Banes of an interpreter’s existence

  1. Songs. Oh, wow, songs. Because they’re art, you have to listen for a while before you truly grasp the meaning, and by the time you do, it’s often gone too far to really catch up… Worse, there are terms used in songs (especially Dancehall culture, I find) that we ‘get’ in Patwa, but figuring out how to interpret… hard. You might wonder how this could be hard for a sign language interpreter; you see people sign songs at church, or at events all the time. Those are usually, to be honest, not fully intelligible, as they cut out many words to make it match with the song. And, of course, it’s usually done in (some attempt at) Signed English, and I’m a JSL interpreter; two different languages.
    DO: Let the interpreter know if you have songs at your event, and, if possible, share the lyrics!
  2. People talking/signing over each other. This can be overwhelming, especially for a new interpreter. It happens a lot in meetings. We have to decide how to summarise the info, deciding what’s relevant, and still capture the non-verbal information being passed around, as much as possible… Wow.
  3. People talking to us rather than our clients. This is more annoying than anything else. This is why it is professionally advised for an interpreter to get to an assignment early to discuss the process with the parties involved, and (if possible) give a hard- or soft-copy explanation of how to use an interpreter.
    DO: Face the person, not the interpreter. Say, “you”, “your”, etc. Speak to them, not to us.
    DON’T: Say “tell him”, “tell her”; we interpreters are to function like living telephones, in a way.

I love interpreting so far! Can’t wait to get more experience and skill!

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