Subject to Interpretation

The Unique Aspects of Sign Language Interpreting

November 01, 2019 Agustin De La Mora
Subject to Interpretation
The Unique Aspects of Sign Language Interpreting
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Jump to Agustin and Carla's Interview
Subject to Interpretation
The Unique Aspects of Sign Language Interpreting
Nov 01, 2019
Agustin De La Mora

This episode can be watched in video format here.

What's the difference between sign and spoken language interpreting? Find out in this episode where Agustin interviews sign language interpreter Carla Mathers about the many topics in interpreting, such as language access rights, ethics, and demands of the job, and what they mean for sign language interpreters compared to spoken language interpreters.

This episode opens with Gabby and Kayla's guest, Katie McKay, who will discuss her experiences with learning and interpreting sign language.

Learn more about our upcoming FCICE Oral Exam Prep, beginning November 12th, here.

Get your ConVTI tickets before our $50 ticket special ends here.

Find more information and register for Finding the Parallels here. 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode can be watched in video format here.

What's the difference between sign and spoken language interpreting? Find out in this episode where Agustin interviews sign language interpreter Carla Mathers about the many topics in interpreting, such as language access rights, ethics, and demands of the job, and what they mean for sign language interpreters compared to spoken language interpreters.

This episode opens with Gabby and Kayla's guest, Katie McKay, who will discuss her experiences with learning and interpreting sign language.

Learn more about our upcoming FCICE Oral Exam Prep, beginning November 12th, here.

Get your ConVTI tickets before our $50 ticket special ends here.

Find more information and register for Finding the Parallels here. 

Gabby:

Hi everybody. Welcome to Subject to Interpretation. My name is Gabriella Villalba and I am the creative media director here at DELA MORA Institute. And I would personally like to thank you for tuning in. This is our space for professionals and friends in and out of the field to discuss topics that are relevant to interpreters. We pride ourselves in being one of the very few podcasts for professional interpreters out there. So I hope you benefit from today's episode and find some inspiration, maybe learn something new, and simply enjoy.

Gabby:

Welcome to Subject to Interpretation! This is a very special episode. Obviously we're here in video, so if you're listening to us on BuzzSprout, Spotify, or anywhere else where you listen to podcasts, if you have a chance, you can go to our YouTube and get to know our faces. So we're doing this because we have a very special podcast guest today. Agustin is going to be interviewing Carla Mathers. She's a sign language interpreter and she has a lot of experience in the field. She's going to talk about her story, she's going to talk about how she came to know the profession and also about the biggest differences - the differences and similarities between spoken language interpreting and sign language interpreting. So it's going to be really fascinating. I definitely encourage you listen until then. But for now we actually have Kayla and Katie with me, and we invited Katie on today because she has a little bit of experience with sign language. She does a little bit of interpretation and she's taken some classes on it. She's going to share with us her experience with sign language and possibly teach us a little bit!

Katie:

Yes, we're going to learn a few signs today. So I took um, about four semesters of sign language classes in three different colleges. So I've had a few different perspectives from different teachers and I never went down the route of becoming a professional certified interpreter. But I do regularly interpret for my church. I interpret the sermons on Sunday morning. So through that process and the years that I spent studying it, I learned a lot about the differences between sign language and spoken language. A lot of people think they're pretty much the same and that sign language is just English with your hands. It's very different. It's an entirely different grammar. So in English, we know we need to put this kind of word in front of this kind of word and it's all very linear because when we write it's on a page. But um, sign language is a three-dimensional language. So you use the space around you to tell the story pretty much.

Gabby:

So instead of putting a lot here you put a lot there?

Katie:

Yes. It's all in this space, right? So everything, it turns into 3-D; it's an entirely different way of thinking. So you might be wondering what the grammar looks like - 3D grammar. So part of your face is your grammar. So for instance, if I wanted to ask you, do you like cookies? I do. You can hear my tone of voice if it's a question. But if I want to ask you that in sign language, I wouldn't just say do you like cookies, because my eyebrows didn't do anything so you can't tell it's a question. So eyebrows are important. They need to be seen. So if I wanted to ask it, I would say (signing) do you like cookies?

