I was interpreting recently in a mental health setting. I have been interpreting for 31 years, the last 10 of which have been spent at 360 Translations. I have pretty much seen and done it all when it comes to interpreting. When I voice for a deaf person, I take on the personae of that deaf person. It’s like I become them. It’s nothing weird or supernatural, it’s simply me getting into character and voicing more accurately ( and believably). I think I am a good interpreter, but an excellent voicer (the latter I have been told repeatedly over the years).
Anyway, in a recent mental health therapy session, I voiced “rigmarole” and it fit perfectly with what the deaf person was saying/signing. The deaf person is intelligent (aren’t they all?), well-versed in English, and this word would have rolled off their fingers in a most natural fashion. As it did that session. To me, this is the essence of voice interpreting – embodying the intent and spirit of the deaf person, which simultaneously empowering them).
The therapist was taken aback. “Wow, I’m just curious, you (turning to me) said rigmarole, so please show me how to sign (looking to client) rigmarole.” Me – eyes glaze over and I think to myself – no, not again, this can’t be happening. Of course I interpret everything the therapist says. So now instead of being an almost invisible presence in this communication process, I am now the focus of attention. I am now involved. I groan silently.
The deaf person is confused, so I must go into an explanation of why the therapist offered the request in the first place. I would like to note that almost immediately the therapist realized his gaffe – too late, damage done. So I come out of role and explain what happened. Rigmarole. Damn you, rigmarole!!