If you have command over two different languages, or you have had thorough training in a sign language, it does not necessarily make you a good interpreter. The traditional perception of the interpreter’s role as an unbiased medium of language is at odds when you look at some of the real life incidents.
Role of an Interpreter
They have to do a lot more than simply interpreting words and sentences. To better understand the role of an interpreter let’s look at one or two real time incidences that help justify their role and showcase where it is necessary to go beyond simple translation to help a deaf person deal effectively with a situation.
A medical interview of a deaf patient – The doctor (hearing doctor) had just finished the check-up and was forcing the deaf patient to sit and fix the date for surgery when the interpreter secretly signed, “Don’t fix the appointment for surgery yet. Wait, I need to tell you something important about this.” The deaf patient did not make the appointment and asked the doctor to give him some time to consider the surgery. When he met the interpreter outside, the interpreter explained why he did not find the doctor trustworthy, and suggested the deaf patient have a second opinion. The deaf patient valued the interpreter’s suggestion and went for the second opinion, where he found that he did not, in fact, need the surgery.
Exasperation of an incomprehensible speaker – At a professional meeting the interpreter was interpreting an incomprehensible speaker. Out of frustration, the speaker finally admitted to the members at the meeting, “Just a minute, I am not able to understand what you’re saying. And if it is difficult for me, I’ll bet half the members here don’t comprehend you either. I’m sure all of you don’t want to waste your time discussing if you’re not being understood . . . I ask you, could you please say that again?”
In these examples the interpreter contributes to the conversation in a way that extends beyond mere versions of other participants.
An interpreter has to contribute in diverse ways to make communication interactive. It is necessary for an interpreter to adopt an empirical behavior and always offer or interject a personal opinion.