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Update: Term 2
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The starting place of my interpreting career




This is a special weekend... I’m attending a conference about interpreting being held at York St John University (YSJU: previously The University College of Ripon & York St John) and this is where I studied my undergraduate degree in Linguistics & Language Studies and was the starting place of my interpreting career. I was fortunate to have my graduation at York Minster in 1997 and returning to YSJU is, as you can see from the image, just lovely. We each take something slightly different from a conference and what follows is a short discussion of my learning from three of the presentations I attended during the weekend. 


Keynote: Working with registered intermediaries (RI) MOJ. Craig Flynn.

This presentation provided a brief overview of the RI role. Intermediaries work with victims, the accused and witnesses. This includes deaf children, people with mental health difficulties, those with a learning disability or with a language disorder or delay. The intermediary is there throughout the process and visits the deaf person in their home. Part of the role is to glean some additional information to support the deaf person in telling their story.


Examples of signs which were suggested are often misunderstood by deaf people include RAPE, FRIEND and NEVER. I’m not sure that a competent interpreter would use the generic sign RAPE [rip clothes off] in a legal setting. This sign has been quoted for many years to highlight the poor use of a generic sign where the full meaning is not contained within a visually motivated sign. It was suggested that the sign FRIEND when used within the interpretation of the question “Is s/he a friend?” has connotations which may not be understood by someone being questioned. In the context of a minority community where members know each other and may have attended the same school, but are not ‘friends’ as understood by the wider, hearing community, using the sign without exploring the deaf person’s understanding may give an inaccurate response. Additionally, the sign NEVER is somewhat ambiguous and may require further exploration. 


The intermediary can provide guidance to the court concerning the language needs of deaf person, adjustments and supporting material. This is an area of particular interest to me since intermediaries come from a variety of professions and speech and language therapists often undertake this additional role. The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists have been campaigning for improvements and increased awareness concerning the communication support provided to defendants.


Workshop: Mental health and wellbeing-how should it affect you? Sarah Powell.

Sarah discussed how given the nature of our interpreting work and the domains in which we work, sometimes when we are interpreting something out of the blue happens and triggers a personal memory from an emotional experience. How do we deal with that? Do we leave the room? How we manage our own mental health? It’s important to allow time to deal with that experience at a later date. We need to think about how we deal with interpreting situations. We are professionals and if we think about the range of clients we work with and the range of scenarios we find ourselves in, it is important to make sure we have supervision or buddy to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly. 


We should also be aware of our own past. We are human and we need to build up our internal resources so we are able to deal with a situation and continue to work in that particular domain. How can we do this? There are a range of ways including talking, exercise, mindfulness, mediation, reading about other people’s experiences, animal therapy and short-term counselling. Sarah also reminded us how important it is to learn something new. This might be a hobby, DIY or visiting a new area. What’s important is that we get out of our comfort zone. She also suggested we turn off all media communication for one hour each day. It’s so important to engage with people and talk to our family, people we meet and if we feel we can’t then we should seek professional help. Learning is important as it stimulates and exercises our brain. We should also make healthy eating part of our lifestyle by incorporating fruit and vegetables into our daily diet, with protein and healthy fats so we can build up our bodies resilience. 


The five steps of wellbeing are learning, communication, mindfulness, diet and activities.


Keynote speaker - Role Space: Understanding successful interpreted interactions. Robert G Lee UCLAN

This was a well-delivered presentation. The final presentation of the conference on a Sunday afternoon after lunch is possibly not the time you might choose, unless you have the personality to take to the stage. It was a brilliant exploration of the factors that enhance or inhibit successful interpreted interactions. Robert later referred to this as the “bleeding obvious model” but since that title wouldn’t get papers published they came up with a fancy title. If it’s so obvious, why do interpreters sometimes behave in a way which does nothing to enhance the situation but positively terrifies the hearing person who has never worked with a deaf person or sign language interpreter. They can’t pretend we’re not there or that we’re just like a telephone. Not responding to a question because we are the interpreter and not a participant is just odd. Why is an interpreter ‘stepping out of role’ if they introduce themselves as a person? There’s an axis of participant interpreting which you can read more about in the book. It’s about engendering the trust, the presentation of self, interaction management and deaf and hearing alignment. Having this on our radar is important! 


This year YSJU are celebrating 40 years of Linguistics and Languages. I’d like to say thank you for generously providing excellent conference facilities to VLP at no charge. And for planting the seeds of my career.


Useful links:

The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists



Redefining the Role of the Community Interpreter: The Concept of Role-space. Peter Llewellyn Jones & Robert G Lee (2014)