Gabby:

And then I can tell that your facial expression is questioning.

Katie:

Yes. So with my eyebrows up, I'm asking a yes or no question. Now, if we want to ask, what is your favorite food? I started to do it already. My eyebrows go down. In sign language, it's exaggerated. So (signing) your favorite food, what? So question words go at the end and usually you hold it out longer. What. Your favorite food, what? You say cookies, assuming that's the truth. But your grammar is your face. It's your body language. If you ask a question you might lean in, tilt your head. So all of that is part of your good grammar for your, sentences. It's a lot of things like that that we don't, we would never think about unless you had to actually use this language. The other thing is when you're talking about - when you're telling a story in English, you can go in whatever order you want. You could say, I saw a dog. Yesterday I was at the park and I saw this dog when I did this, this, and the other. In sign language, first you want to say yesterday. Yesterday, because we're setting up the time first. You want to start big, and work to smaller. We're setting up the time. Now you want to say the place, the park. I saw dog. So we started at the big details, worked smaller.

Gabby:

Okay. But actually it does make sense when you put it that way. So place, park, yesterday, or no, yesterday park I saw a dog, yes. Okay, that's interesting.

Katie:

So you're setting it up so someone can start visualizing it in their mind. A lot of sign language is about storytelling, making sure you have things in order to show where it is. Because it's a very visual language. You want people to be able to see it in their minds when they hear you talk. So that makes you kind of wonder like how do you express things like time? I can't show you time, but in sign language we just assign them a place. So the past, it's like Hakuna Matata - passes behind you. So this (signing) is before. This is way back like one, once upon a time. Once upon a time when I was a kid, once upon a time. And the present is right here, now. Today. Your future (signs) future. The same time for will. I will do that. Future or will. So you're looking ahead to the future. Past is behind you, Hakuna Matata, and then present is right here. So there's a lot of interesting things like that. You assign things a place when you want to talk about them. So if you want to have a list of like three different people, you could have a list, a physical list to show people. My thumb is now you, this (index finger) is me and this (middle finger) is you. Or you can say, so for instance, if I was talking to someone else and I wanted to tell them about this podcast, and I wanted to say that Kayla and Gabby were there, I would say Kayla (spells Kayla on left) and Gabby (spells Gabby right). So I've assigned a place for Kayla and a place for Gabby. And you spelled out our names. Yes. So if I wanted to say now, she did such and such, she, all I have to do is point to your space. Okay. Even if you're not there, I've assigned you a space. This little bubble right here is Kayla. This bubble is Gabby. So those are just a couple of things I learned while studying this that I thought were fascinating about the difference between the two languages. So a lot of differences to think about. It's not as simple as knowing the sign for each word in English. It's also restructuring might put the sentence completely backwards like you in Spanish, sometimes you have to put the sentence completely backwards. Same thing in sign language. Sometimes you mix up your subjects, your verbs, and your objects into a completely different order. If it's a list you have to, for instance in sign language, if someone started talking about a list in English, it can go on and on forever. With that list you don't know how long it is. In sign language, you want to know how, how many objects. Do I need four fingers? Or do I need five? Or how do I start this list if I don't know how many things are on it? So it's a lot of things to consider.

Gabby:

That is a lot to consider. It's almost like whenever we ask like how do you say this in another language? And sometimes it's not that simple. Sometimes it's like you have to add a bunch of stuff to make it make sense.

Kayla:

You're kind of more like, instead of translating the actual word, you're kind of just interpreting the meaning of what you're trying to say. Yeah.

Katie:

So someone wants to tell a story as, as an interpreter going into sign language, I want to know first of all the scene, tell me the scene. But if you start with telling me who the characters are, now my order's a little out of whack, it could be a little bit harder for the audience to understand.

Kayla:

So is it important for sign language interpreters to kind of have that briefing of knowing you know, what they're about to get into or is it kinda hard for them just to walk in and someone's just already talking about people places and things?

Katie:

It's best to know as many details as possible beforehand. It's not always possible. When I interpret sermons, I don't have the notes, the preacher's notes, or anything and they can tell whatever story. It could be about sports, it could be about, um, something that happened to them in college.

