I met some extremely supportive and accepting interpreters recently, all of whom were considerably more experienced. I was mentioning that after qualifying I have found it very hard to deal with all the contradictory messages I get from the “interpreting world”. I was told that this “never stops” and I think it was more-or-less agreed that, generally speaking, other interpreters “do your head in”, to use a technical term.
“Cognitive dissonance” refers to a theory proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1957, which holds that human beings are perfectly capable of internalising contradictory values, of holding various moral positions which cannot all be simultaneously true: this will result in psychological “discomfort”. Festinger suggested that “when dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will actively avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance”.
Perhaps this is related to the phenomenon of “transition shock”, a phenomenon better known in other professions but only more recently investigated in the sign language interpreting field by ASL/English interpreter Stephanie A. Meyers. “Transition shock” describes the experience of new professionals leaving the cosy womb of their training and encountering the gibbering eldritch horrors of the real world. Meyers’s findings are suggested to be the “result of the profession rather than from intercultural interactions with the d/Deaf community”- this is not “culture shock” but “professional shock”.
Here are just some examples of contradictory “values” at large which interpreters have to assimilate and resolve.
|Not only …||… but also|
|Only by using a Registered Sign Language Interpreter can you be sure that total and effective communication takes place.||Many individual settings and some entire “domains” of interpreting work require specialist knowledge and training.|
|“You should only undertake assignments for which you have the appropriate qualifications, competence, and experience.”||If you cannot interpret effectively in one domain, what makes you think you are competent in any other?|
|You should not charge too little for your services. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.||You should not charge too much for your services lest you bring the profession into disrepute. You should also work for free sometimes.|
|“Practitioners shall interpret truly and faithfully what is uttered, without adding, omitting or changing anything.”||“A certain amount of loss, addition, or skewing of meaning is often unavoidable in translation; language systems tend to be too different to produce exact replicas in most cases.”|
|“Educational interpreters should play an active part in classroom dynamics …”||… but “should not take part in any classroom activities”.|
|The best way to be an “invisible” interpreter is to act like a normal person would – you should not draw attention to the interpreting process.||An interpreter should always interrupt people to ask for clarification.|
|“It is a condition of registration that communication professionals confirm their agreement to abide by the Code [of Conduct] and the accompanying guidelines. Any alleged breach of the Code will be addressed through the complaints procedures applicable.”||Interpreting service users consistently rate highly those interpreters who take a flexible, adaptive approach to their responsibilities, and are involved with the community as participants.|
|Interpreters must be “impartial”.||Effective interpreting and translation activities take the needs and intentions of individual interlocutors or audiences into account, as well as the requirements of the commissioner of the interpreting/translation service.|
|Sign language interpreters only work between spoken and signed languages, or between two signed languages.||Sign language interpreters are expected to support with English in its written form.|
|Interpreters must keep strict confidentiality …||… except when they mustn’t.|