Co-working -shall we do 20 minutes?

teamwork-709666_960_720The other day I had arrived to interpret a meeting with another interpreter (my co-worker). One of the hearing attendees of the meeting asked me why there was a need for two interpreters (as opposed to just me). Without thought I quickly replied that it was linked to the fact that interpreters cannot work for long periods of time without fatigue having an effect on their interpreting ability and so the other interpreter can take over after about 20 minutes (implying after the interpreter had swapped with me I could then rest). The second interpreter then quickly added that it was not just about turn takings to reduce fatigue, but also to feed the ‘working’ interpreter any information they may have missed or not heard, to write down jargon, names or dates, etc. These are just some of the main reasons for why a second interpreter would need to be booked for some assignments. Looking back I am quite shocked by the rather simplistic answer I gave and I have been trying to look at the possible reasons for this.

The assignment mentioned above made me look at the way I work with other interpreters. Am I at risk of slipping into an old-fashioned way of working and perception of co-working? I.e. seeing my co-worker and me as two independent interpreters taking turns independently so that one interpreter can ‘work’ whilst the other can ‘rest’.

Co-working or ‘team interpreting’ as it is more commonly described is said to account for approximately 30% of interpreting assignments Hozam (2010). Team interpreting has been defined as “…the use of more than one interpreter to provide communication effectively to and from all participants.” Carnet, Giovanna (2008). It is also stated that team interpreting occurs in situations that are lengthy, complex in nature, involve unique needs of the persons being served, or have special physical or emotional dynamics Hozam (2010).

Why, when looking back at some of the assignments when I have worked with another interpreter has our focus been solely on swapping times (how long the interpreter producing the target language, e.g. spoken English or BSL ‘works’ before they stop and swap with the other interpreter). I have put the term ‘works’ in inverted commas because of the apparent, common, misconception from those not familiar with why interpreters sometimes require a co-worker. I have had numerous conversations when questions are asked such as “So what do you do when the other interpreter is working?” and “Are you bored?” You may be happy to know that when I have been asked such questions, I have taken the opportunity to explain the interpreters role and even felt almost defensive to the fact that I had not been daydreaming or even planning my evening whilst my co-worker was left to work on their own –I too had in fact been working. As Hozam (2010) explains, the accuracy of the interpreted message does not only rest on the interpreter who appears to be working (the one actively interpreting) but it is a shared responsibility. Therefore, the interpreter who appears to be sat still is still an ‘active’ interpreter by doing all of the tasks that have been described earlier in this blog, e.g. feeding information that has been misheard, writing down facts and figures and also providing reassurance to their colleague. This is a more ‘collaborative’ approach as described by Hozam (2010) and is a model I want to follow. This is in comparison to the rather old fashioned view of co-working that both interpreters are independent of each other, waiting to take turns. I believe most if not all of the interpreters I have had the pleasure of working with in the Devon and Cornwall region also work towards more of a collaborative model. However, I know this has not always been the case by the following story I was told by a local interpreter. This was when this same interpreter was delivering the target language and their co-worker promptly brought out their wool and knitting needles to what I can only presume was to catch-up on some much needed knitting! Not the collaborative approach the local interpreter was hoping for.

I am not ignoring the fact that to avoid overuse syndrome/repetitive strain injury (RSI) through excessive repetitive movement without rest is one of the reasons two interpreters may need to be booked for an assignment. Not only this but an interpreter without rest will see the quality of their interpreting diminish – this can diminish after 30 minutes because of fatigue Hozam (2010), but the reasons for booking more than one interpreter is not only because of this.

Conversations with colleagues before I start an assignment are paramount to contributing to a successful interpretation, but these conversations should not focus only on switching times (these are important none the less to avoid confusion and to ensure equal distribution of workloads (http://www.academia.edu/8603248/Austrian_Perspectives_of_Team_Interpreting_-_The_Views_of_Deaf_University_Students_and_their_Sign_Language_Interpreters). Hozam (2010) states that discussing feeding styles in advance is essential to achieve this collaborative approach. I can relate to this as there have been some occasions where I have not known how the person likes to be fed. I know one colleague who likes to be fed by signing to them, but if someone was to feed a misheard name, word or number to me this would certainly throw me and could cause disruption in delivering the target language (having the opposite effect of what a feed is supposed to do!)