Katie:

It could be about anything because you know, preachers talk about anything. So I never really know what I'm going into, you know, I can practice like, okay, I know signs for, you know, God, Jesus, Bible, I know all those. But when the, the preacher starts going in depth into a football analogy and I don't know the signs for touchdown or things like that, then it gets a little bit more difficult and you have to improvise and describe, use all these different techniques. But you know the more information, the better. You can know what scene you might be describing, things like that. So those are just a couple of things.

Kayla:

I have another question. I don't know if you know the answer. So for spoken interpreter, spoken language interpreters, there's obviously three modes. And then with the sign language interpreters, do they kind of follow those same modes or is it always kind of important for them to do it consecutively since they kind of get to hear what they have to say and then reorder it to go ahead and sign to make it make sense?

Speaker 1:

I can tell you that most sign language interpretation is done simultaneously because it's easy to think that, well, if you're not talking, you know, you don't have to worry about them talking over the speaker. It's fine because they signing and it's quiet. But you know, it's still difficult because you're going into different grammar, but everything is still simultaneous interpretation, which is very difficult.

Gabby:

You're flipping everything around, right?

Katie:

Yeah, that's, that's the way most interpretation is done. Like I said, I didn't go into that route, specifically. So simultaneous interpretation is the only one I'm familiar with. I've never done consecutive, um, sign language interpretation before because I'm used to just doing it for the preacher who speaks continuously. That is how most sign language interpretation is done is simultaneous.

Gabby:

All right. Well thank you so much Katie for talking about all this with us.

Kayla:

Eye eyebrows are important. Interpreter (signs "interpreter").

Gabby:

We're going to go ahead and move on here to talk about some things that are coming up, like always. And let's see, next thing on the calendar is, it looks like it might be our last class, second to last class of the year. So this is our FCICE Oral Exam Prep for the federal oral exam. So this class is going to begin on November 12th and it's going to be taught by Ana Toro Greiner. She's a wonderful instructor, as I've bragged about her before. So definitely take a look at the links in the description of this if you're interested in that. And then of course the description will also contain the links to register for Finding the Parallels and ConVTI.

Kayla:

Yes, we are officially two weeks away! So you know, we're so excited for that you guys. I know we've talked to you about this before, but don't forget we have that free welcome reception for Finding the Parallels happening on November 15th and then before that we actually still have our flash sale going on for ConVTI tickets (only $50!) until November 8th. Um, so yeah, it ends next week. So be sure to go ahead and grab your tickets before it's too late and join us for our conferences. You guys can network, you can get CEU credits and also we have a very special app that we're in the process of developing. So you'll be able to be a part of that as well if you decide to join us, which we hope you all do.

Gabby:

Yes. So when you register, we will send you an invitation to register for the app, DE LA MORA Conferences. It is really cool; it's by this company that has been so generous to us called Pathable. So we're really happy with them and we're really excited to release this. So that is all I have for you guys today. I really hope you enjoy this interview with Agustin and Carla and we will see you next week. Have a great weekend! How do you say bye in sign language [Katie]?

Katie:

(signs goodbye)

Agustin:

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition to subject to interpretation. Our podcast where we always bring to you our colleagues in interesting conversation with one of our colleagues that is in the field. And today I'm super happy to have my friend Carla Mathers here because this is the first time we have somebody who's an expert in sign language interpretation, which, uh, is a complete, eh, mystery, was a complete mystery for me at the beginning. And now I understand a little bit more because of Carla. So Carla is an interpreter and an attorney and all that and a bag of chips. So I'll let her introduce herself. So hi Carla. How are you doing?

Carla:

I'm good, I'm good. I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you for inviting me. Um, I think you've said enough about me, but the thing that people usually ask is whether or not I was an interpreter first or an attorney first. And then of course the, how did you learn sign language thing? I was an interpreter first. I started being interested in legal interpreting and I took my training initially with um, 20 sign language interpreters and 60 Spanish interpreters at Montclair State College at the time in New Jersey. And it was exciting to, you know, see the similarities and differences between us. Um, and so I practiced interpreting for about seven years and then I went to law school and practiced law for about 20, 25 years.

