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!

Registered interpreters – what’s all the fuss about??

FullSizeRenderA lot of people ask me why they need to book a registered BSL / English interpreter compared to someone who is not registered. These same people are also usually uncertain as to what it means for an interpreter to be registered. Are there any benefits?

For all interpreters who are registered, it means they have been checked by the regulatory body – NRCPD (http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=4) and so they have passed all the necessary qualifications and exams to work safely and competently with the deaf and deafblind community. They have achieved the minimum standards expected for BSL/English interpreters in the UK. Not only this, but it also means that they are continuing to ensure their skills and competencies are up to date. This is because they have to prove every year that they are undertaking continued professional development (CPD). I am no exception and so every year I need to show what I have been doing to ensure my interpreting skills are kept spot on. NRCPD will spot check different interpreters every year to check proof of CPD. So, I couldn’t have just achieved my diploma for interpreting and never study or learn about BSL again. Personally, amongst other things, I meet with a mentor where I can discuss how I can continue to improve, I go on courses such as medical interpreting, so I can learn how to interpret clearly and accurately for medical appointments and I am constantly watching programmes interpreted by deaf translators to learn from native signers.

Booking an interpreter who is registered makes it safe for both the hearing and deaf person using the interpreter. This is because if things go a bit awry and you aren’t happy with the interpreting / interpreter then you have a process by which you can complain. If the interpreter is not registered then you have no one to whom to complain and could be vulnerable to interpreter malpractice, or ‘cowboy’ interpreting as we like to call it.

Being registered also means I have to adhere to a code of conduct (http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=30 ):

Confidentiality – I am not allowed to talk to anyone other than who was present at the assignment about what I have interpreted or the information I heard or saw signed. This not only means my friends and family but also anyone else that might be connected directly or indirectly to the hearing or deaf person, e.g. their manager, work colleague or friends and family.

Competence – although I have been qualified for over a year now, there are still some assignments that I would not venture into until I have a couple more years’ experience, such as those which are mental health-related. Maintaining reflective practice about my skills with my mentor and on my own after different assignments makes me realistic about which assignments to accept.

Integrity – this links with competence and being honest about my skills but also to be honest in what I do and maintain professionalism.

Impartiality – this is another reason why it is important to have a registered interpreter – I am not on anyone’s side. I remain impartial to both the deaf and hearing parties and facilitate communication faithfully. People always ask me ‘If they swear, will you swear?’ Yes I will – if that’s what they said/signed!

Professional Development – this goes back to the point above about making sure my skills are kept up to date. I have explained to people in the past that I need to constantly keep learning about the language and that it is an evolving language. I give the example of the sign for telephone as this has changed over the years because what a telephone looks like has changed over the years. People seem surprised when I say that the language is evolving, but so are all languages! You only have to look in an English dictionary to see the words that wouldn’t have been known about 30 years ago, e.g. ‘Simples’ and ‘Choon’ (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ ).

I have seen a person who is deaf be asked whether they wanted to use their partner rather than an interpreter for an appointment. On this occasion I don’t think the hearing person suggested this on the basis of costs (as explained in my previous blog https://chhinterpreting.com/2015/02/15/cutting-costs-who-are-we-kidding/ ), I think they genuinely thought that perhaps the deaf person would want their spouse with them to interpret. However, whilst I know a few deaf people that want their sister or brother present, not only could it be embarrassing for the deaf person having to bring their family member along to different appointments in their life, it is highly likely they don’t follow the code of conduct. Just some of the things that could go wrong are the family member not interpreting everything so as to ‘protect’ the deaf person, e.g. at a medical appointment – they might miss out the ‘bad’ bits. But -this doesn’t promote choice as the deaf person has the right to the entire interaction between them and the hearing person. Similarly, someone who is not registered (and therefore possibly not achieved the desired standard to be a BSL/English interpreter) could miss out bits of information that they find hard to sign, not giving the deaf person full access to the information being shared. What’s more, if the signer (notice I say ‘signer’ not interpreter) cannot voice-over what the deaf person is signing then the hearing person will not be privy to the information being shared and it is highly likely a breakdown in communication will occur.

Check the register here to see which interpreters are registered: http://www.nrcpd.org.uk/page.php?content=55