Passing on the baton to the next Devon and Cornwall ASLI Rep

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Me with fellow Devon and Cornwall ASLI members at the ASLI consultation in London.

I can remember my first Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) meeting back in autumn/winter 2013. At that time I was a trainee interpreter and was (hopefully) going to be qualified by early 2014. I started out on my route towards becoming a qualified interpreter knowing that becoming registered with NRCPD was almost mandatory but becoming a member of ASLI was also something which I felt was really important. 

Whilst being registered with the registering body NRCPD  which I would suggest is essential to practice safely as a BSL/English Interpreter, being a member of ASLI wasn’t actually a  necessity. I could have gone to any membership body similar to ASLI, or even taken out insurance through a commercial insurance company. However, the camaraderie I could see and feel between ASLI members was something I certainly wanted to be part of. I remember from my post graduate degree from the University of Central Lancashire that some of my cohort sniggered that I would pay what they believed, high membership fees when I could join a much cheaper membership organisation. But for me, it wasn’t just about getting insurance, it was about being part of a members organisation which “encourages good practice in sign language interpreting and to support our fellow professionals.” (https://www.asli.org.uk) This, I felt I had found in the membership in ASLI Devon and Cornwall. A few months later I expressed my interest in becoming the rep for ASLI Devon and Cornwall and I have represented this region for about 3 years. 

Being an ASLI rep has meant that I have had the opportunity to represent the views of members from this region at AGMs and consultation days. Organising the bi-monthly regional meetings has given me a greater opportunity to speak to and see the majority of the ASLI members in the region on a regular basis. ASLI has given me a lot in terms of colleagues, friendships, training, best practice guidance- the list goes on. But as one fellow ASLI board member reminded me recently, it is not only what a member can get from ASLI but also what you can put in! ASLI is a members-run organisation and for me, I have felt it very easy to contact the relevant people and channels of communication to get my voice heard and my views taken into consideration.

I will miss being a rep for ASLI Devon and Cornwall, but I am looking forward to new beginnings. That is, not only the new ASLI rep taking on the baton, but also very proudly seeing my great colleague from Devon – Emily Quigley become a member of the ASLI board which I know will mean great things for ASLI. What’s more, excitingly we have the ASLI AGM coming to the West Country in Exeter which is amazing and I am really looking forward to members travelling to the West. Thank you members of ASLI Devon and Cornwall for being such a great bunch of people. 

NB: This is post is not disregarding other membership organisations but I have no experience of those and so can only describe the membership body of which I am part, i.e. ASLI. 

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Theatre Interpreting in Devon and Cornwall with Dreadnought South West

 

 

Interpreting Dreadnought’s production of ‘The Cause’, touring throughout the South West, has sadly now come to an end. It is as they say ‘all good things come to an end’ – and it was, a very good thing! Both in terms (of course) that access to theatre for people who use BSL as their first language, but equally for me as an opportunity to interpret in theatre again. It was extraordinary for me this time that I also had the privilege of interpreting the play more than once because I travelled with the Dreadnought crew to four of their touring locations in Devon and Cornwall. Interpreting a play more than once is a dream for many theatre interpreters as they will have the opportunity to evaluate their work and improve upon anything ready for the next show. 

I used my time wisely and invited my mentor to the first performance in South Devon, so I had two sets of eyes (mine and hers) to evaluate my interpretation. Whilst it is very kind for people to say that I looked ‘very good’, these aren’t always reliable sources of feedback due to the nature of their comments – usually they are trying to be kind, or they might not understand BSL to make any meaningful comments (although, always nice to be told that I am doing a good job!) Another set of eyes (my mentor) meant that I not only avoid the risk of ‘head in the clouds’ attitude that all is OK and nothing needs to be changed, but more so to stop me from being too critical on myself and having more of a constructive view to work from. 