Agustin:

You started when you were about 10 or so?

Carla:

There you go. And for the past three, two years I've been freelance interpreting just in court. Um, and I love it and I, I should've done it a long time ago. I think I was kind of afraid not to have that two week paycheck. But you know, if you work every day you get a paycheck anyway.

Agustin:

That's right. So, so you've been doing, you went away from the, uh, grind of every day, the office style, and became a freelancer. But tell us a little bit about interpretation. I always ask the same question to almost everybody, and in your case might be a little different, but I ask people, did you, uh, when you were a kid, did you want to be an interpreter? Was that your your choice? Was it like, hey, I want to be an interpreter or, or did you, like myself, fall into it?

Carla:

It's funny. Um, we lived in California, I was seven and my best friend was named Maria and she was Latina and her mother made the best tortillas. And so I decided when I was seven, I wanted to be a Spanish interpreter. Now, the little problem that I didn't know Spanish aside, and still don't know Spanish, but I worked with some wonderful Spanish interpreters down in the DC superior court. Uh, so and, but then in high school and stuff, I always wanted to be involved with the law. I'm fortunate to be able to combine the two. Um, I think people don't think that your field and my field are as similar as they are, in terms of the mental processes involved in interpreting, those are the same. We're working with two languages. You're working with two languages. Um, our mode is just different. It's a visual language instead of an auditory language.

Carla:

Our laws are also different. Our law is much broader. So there are protections afforded to deaf people that aren't afforded to LEP individuals. Um, for example, we end up in jury room with deaf jurors a lot. And you're really fortunate if you don't have to do that, because you really want to kill them by the end of the day. Um, another difference that I've noticed that is really important is that deaf people under our statute have a right to access to all of the proceedings. So even in the department of justices, technical assistant manual example, it gives us, if a person, a member of the community wants to go into court off the street and, and observe, the court is obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation. So that's why you see us either sitting there or in front of the deaf person and interpreting everything up until their case. I have noticed that Spanish interpreters, or spoken language interpreters, don't do that. And I think what happens with sign language interpreters is that they take their cues from you guys. And so they assume that they're not supposed to do it either. And then the court gets into trouble and the deaf person files a complaint.

Agustin:

And, and I think that's very interesting because some people, including our friend Patricia Mikkelsen King thinks that if we're in the courtroom and the LEP is in the courtroom, we should be interpreting, also.

Carla:

I find myself agreeing with her once again.

Agustin:

That's right. And, and some of us are, many of us, the way we were trained was, no, you don't need to because that's not their case. And my biggest concern about that is that, that you immediately establish this relationship with, with the LEPs, and then they start wanting to ask you questions and, and wants you to, oh, well you were interpreting for me here. How about you accompany me to the clerk's office to pay? And then again, if it were a deaf person, the interpreter would, correct?

Carla:

We would definitely, if, if the court told us to go to the clerk's office and pay, we would do that. Yeah. Because the, the deaf person has the right to access information in the same way as a person that can hear does. Now, attorneys sometimes want to take advantage of us, right? And I'm firm with them. Our, our policy at the court I work at is we'll give attorneys five minutes either pre or post, as a courtesy, and then they have to get their own interpreters. I have lots of attorneys who are real uncomfortable with that, but I also provide them information on how to get those because most of our attorneys are appointed so they can have interpreters appointed as well.

Agustin:

Got it. So, so then they can comply with that part of the rule, which is something that we definitely don't have for spoken language interpreters. Um, we don't, uh, people don't have that. It's interesting because they do not have that right. As a matter of fact, in some states, and I want your opinion both as an interpreter, and as an attorney, about some jurisdictions that don't even cover anything that is not a for spoken languages. If a person requires an interpreter but they're not risking jail time, they don't get an interpreter.

