Critical Interpreting Awareness
Interpreters’ Role, Professionalism or Integrity?
The discussion about what is and isn’t my role has cropped up regularly throughout my interpreting career, be it in the workplace, at conferences, during training or in discussions with Deaf people and/or other professionals. Since attending the PG Diploma, the issue of ‘role’ has become somewhat of an anomaly in my mind. Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2008) propose ‘that the interpreter is there to enable two or more people who don’t speak or sign the same language to communicate in a way that they would want to communicate. Full stop. How this is achieved depends entirely on the setting, the interlocutors and their goals and the communicative competence of the interpreter.’
I wanted to explore this notion of role and the confusion over the ‘role of the interpreter’ that there seems to be within the field. We are human beings and cannot step out of our role as a human being; I do not stop being a human being when I am working as an interpreter, just as I do not stop being an interpreter when I am in a situation which does not require interpretation. I do, however, consider my actions and behaviour when both in and out of interpreting situations and what the consequences could be for other aspects of my life, therefore behaving as a professional. For example, to mock Deaf people in an inappropriate manner in the pub amongst friends could ruin not only my reputation but the views of others about Deaf people. To accept an interpreting job which would affect me negatively i.e. a difficult mental health case, may not be suitable for me, and so I may not accept it. I cannot switch off my emotions because I am in a situation as ‘an interpreter’ because I am in the situation as me, one cannot be extracted from the other.
Role as a means of escape?
The notion of ‘role’, in relation to interpreters, was questioned by Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2008) in their conference paper for the ‘Supporting Deaf People’ online conference. They posed the question, is the ‘notion of role simply a construct that interpreters have hidden behind to avoid their individual responsibility for professional decision-making?’ I found this an interesting question and thought about what I consider my ‘role’ to be and my views on accepting responsibility for my professional decision-making.
I also considered the ‘profession’ and wanted to look at this notion of ‘the profession’ versus professionalism. There are so many different viewpoints on ‘interpreting as a profession’ covered in a range of texts and constant debates over how we are viewed, how we are regulated (or not), how we (should) update our skills, whether or not we should have to be on a register, whether interpreters should have to evidence their continuous professional development and so on. I think the notion of role and the professionalisation of interpreters are inextricably linked. In the afore-mentioned paper, Llewellyn-Jones and Lee suggest there may only be ‘integrity’ to regulate interpreter’s behaviour as there are no clear rules to follow.
in⋅teg⋅ri⋅ty // [pic][in-teg-ri-tee] –noun (Dictionary.com)
|1. |adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. |
This raised many questions in my mind. If it is integrity that regulates our behaviour then whose moral and ethical principles are we following, and are they appropriate for an interpreter? Who decides a person is of sound moral character? And who knows if and when an interpreter is being honest? Do our Deaf consumers decide our integrity? Is it the case that we should all register with the NRCPD and ASLI to prove our integrity by adhering to their code of ethics? If this judgement of integrity is based on how we work, how...