I was also very fortunate that the attitude from Dreadnought was very flexible and open minded when it came to including a BSL interpreter into their performances. They made it very clear from the start that they did not want it to be just a token gesture, but also something for them to learn from so that they will have more of an understanding of how to make their performances accessible in the future. Their flexibility included having numerous meetings with the director and writer of the play to discuss my positioning on stage and the resources I needed from them in order to start prepping the play effectively. Among many other things, this included having early access to the script; a filmed performance for me to have available at home; complementary tickets to as many performances to help me understand the concept of the play and characterisation. I was also invited to the rehearsals, where I could stand and have an open dialogue with the actors in what they thought might work well.

Whilst the above might seem standard to what you would expect an interpreter would need in order to help prepare for a theatre production, these things aren’t always available. This can depend on things such as the attitude of the director, i.e. they’ve been told they are having an interpreter in their play, rather than them seeking to make their play more inclusive. This can sometimes lead to challenging discussions about where they want the interpreter to stand on stage and where I believe it would be more beneficial to the deaf audience. It can also be linked to time constraints in that an interpreter is sometimes not sourced until a couple of weeks before the scheduled performance. It was a luxury that I was given the script and met with Dreadnought in spring this year and the BSL interpreted performances did not start until autumn. 

Having more than one performance date I believe helped me to improve as the performances toured in and around Devon and Cornwall. Whilst it is always important to self-reflect after interpreting assignments – particularly theatre work to think about what I could do differently next time for a different show – I actually had the opportunity to have a ‘next time’ for the same play.

Interpreters being scapegoated; access to services for BSL users being denied – I cannot be a bystander….

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As a freelance interpreter I take direct bookings from a hearing or deaf person but also accept work through interpreting agencies. With large public bodies no longer able, or willing, to pay interpreters on an individual basis they  are starting to use agencies to make booking interpreters easier and to make the agencies  responsible for sorting most things , e.g. invoicing, assignment details, etc.

Since working as a sign language interpreter I feel I have good working relationships with a variety of agencies. However, one agency in particular, has not improved its working practices, despite numerous meetings with sign language interpreter associations, legal action taken individually by interpreters, feedback from the local, deaf community or letters sent by unions. Alarmingly, these, seemingly,  poor working practices are being disguised as interpreters not turning up to appointments, i.e. BSL/English interpreters are being used as scapegoats.

Before the agency was awarded the contract for a public service, it was operated by a local, BSL specialist agency. Maybe it’s true what they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Because, now that BSL specific agency no longer exists (it ceased operating December 2017), it has left a gap in sourcing interpreters for a  specific domain that this new agency has been unable to fill. It has also meant that we, as interpreters, know how a good agency can be run, e.g. woking alongside its freelance interpreters, rather than seeing them as something that needs to be tolerated.

Among other issues, there are two significant problems which have been a regular occurrence for this agency not only in this new contract but in other contracts they hold in the South West (and from what I am aware of from other interpreting colleagues across the UK, these issues may not be exclusive to the South West peninsula). These issues are: 1) providing a non-registered, unqualified interpreter to medical appointments, and 2) persistent late payments for work undertaken to interpreters and /or no payment at all.

  1. Medical assignments are inherently complex, with high risks if information is misunderstood. The ‘Sick of It’  report published in 2014 https://www.signhealth.org.uk/health-information/sick-of-it-report/  found that BSL users had worse health outcomes than the general population. Not only does this mean missed diagnosis and poor treatment for BSL users, but it costs the NHS £30 million per year. Therefore, any agency providing non-registered interpreters to such assignments are increasing costs to their client- which contracting an agency is supposed to make more less costly. For example, I was told  by an organisation that it is cheaper for them to outsource their interpreting bookings to an agency than it would be to pay someone to manage interpreting bookings because of the costs of a full time salary and the benefit associated with that (sick pay, holidays, etc). Yet, this agency’s policies and procedures stated that they only recruit interpreters who are NRCPD registered https://www.nrcpd.org.uk/index.php. When challenged about this it was stated that this was because the agency was finding it hard to find interpreters who want to work for them . This leads me onto issue number 2:
  2. There has been persistent late/ none payments for a significant period of time since this agency was awarded a contract for a public service in the South West. Since being awarded this new contract recently in Devon, the issue of payments has not improved and has resulted in many interpreters starting legal proceedings to try to retrieve the money they are owed through working for them. This, of course, has meant that a large proportion of most of the interpreters in this area are refusing to work for this agency as there is no guarantee they will be remunerated for the work they have done. And, if they are finally paid, this entails reminder emails, phone calls and texts to chase payment.