Carla:

Wow. Well, I know that the language access kind of movement really exploded when President Obama decided to enforce President Clinton's executive order. But I haven't seen cases interpreting that say, this is where there is a right to language access and this part isn't. I would be surprised if that court didn't have a complaint filed against it. I just read a case in Indiana where a deaf son filed a complaint because the court didn't provide him an interpreter for the audience when his mother was involved in a DUI case. So I know there's some litigation and some case laws with us, but I don't know about any with you guys. But think about, think about how much a person learns about if they're sitting there waiting for their case to be called. They learned about the judge, they learn what other people say, what excuses work, what excuses, don't.

Agustin:

And what to ask for. I, I remember, uh, uh, you reminded me of an interesting, uh, thing that happened in Florida some years ago. I think they closed that loophole. But, uh, about 20 or 25 years ago, one of these attorneys found out that there was in the statutes, if you were stopped by the police and they gave you a ticket, they had X number of days to take that ticket to the clerk's office. And many of them they would just get all their tickets and take it whenever, maybe the end of the month. And many of those tickets were outside that time. Well, nobody had challenged that until one attorney found it and challenged it successfully in front of the judge, said, judge, you know, the police is supposed to present this within let's say 72 hours or whatever it was. And they didn't. So I say, you should dismiss the case because they're outside and the, they didn't have the right to bring it so late. The judge agreed. And the next person that stood up was not an attorney and said, oh, mine also was from a different day and started asking for that to be dismissed. Yeah. And so you're right, if a person that needs an interpreter doesn't hear that then they, they lose that opportunity. Huh.

Carla:

Yeah. Yeah.

Agustin:

Well, it's interesting because also, like I said, in some states they don't even provide interpreters for civil cases. If it's not criminal, too bad. And now, you work in Washington D.C., they do provide interpreters for spoken languages for every case, correct?

Carla:

Ah, yes. For everything. Civil and criminal. Um, our self help center, our resource centers, everything. In DC, Spanish is used about 75% of the time. The second most interpreted language is American Sign Language. And the third is Amharic. We have just contracted with the National Center for State Courts and we got a grant from the State Justice Institute to create, um, an Amharic language test. There is none. And so that was just announced last week and I'm sure you're gonna be around the San Francisco area shortly.

Agustin:

I might, I might end up there. Yes. Uh, so yeah, it, it, and, and they're developing now an Amharic test.

Carla:

Yeah. And I do, before, I know we have short time, but I want to talk a little bit about our ASL test because, um, I think the, the court administrators need to understand that the RID no longer has a legal interpreting test. So there's like 250 to 300 of us who, um, have that sort of credential and it's not being given and it's not coming back and state courts and relied upon RID, which was our Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, for testing all these years. And so they need to pick the ball up themselves. And I think DC is interested in that. California is interested. I've heard of interest from Washington State and from Oregon. So try to put that plug out there in case there's any court administrators.

Agustin:

Right, right. And then maybe the clack will try to pick up that slack. Huh? Because, uh, I, I, you know, it's, when I started this business, really, sign language was not even in the radar for us. I mean, it was like a different planet or something. And then I started realizing, wait a minute, they're interpreters. We're interpreters, we do the exact same thing. It might be a different language. It's like it would be between Spanish and Vietnamese, but it's still the same function. And I was very pleasantly surprised when I met you in Pennsylvania because not every state trains, uh, ASL interpreters at all, even in the, uh, in the same way that they train spoken language interpreters as far as demanding an orientation or, or, uh, complying with the, with the code of ethics for code interpreters, which is an interesting thing that I wanted to ask you about. I'm assuming the RID still is gonna certify people just not in the legal field or not even that?

Carla:

The RID created a independent LLC called CASLI and I can't remember what that stands for. CASLI does all of the testing, but it's owned by RID.And RID is in the position now that it wants to be able to recognize other entities' tests. So if the national center for state courts created one and the state courts paid for it, RID would recognize it.

Agustin:

So we could have an RID recognized specialty for sign language interpreters.

Carla:

Right. And as of yesterday, our board met and appointed a task force to try to make this happen and guess who's running it? So there's that.

Speaker 3:

Okay. Okay. Good luck. All right, so, but tell us a little bit less, let me back track a little bit about how you became, you wanted to be a Spanish interpreter but you're not, but you're a sign language interpreter. How did that happen?

