Are two heads better than one?

Pub quizLooking at the certificate recently hung on my wall – telling me I’m a fully qualified BSL / English interpreter – a sense of relief waved over me.  I realised that I had no more exams, essays or assessments like I did when I was training at university. Great! However, it’s not the end of the road for me as a student of interpreting, British Sign Language (BSL) or even the English language.  My journey to improve my skill set as an interpreter and provide the standard of interpreting my clients expect from me continues.

One of the regulatory bodies –NRCPD (have a look at my ‘Registration’ page for more info https://chhinterpreting.com/regsitration-new/) states that to be a registered interpreter and to meet the requirements to work safely and competently, interpreters need to undertake a specific number of hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) every year. Refusal or the inability to do this can mean an interpreter being taken off the register. But, should we be doing more as interpreters to maintain our competency? There is a feeling amongst some interpreters that CPD could be, for some, something they have to do, i.e. attend what is required of them such as training events/conferences/meetings, and then sign a bit of paper to prove they were present, but perhaps not really having much motivation in learning or being involved. Some interpreters question whether such actions proves competency? (I don’t have a specific opinion on this, but there has been a big debate by the interpreting community already on online forums).

I recently attended a round table event where most if not all of the interpreters present strongly felt that the BSL/English interpreting profession needs to become a more reflective one. That is, reflective in regards to being more open about the way we do things in an assignment. Although our ability to sign and to produce a coherent voice over are some of the factors to be reflective upon, it was agreed that it is important to take a more holistic approach about an assignment, rather than focussing solely on the signs that were used. For example, looking at things that could have affected the interpreting process, such as – was it difficult to hear the speaker because of background noise? Or, was it just really hot in the room? (Looking at Dean and Pollard Demand-Control theory for guidance http://jdsde.oxfordjournals.org/content/6/1/1.short ).  One way considered to start encouraging interpreters to be more reflective about their work is having time after the assignment for debriefing. This could either be factored into the job’s allocated time, or it could start to become the norm that after most assignments there will be some debriefing time with your co-worker. In due course, could this become a cultural shift of becoming a more reflective practice?

Of course, I am aware this concept of becoming more reflective is nothing new. Interpreters (including myself) are already doing this in different ways. That could be with a co-worker after some assignments, with a mentor, or through supervision.  Also, it may be that you feel that you already are reflective without anyone else’s perspective and – as someone has already said on the forum ENEWSLI – are we not the best judge of whether our performance as an interpreter is improving? But maybe two heads are better than one?

The main reason, personally, of wanting to become more reflective is to show improvement. When I say ‘show’ I don’t mean proving to other people, but to have the confidence in myself to know that I am on the right track. Another suggestion on how to do this is having a sort of M.O.T for interpreters every 5 years.  This could be paying another interpreter to come and assess you as you work on a particular assignment and give feedback afterwards. I am doing something similar at the moment but instead I am filming myself and then reviewing this with my mentor. Another suggestion was that an interpreter wanting a M.O.T may wish to film themselves and then show it to a group of peers for discussion (although most people didn’t like the idea of lots of people analysing and reviewing their work).  An article from Street Leverage states “All practice professionals need a safe place that allows them to honestly analyse, understand and critique their work.”  (http://www.streetleverage.com/2015/03/horizontal-violence-can-sign-language-interpreters-break-the-cycle/ )

Something that also came up at the round table discussion was the importance that debriefing can be rather different from feedback. For example, debriefing isn’t coming out of the assignment and asking the question “So, how do you think I did???” It is something to talk through with a mentor or supervisor/supervision group. Giving feedback doesn’t come easy to people. I go to a mentor who has been trained how to give constructive feedback, rather than subjective impression (too nice because they are afraid to say anything negative, or too critical which could have detrimental effect on the person receiving the feedback). Furthermore, we are at an assignment to interpret, not of course to take up our head-space with reviewing and analysing another person’s work. So, being reflective is hard work.  As noted above – debriefing is looking at an assignment as a whole.

So, whilst in no way am I dismissing the value of CPD – on the contrary – I think any training / conferences/ forums / or similar you attend, you can’t help but learn and take things in (unless perhaps you shut your eyes and put your fingers in your ears). This can also be another way to reflect on what you are doing, particularly when you attend training. But I am asking, is CPD enough for my continued advancement as an interpreter? And I think having more opportunities to be reflective would benefit me personally and, I believe, the profession as a whole.  After all, the whole point of becoming a reflective practitioner is to ensure the interpreting assignment for the client (deaf or hearing) matches their needs and they receive the service I have so confidently said I can provide on my website!

Photo above: A picture recently taken at a pub quiz where two/lots of heads were definitely better than just one!

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