). This cooperation is dispersed in space – it is among and between the teams in each working booth. Rather than collaborating with their immediate colleagues, interpreters working ‘independently’ coordinate turn-taking among themselves both internal to the booth and ‘externally’ with the interpreters working in other booths. Keep in mind that each spoken language interpreter in the European Parliament knows several languages (from three to seven, on average), so part of what they are coordinating is which interpreter in the booth understands the source language (there are twenty-three official languages, any of which could be used at any time), in order to render the booth’s target language.
One of the puzzles that my research engages are the relative strengths and weaknesses of “collaboration” (defined as an ‘open process’ of negotiation/support among interpreters , possibly including interlocutors) as a strategy of interpreted intercultural communication and “cooperation” (defined as a more rigid process of ensuring one’s performance as part of a larger system) as a strategy of interpreted intercultural communication. Are innovations possible for borrowing between or merging the two types? Are there criteria for when one type is more suited than the other type? Is there a possibility of fluid switching between the two types within the same scene, or can they only occur exclusively? Any comments, questions, critiques, or other input that you would like to share will be appreciated!
Meanwhile, I met a role model yesterday. Ivan writes beautifully upside-down!
Ivan upsidedowndirections.jpg

Court Interpreter Training Resources – Carla Mathers
Use of a Certified Deaf Interpreter, RID Standard Practice Paper
Jack Hoza
Pedagogical Model of the Interpreting Process, Betty Colonomos

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2 Responses to “Logical Teaming (RID 2009)”

  1. pomocommie says:

    Great account of the Hoza workshop, I am looking forward to the publication of his book, but in the meantime what you wrote was very useful!
    I don’t agree with what you wrote about cooperation among EP interpreters, though. It’s true the ways they work together and interact are not as visible and audible to the listener as is the case in SL interpreting, but this doesn’t mean there is no collaboration (Hoza’s 3rd phase). When there is a relation of trust among the colleagues in the booth and when the type of meeting (Fisheries committee e.g.) allows (time factor) and demands it (difficult terminology), interdependence can be quite extensive.
    Could you elaborate on the difference between collaboration and cooperation? To me it’s not clear what you mean by the two concepts? Maybe you could provide some didactical examples?

  2. Steph says:

    Pomocommie, thanks for your questions &emdash; and especially the disagreement 🙂 I am eager to pursue the differences and similarities that you perceive between spoken language interpreting in the booth and sign language interpreting _____________. (What is the most useful contrast? …in the room? …beyond the booth? … without the glass?)
    FYI, Jack emailed:
    “To be honest, it does seem that some info. is a bit ‘off’ (on my presentation) especially re: strategies and their relation to the ‘open process model’ (which I just briefly mentioned later in my presentation) — as not all of the strategies are related to this particular model(?)… but you obviously have some thoughts on that. 🙂 Anyway, hope the book helps clarify some of these points… — And the journey continues (for all of us…)…”
    I responded:
    “…I did “take” your ideas (to the extent that I understood them, smile) and put them into conversation with some of my other ideas, as well as ideas gleaned from other workshops – basically I’m trying to weave a larger dialogue with a variety of information that I think is necessary to it. Your stuff seems very important, a crucial link with/to other pieces. That interlinkage is more where my focus is, but I do not want to misrepresent what you’re doing, only support and spread it.”
    So, you and I will both be looking forward to his book! In the meantime, I was interested in the contrast and complementarity between Jack’s info on teaming (between interpreters) and Carla’s info on another kind of “team” (using the term loosely) between the legal interpreter and the legal professional/user of interpreting services (particularly a police officer or judge). This is a reason that I jumped on Jack’s mention of the Open Process Model: from my gaze, this model transcends the role-based definition of “teaming,” extending it beyond (what I think is) an artificial boundary separating the interpreters from the interlocutors. Also, the Open Process Model had already been mentioned several times as an exemplar, so &emdash; by emphasizing it here, I think I am making overt a sentiment that is present among many of the most experienced sign language interpreters about the most culturally adaptive way to generate sign-to-voice/voice-to-sign interpretations.
    As to distinguishing between “cooperation” and “collaboration,” I bet Jack has his own definitions clearly in mind. I’ll venture a guess: “cooperation” would be the kind of behavior characterized by the second phase (degree?) of teamwork: monitoring. I did observe and hear stories about this kind of teaming in booths at the European Parliament, albeit infrequently. What stands out to me from your description are the criteria: trust, certain conditions of time & timing, and content demands. It could be that the interpreters I spoke with in 2005 were much more suspicious of each other than they are now? Trust was certainly in limited supply (and I cannot say I witnessed much evidence to the contrary in 2009, but my exposure was limited), time pressure is accepted as essentially non-negotiable. The content demands are usually quite high &emdash; but insufficient to overcome the trust deficit and time constraints.
    Jack, btw, also mentioned interpersonal factors between sign language team interpreters that probably correspond with what you mean by “trust” as a prerequisite condition for effective teamwork.
    Probably, I muse out loud, the distinction between “cooperation” and “collaboration” hinges upon what behaviors are considered evidence of “interdependence.”
    I guess this means we’re waiting for your book, too!

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