So, maybe the answer is simple – I am a freelance interpreter, I can decide who I will and will not work for, right? Well, in some ways – yes. But I like to believe that the majority of interpreters I have worked with have chosen this line of work because we have an interest in the well-being of the people for whom we work. In an article by Street Leverage https://streetleverage.com/2013/02/sign-language-interpreters-and-the-quest-for-a-deaf-heart/  it talks about cultivating a ‘Deaf heart’. It also states that “Part of having a Deaf heart is caring enough about the well-being of Deaf people and their communities to put them above ego, pride, and unwillingness to fight for what is right.” This doesn’t mean that I believe all interpreters should be working for this agency regardless of whether they receive payment for their work. On the contrary, I am proud of myself and other colleagues I know who have worked hard and paid their way to earn their title as a professional. However, it does mean this agency takes advantage of our good will and Deaf heart. And so, the original question above that seemed easy to answer is now grey and unclear as to the outcome. Essentially, if we don’t provide interpretation for these appointments, then who will? And so, do some interpreters find themselves accepting some work regardless of whether they know they will be paid. Not because they don’t care about money – I think this is a naive stance and for the profession to achieve as much as it has done to date, this has meant orchestrating appropriate recompense for our services as sign language interpreters. But, it will mean interpreters cannot turn a blind eye to the issues surrounding them both locally and nationally. Whilst interpreters can still take a stance to not work for this agency, it is therefore necessary and relevant for those interpreters to not act as bystanders to the dire situation unravelling in the Devon area, but to look at ways to make sure voices are heard and actions taken.

There also seems to be a default narrative that when an agency such as this one fails to provide interpreters there is a disservice to the deaf community. But what about the disservice to the hearing folk we also interpret for? Let’s not forget that it is not just about the deaf person, for example, unable to understand the diagnosis from their doctor, but surely it is also about the doctor unable to diagnose their patient? I believe they too have a duty to report such instances and not to be a bystander to these avoidable occurrences. They too have a responsibility to investigate why an interpreter was not present at an appointment or ask to see their ID badge which should show they are part of NRCPD.

It does not have to be like this when working with agencies. Many agencies I work with demonstrate their ability to do a good service to the service user (both deaf and hearing) and form a good, working relationship with its interpreters. Almost as if the agency and the interpreters have the same aim – providing high quality interpreting for both the deaf and hearing client! What is currently taking place in the South West IS avoidable, unnecessary and needs to be stopped and action taken by all parties involved – the deaf community, interpreters and hearing folk. As the ASLI representative for the Devon and Cornwall interpreters, but also as an interpreter directly affected by this, I will be part of this action and not a bystander.

Who’s with me?

 

Photo by: https://www.flickr.com/photos/57466809@N07/5607861762/in/photolist-9xxKVL-qfuFfA-oV1Vjf-av9WYv-7a84GA-gkWRzJ-7zdceS-86DmKm-pMyZ6m-dxr8hK-vA2wN-RNWKM6-nftAEv-59MbZg-rRvKH-7QaAjH-VkHg62-pY9duu-dNMntv-U1BwSP-ewAY1r-UvXgDg-TKk99s-jrTMjs-TrRTgV-R7hY7n-aBNPhb-wbhNeY-4m5NuZ-bZ374-o5ZhXc-no2K1x-5R8UR3-dK1Eis-Tv81im-bQcGhn-dB6UZe-CGw82S-p3uFTA-d68M9W-2A2Sus-3YsXBy-cbnpq-65Nuan-eWd1fV-6cY1Jh-57s47x-d9KDXv-CiyiMG-bkQWJt