Carla:

Well, I grew up near a bunch of deaf people, but I didn't use sign language except the dirty signs.

Agustin:

Okay. I think that's what everybody learns first when you learn another language. Right?

Agustin:

Yeah, absolutely. Um, I, I don't have any deaf people in my family. Um, but I knew that it existed because I lived very close to a school for that. And so when I went to college, I was kind of floundering and I found an ASL club and I found a school, and it's, this is the important part. The school that I wanted to go to was not in Idaho, which is where I'm from. It was in New York, which is where I wanted to be. So I applied and they asked, do you know sign language. And I said no, that's why I'm applying. You're supposed to teach me. And they said, go learn some sign language and apply again. So I learned it in school essentially. And then over the years. I've been doing it for about 30 years now.

Carla:

Right. And, and another thing that I didn't know there, so you're obviously not a native signer and that people who are signers could recognize the difference between a signer and a native signer. How does that work? It's interesting for me.

Carla:

It's an accent. So I have a non-native accent. And many of us are not very good, so we'll just put that out there. And so people who have it as a native language are oftentimes some of the better interpreters. We call them, um, interpreters with deaf parents and codas, children of deaf adults.,

Agustin:

So you would say that they are better interpreters?

Carla:

They can be, they can be. It can be learned just like any language can be learned. But they think it's--really, the best interpreters are actually deaf. So I work with a group of people called certified deaf interpreters who not only are they native, they're, they're using the language 24/7, 365. So, um, we're fortunate to have a number of them who are great working down at D.C.

Agustin:

Now tell us a little bit, this is fascinating for us, at least for me as a hearing person. I'll be honest, the first time that I got a call in the courts and said, somebody said, we need a deaf interpreter, I thought, oh, they don't even know what they're talking about. If he were deaf, then how's he going to interpret if he's deaf? And then it turns out you do have deaf interpreters. How does that work?

Carla:

We do. And you use the same process when you work with languages of limited diffusion and you have a relay process in place. So that's how we work. So I would, I would listen to whatever the spoken English is and then I would, um, render my interpretation to the deaf interpreter that would then render their interpretation to whoever the client was. We use them in situations where they are young children, we use them when a deaf person has an additional handicap or additional disability, um, maybe a cognitive disability. We use them with people who have emerging language who might have a fully functioning foreign sign language. So you know that sign language isn't universal. Right? So someone from Britain only uses British sign language-- it is not mutually intelligible like our speech is. Our language came from French sign language so there's much more similarities there. Um, so yeah, we use the intermediary process quite frequently.

Agustin:

Right. Because the assumption for me was everybody who's deaf uses American sign language. But that's not always the case.

Carla:

No, it's not. A lot of, it depends upon when you became deaf, where you went to school, and sometimes the makeup of your family. About 10% of deaf people have deaf parents. They're the ones who really perpetuate the culture and the language because they are, they have communication from the, from the jump. Lots of times a person who has a deaf kid and they spend all those precious language learning years trying to fix their ears, and that doesn't work, even with the implant surgery. So that person has more of a struggle later on trying to acquire any language. Then some people just read lips. I don't know how they do that, but they do.

Agustin:

Yeah. I wanted to ask you about that because I thought that was only in the movies because it seems very difficult. I mean maybe if I mouth it that like that, but normal speech, how do they tell? Apparently it's possible?

Carla:

Well, first of all, you have to have a strong command in the English language in order to read lips in English. And so if you have spent all your language learning years trying to get your ears fixed and that didn't work, you're not going to have a strong language base. 30% of the words in the language is what I've heard can be distinguished on the lips. So it's a guessing game.

Agustin:

Yeah, that's right. But if you, you know, I like football and for many years now the coaches have been sending instructions to their players by covering half their face and I heard that it was because some coaches were hiring lip readers to tell them what the instructions were from the opposite team. You know, at the beginning, it didn't matter. But once TV had constant close ups of the coaches and whatever and they could see the instructions, then they started using this method. And I always thought, 'Oh, come on. That's not even possible.' But it is.