Therefore having these conversations with co-workers at the beginning of an assignment can reduce the risk of the comprehension of the target text being impeded, described as “A lack of harmony in the production of the teaming process” (http://www.academia.edu/8603248/Austrian_Perspectives_of_Team_Interpreting_-_The_Views_of_Deaf_University_Students_and_their_Sign_Language_Interpreters). By being more confident in the various reasons for the need of a co-worker should mean I can work as a team more effectively. Not only this but in a time where providing just one interpreter for an assignment is coming under more scrutiny because of purse strings being allegedly tightened, then the need for interpreters to be more informative and spread awareness about the motives for co-working is essential.

 

References:

How to book an Interpreter….

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Taking for granted that everyone knows how to book a BSL / English interpreter is easily done. I work every day with those that book and work with interpreters (both hearing and deaf) so I risk the assumption that, of course, EVERYONE knows how to book one (or two, or however many you need). However, talking to those that do not work in the field of interpreting or connected to it in any way, this reminds me that it could be an unfamiliar and possibly, quite a daunting task. For those of you that often book interpreters then have a look below to see if there is anything that could make the process easier….

Whichever your preferred method of contact there is some essential information which the interpreter will need to know initially before a booking can be finalised….the date and time. This is important so that the interpreter can check their diary and get back to you ASAP. Not certain of the date and time? No problem, the important thing is that both you and the interpreter are flexible enough to determine a time and date that suits both of you. An interpreter may be able to hold a date that you have in mind with the agreement that you will get back to them with more finalised information.

So, if the time and date has been discussed, the interpreter will need to know the expected length of the booking. Working from English to BSL or BSL to English is a tiring task and usually after about 45 minutes of non-stop interpreting my brain is frazzled and I need a short break! If the length of the booking is longer than 45 minutes best practice dictates booking two interpreters. This means that they can both co-work together. Usually one interpreter will decide to work 15 to 20 minutes on their own and then swap with their co-worker and vice versa throughout the length of the assignment. There can be times when one interpreter could work solo for the entire day, but they would need lots of breaks to avoid interpreting overload! These breaks are not only for the interpreter to recharge but also to ensure the quality of interpreting is consistent. For an interpreter to say that they don’t need breaks means that the quality of either their English or BSL being produced will be poor. Thus, one of the main aims of having an interpreter, i.e. that communication is clear and accurate between both the hearing and deaf client(s), would not be achieved.

Prep would be grand, thanks. Sometimes, with a short booking, it may not be possible to provide prep (e.g. information that can help the interpreter have a better understanding or can research about the assignment, such as powerpoint slides, meeting minutes, etc). It is worth considering that, what might be pointless to you could be meaningful to the interpreter. For example, I interpret a lot of religious services and on many occasions the person preaching delivers their sermon ad-lib (that’s their style, fair enough!). However, when I ask them about their ‘scribbled notes’ as they like to call them, this is really handy because I then know the aim of their message/sermon and what they want their ‘take home message’ to be for those listening. If I know this then I can keep this in mind when interpreting. I can also research more around the topic and practice how I would interpret phrases and signs. Also, having this prep in advance is vital. Most of those who knew me when I was studying at Cardiff or when doing my Diploma at UCLAN knew that my brain sort of switched itself off after about 10.00pm, I was not one of those people that could work ‘through the night’ as some of my peers would say (you’ll be pleased to know I am an early-bird). That means, receiving prep late at night before the booking isn’t always helpful to me.  

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Please provide the address of where you would like the interpreter to go. Preferably the full address, but the name of the venue and the postcode is always important. Hopefully, most interpreters will not make the same mistake I have done in the past which is to rely solely on their satnav to direct them where to go. I now know to plan the route on google maps or on an equivalent tool. Living in Devon is great, but the satnav can get quite confused.

It is always good to know before you make a booking that of who will pay. There is a service provided by the government called Access to Work (A2W). This could help with funding to pay for an interpreter. The service is there for anyone whose health or disability affects the way they do their job. Have a look at this factsheet for more information about A2W: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307036/employer-guide-atw-dwpf03a.pdf

You are allowed to change your mind – this can happen, events, appointments, meetings (whatever you needed your interpreter for) can get cancelled. If you cancel me before 14 days of the booking then no charge is incurred whatsoever. Therefore, if you know you need to make a cancellation, best to do it ASAP.

Remember: By making contact with me does not mean you are obliged to book me as an interpreter. If you just want to know more information, discuss costs or have some questions, that isn’t a problem – always happy to help :).

So now you know what to do. If you want to make a booking for a BSL Interpreter or have some more questions then please do get in contact either by phone: 07791442625; Email: chall86@outlook.com or leave a reply here on my website; and, you can always contact me via twitter @CHHInterpreting