Lip reading – hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability…

LipsI am amazed at those that can communicate through lip reading. I have had a go at it myself, e.g. when out in a club and trying to lip read my friends as to what they are trying to say to me – not hard considering it’s usually either “Do you want another drink?” and “Let’s dance!” As long as I catch the word “drink” or “dance” then it’s not rocket science to know what they are trying to say. I have also tried lip reading by turning off the sound on my TV and trying to lip read what is being said – for me, this is nearly impossible! Every day I meet deaf people that rely on lip reading to communicate. My concern is that this is then taken for granted as the main communication method the deaf person prefers to use. I remember one deaf person telling me that it is awkward when one hearing person introduces her by saying “This is ‘X’ she’s deaf but can lip read really well!” Lady ‘X’ says that although she can lip read she wished people wouldn’t rely on this. Why? Because lip reading is hard work! The deaf health charity – Sign Health, states that it is a myth that deaf people can understand 100% of a conversation through lip reading (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/) What’s more, they state that “Lip reading requires a huge amount of concentration and perfect environmental conditions, and even when both of those factors are achieved, a D/deaf person can only understand 20%-60% of a conversation.” 20% to 60% of a conversation – so what happens to the rest of the 40% of the discourse? As a hearing person, whilst I may not always fully understand what a doctor has said to me at least I have received the whole message to be able to have the option of asking questions to clarify what I have heard. However, Sign Health have found from their ‘Sick of It’ report that only 3% of deaf people want to communicate with their doctor via lip reading, but 40% are forced to (http://www.signhealth.org.uk/national-lipreading-awareness-week/).  Don’t get me wrong, I expect there are deaf people who are happy to communicate via lip reading, that is their choice! But as my previous blog says about “Choices https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/22/choices/” and as Sign Health states – the best thing is to ask how the deaf person wants to communicate and to not make assumptions about their communication needs. Every deaf person is, of course, different and therefore we can expect people who are deaf to have differing communication needs. What’s more, whilst a person who is deaf may be able to lip read one person this does not necessarily mean they will be able to with another person. So many factors such as accent, facial hair all have a part to play in the ease/difficulty of lip reading. As the Scottish Sensory Centre at Edinburgh University have stated – “There is naturally individual variation in the ability to lipread, and as with any skill, competence varies, with level of hearing loss not necessarily predicting ability.” (http://www.ssc.education.ed.ac.uk/courses/deaf/ddec05f.html)

So many words look the same on the mouth from what is actually being said. We know that this is true just by the amount of videos out there at the moment which are dubbed for comedy value  – take a look at this- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjGk_jU6t5A. Whilst this video does have comedy value, it also has a serious undertone about how ambiguous lip reading can be. Whilst there may be some situations where lip reading can be used to ‘get by’ and get the gist of what is being said, I do believe there are other situations such as a GP and hospital appointments where getting by, i.e. receiving 20% -60% of the message isn’t good enough and could have devastating consequences.

Picture sourced from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fauxpress/ Jan McLaughlin

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!

British Sign Language (BSL) / English Interpreters – what do they do??

531991_10151604872070097_50078918_nTo some of you reading this, it may seem that this question is pointless because the role of a BSL / English interpreter is obvious. However, considering I have had many people asking me this very question, I thought it was worth spending some time answering it!

