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Deaf interpreters

equaldiagramI can almost see the raised eyebrows at today’s title. I’ll admit that I didn’t always know about this but have experienced deaf interpreting first hand and have seen the tremendous skill and intelligence that the deaf interpreter brings to the table. I’ve had two instances where this has been displayed; one was a personal experience and the other was done on an international platform.

So I’m sure you’re asking who exactly is a deaf interpreter. Here are the definitions given according to the Canadian Hearing Society’s website as well as the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centres.

“A Deaf Interpreter uses American Sign Language, gestures, and/or other communication strategies to facilitate communication between a Deaf consumer, a hearing consumer and a hearing interpreter. A deaf interpreter is a deaf individual who has native or near-native fluency in American Sign Language, who has interpreting experience and who has taken specialized training.

A deaf interpreter will function as a member of the interpreting team. This may be needed if a deaf person uses signs that are: particular to a region or age group, has minimal or limited communication skills, has had their communication hindered or altered because of sickness or injury, or uses non-standard ASL or gestures.

A deaf interpreter may be called upon when it is determined that a deaf person is likely to be able to present concepts in a more comprehensible way because of shared culture and life experience. In some cases this is not always possible for hearing ASL-English interpreters.

Deaf Interpreters work most often in tandem with hearing interpreters. The Deaf-Hearing interpreter team ensures that the spoken language message reaches the Deaf consumer in a language or communication form that he or she can understand, and that the Deaf consumer’s message is conveyed successfully in the spoken language.”

I know that sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t and it’s a beautiful sight to behold when all the parties work together. If for example I’m called to a job as an interpreter and there is a deaf person there who has minimal language skills, or who doesn’t know sign language but only uses gestures, another deaf person who would act as interpreter would come into the scenario, he and the other deaf person would communicate, that deaf interpreter would tell me in sign language what was said and I would then voice what was said to the hearing person.

While there is training for those deaf individuals who want to become deaf interpreters, there are those who provide the service unofficially as in many large countries there are deaf individuals who have no formal education for one reason or another or who doesn’t use sign language in their particular region.

When I actually saw this in operation I was very impressed with the entire interpreting team, but moreso the deaf interpreter. The deaf interpreting which I saw on an international stage however had a twist. The speaker was speaking in Czech to the hearing interpreter who then interpreted to the deaf interpreter, who in turn interpreted to her deaf audience which represented about twenty-five different countries! She did it all so that every last one of them could understand. I bow to her.

There are some groups where the service of a deaf interpreter would be of great use. These include:

* Deaf immigrants

* Deaf persons who have been socially isolated (ie. From rural areas, inmates of mental facilities or prisons)

* Deaf plus (mentally ill, developmentally delayed, educationally deprived)

* A deaf person who is not comfortable with hearing people

* A deaf person who is seriously ill, injured or dying (the deaf person’s ability to produce signs clearly or use both arms when signing may be affected)

* Deaf children who have not been exposed or who may have had limited exposure to English and/or ASL

The benefits of this service also include:

* Optimal understanding by all parties

* Efficient use of time and resources

* Clarification of linguistic and/or cultural information to reduce misunderstanding(s).

One cannot argue the level of ability which the deaf interpreter would require to complete such a task. Credit must be given to this special group of persons who must have the same basic skills which are required for all interpreters. These include:

* Mastery of the target language.

* Mastery of their mother tongue.

* Knowledge and understanding of current affairs.

* Ability to adapt to speakers and situations.

* Ability to concentrate and perform under pressure.

* Maintaining the integrity of the role throughout the session.

So the next time you come into contact with someone from the deaf community and “ignorant thoughts” try to force their way into your head, remember that the brain power and mental capacity of that individual is limitless, powerful and ingenious!

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