I understand some people having misconstrued ideas of what the role of an interpreter is. It may be that these people have never met or worked with a person who is deaf until now and that is why they have hired me but still may be unsure of what I am there to do. I remember being at a wedding once and I met someone I used to know as a child. They asked me what I did as a job to which I replied I was an interpreter. When they asked me what language, I replied “British Sign Language.” They then said “Oh, I thought you meant an interpreter for a ‘real’ language.” Before we go any further, let’s be clear, British Sign Language is very much a ‘real’ language and was recognised in its own right in 2003 by the British government.  In fact according to the BDA, it is used by 156,000 people in the UK and many hearing people also use BSL which makes it more common than Welsh and Gaelic (http://www.bda.org.uk/What_We_Do/BSL_-_British_Sign_Language)

To put it simply, my role as a BSL / English interpreter is to facilitate communication between two people. The Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) defines a BSL/English interpreter as ‘…Someone who is (at least) bilingual but also has the ability and training to be able to work between two languages and facilitate communication between people’ https://www.asli.org.uk/career_path/interpreters_asli . When I interpret from spoken English to BSL, it is not a case of replacing the English word with a sign. Instead, BSL has its own grammatical structure and syntax. That means that whether I am listening to the spoken English and interpreting it into BSL, or I am watching the deaf person sign and interpreting into spoken English (a voice-over) then I must be mindful to reflect accurately the information and ideas, cultural context and intention of the signer/speaker.  It is important I take into consideration both cultures of hearing people and the deaf community. There may be differences that without mediation, could lead to misunderstandings.

A further question that I expect we all get asked a lot when you first meet someone, regardless of whether you are an interpreter or not is ‘So what do you do for a job?’ When I reply ‘A British Sign Language / English interpreter’ I know some people aren’t too sure what that means. That is, they understand I am an interpreter for a person who is deaf to communicate effectively with a person who is hearing (and of course, don’t forget, I also interpret for the person who is hearing and cannot sign with a person who is deaf and uses BSL). However, I can tell by their facial expressions that they aren’t sure when I am required in everyday life. The first question (‘What do you do for a living?’) is usually followed by the question ‘So where would you work?’ I work in all different domains within the community.   That could be for a GP or hospital appointment; a team meeting at work; a student at college (please have a look at my ‘My Services’ page for more information about what I can do), but essentially it is wherever or whenever a person who is deaf may need access in the community, e.g. the doctor, police, education, work, etc.

Therefore, I may interpret one-way (e.g. from spoken English into BSL for presentations and lectures) and/or two-way (e.g. during meetings, discussions, forums). I usually interpret simultaneously, i.e. at the same time as the language is spoken or signed, but I can occasionally interpret consecutively, i.e. I will interpret information in chunks.

In one of my previous blogs ‘Registered Interpreters what’s all the fuss about?’ (https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/03/01/registered-interpreters-whats-all-the-fuss-about/)  I explained that a registered interpreter will adhere to the code of conduct. This specific blog elaborates as to what the code of conduct means for interpreters who are registered. However, one thing to touch on here is that as an interpreter I remain impartial and does not act as an advocate for clients. I remember receiving some good advice that when I arrive at an assignment it is important I try not to say something like “Hello, I am here to interpret for Joe Blogs (whether Joe Blogs is hearing or deaf) because instantly it would appear that I have been booked for only that particular person. Instead, I try to say something like “Hello, I am here to interpret the meeting” (or whatever I have been booked for). Hopefully, that helps to imply I am impartial for both the hearing and deaf person present. What’s more, a recent article from Jen Dodds http://limpingchicken.com/2015/04/01/jen-dodds-why-hearing-people-need-interpreters-too/ explains that BSL/English interpreters are not just there for deaf people, but hearing people need them too.

Finally, although we are there to facilitate communication, however if you are communicating without using an interpreter then we won’t force our interpreting upon you! 🙂

(P.S. if you are wondering how the picture relates to this post – Happy Easter!)

What’s your daily commute like?

It was only when I had a puncture last Sunday driving home from Bristol that it made me stop and think about how much I rely and use my car for my interpreting work. As you’ll see from my webpage ‘About’, I travel all over the South West – Devon, Cornwall, Plymouth, Somerset and Dorset. It can be lovely.  Just a couple of weeks ago I drove back from Cornwall with the sun out and hardly any traffic on the roads. I don’t see driving for my work as a chore, but it did make me think about staying safe and healthy when driving. Changing my mode of transport is almost impossible for the distances I need to travel. I couldn’t contemplate getting the train or bus.  That’s not only because of the time difference between these modes and the car but also because a lot of my destinations are not conveniently near a bus stop or train station. On the rare occasion I could, possibly, entertain the idea of travelling by bike, if I know I will be working in one place for the day or a few places in the Exeter area. This is an enjoyable prospect as I look out of my window on a nice, sunny, day, but I don’t think it would be fair to arrive at an assignment beetroot-red face and trying to compose myself whilst burning inside from the heat and wiping my brow from sweat!

Most interpreters living in the South West region will travel long distances by car due to the rurality and span of the region. Because of the national shortage of interpreters it’s not unusual for me to be in Exeter in the morning and Cornwall in the afternoon. Not only is it important for my wellbeing to make sure I have given myself plenty of time to get to my destination and planned my journey in advance, but also to ensure I am not exhausted by the trip which would affect my ability to interpret to the standard clients understandably expect. Having said this, I do seem to spend a lot of time in my car – not driving, but waiting for an acceptable time to go into the venue and introduce myself. Somehow I don’t think those who have booked me would welcome me arriving 45 minutes before the agreed time! This often happens because I have given myself far too much time to make a journey for fear of being late, only to find the roads were clear and I caught every green light on the road.

So, apart from cycling on the odd occasion, it seems driving wins for my commute! I am not alone in this prospect – the RAC claim that 7 out of 10 people in rural areas get to work by car than bus or train http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25175752. What’s more the average British commuting time is the highest in Europe http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-road-to-happiness-dont-catch-the-bus-to-work-9124322.html. One of the main things I consider when driving is fatigue. Fatigue is a factor in up to 10% of accidents – so it is important I don’t start a long journey if I am tired http://www.theaa.com/public_affairs/reports/tired-drivers.html. It is also those distances where I travel on dual carriageways (A30 Cornwall to Exeter) or motorways (M5 Exeter to Bristol) where I am most at risk as this type of driving is monotonous, with fewer interruptions and challenging scenarios to keep me alert and attentive http://www.brake.org.uk/info-resources/info-research/road-safety-factsheets/15-facts-a-resources/facts/485-driver-tiredness. Also – a little fact for the day – our bodies have a natural dip in energy at the times 2pm to 4pm making us sleepy and less able to concentrate http://www.brake.org.uk/info-resources/info-research/road-safety-factsheets/15-facts-a-resources/facts/485-driver-tiredness.

Sometimes I have finished an assignment and I can be in such a rush to get home. However, advice from other interpreters has been to have a short walk before I attempt a long journey home. I often do this when driving back from Plymouth, particularly driving on dark, rainy nights as the drive can become monotonous. One slight problem with this is I can be drawn into Drake Circus (the shopping centre in Plymouth) and end up exercising my debit card rather than my feet! I also try to leave plenty of time to get to an assignment. This is not only so that I can arrive at the venue in  plenty of time to meet with those I am going to be working with (co-workers, clients, etc) and set myself up looking at any prep that may have been provided, e.g. powerpoint slides, but it also has a massive effect on my levels of stress. When I feel I am short for time I can physically feel myself breathing more heavily as I feel out of control and more likely to drive dangerously in my attempt to get to the venue quicker. On longer journeys I also factor in breaks and even see it as a treat, e.g. I will treat myself to my favourite, soy, skinny, decaf late from Starbucks on one of the service stations on the A30. And, of course I keep my music fresh in my car so that I can have a good old sing along to myself and other drivers looking at me as if I am mouthing something to them (I currently have Taylor Swift in my CD player – don’t judge!).

Being alert and constantly being aware of what is going on around you whilst you are driving will obviously have a number of effects psychologically and physically (I know I slouch quite a bit whilst driving and I am in the same position sometimes for an hour and a half). Whatever job you may have (interpreter or not) I think it is worth remembering and doing things to ensure our health and wellbeing are affected by driving as little as possible. Happy driving!