Carla:

It is. I've heard, I know of a person who was hired to read the lips of the queen of England ones, but back to football - the only time you ever going hear me talk about it. The huddle was invented by deaf people, the huddle, you know, at the end. And there's also a deaf professional baseball player back in the, around the turn of the century who created the sign, the gestures or those things that they do. He contributed very much to the sports world.

Agustin:

Oh that's very, very interesting. And the huddle was like that because then they could sign to each other?

Carla:

Right, without the opposing team knowing. Because sign language is like. I can be talking to somebody in another building or another car.

Agustin:

yeah, that's always my complaint about classes because you know, when I'm teaching a class, uh, most people are not going to be having conversations because people can hear them and you go, 'Hey!', but sign language interpreters, I've seen them. We're teaching the class and they are signing sometimes and you know, it's hard to notice unless you're looking directly at them.

Carla:

And it's also actually, um, it's a sign that they're engaged. I know it appears rude, but it's a cultural thing. It's like you're talking about what the professor's saying. You're not just having a conversation. If you are just having an off the wall conversation, that's rude. You should take it outside. But generally, um, if deaf people, if I'm interpreting and they're talking to each other and I could see they're talking about what's going on, that tells me they understand the interpretation in part, too.

Agustin:

Oh cool. Cool, cool. So it's not necessarily that they're just checking out. It actually could be that they are engaged. Correct. We're learning a lot, a lot of things with this. Ah, now, did you get certified as a sign language interpreter? Was that the first step?

Carla:

Yes. I took a degree. I have an undergraduate degree in interpreting and I worked for a number of years. I got certified as a generalist, which is, it's just everything but legal. We had a couple of different tests created for specialties. The legal one is probably the most well known. So I took that exam twice. I passed it both times. But the first time it wasn't complete so I took half of it. So there was about 200 to 250 of us with that and there's 10 deaf interpreters who took that exam and passed it as well.

Agustin:

Good. And then, uh, do they have medical interpreting or did they used to or have they had it?

Carla:

Yeah, there's great interest in it. St. Catherine's University received a huge grant from the federal government and so they're doing a lot of training in healthcare. I know that there's a spoken language interpreting organization that has a certification, and one of them, I believe, is working with our people to try to make sure that sign language interpreters can get certified. There's one degree program in New York for medical interpreting, so that's definitely coming. For a long time, we've had training through, it's bizarre, but it's through Alabama and they've come up with the qualified medical mental health interpreter credential. So it's, it's growing. Medical is certainly one of the fields that we're in quite often. The problem that I see with all kinds of interpreting, and this is going to hit you guys eventually, I'd be interested in your take on it, is they're trying to put video remote interpreting everywhere and it doesn't work in court on a WiFi system, on your iPhone. It just doesn't work. I'm on a committee for the National Association for the Deaf, trying to create a position paper on the use of video remote interpreting in court for us because they've sued so many hospitals over there. Terrible, terrible equipment. And I know you have an interest in that.

Agustin:

Yeah, I do. And, and I can see how, because if we have problems, sometimes if the bandwidth is overused or there's something wrong and you sound a little choppy or whatever, I can imagine that in signing that that's like all of a sudden it's a different language altogether so you can't use it. Um, and as a sign language interpreter, I can see why, uh, the closeness is a lot more important. And any little sign that is missed is a problem. Another thing that I noticed and I think I've asked you before is I see a lot of facial movement when people are signing. But then I found that as part of the communication, right?

Carla:

Part of the grammar where our adverbs are here, our question types are on our eyebrows. So rhetorical questions. Yes, no questions. Wh questions. All that will have a different eyebrow and head tilt and it is very standard in American sign language.

Agustin:

Right. And I thought they were just like a little overdramatic but now they're actually using punctuation or something. Right?

Carla:

Yeah. They're also a little over dramatic.

Agustin:

(Laughs) We have all kinds. Now, you know, one of the things that you say is common and uh, a friend of mine already started talking about that in a presentation a couple of years ago, is these similarities -- actually points of connection, that we're having between legal and medical. And as an attorney, what do you think, eh, what do you think is the first approach or the correct approach? A judge orders a mental health evaluation for a defendant to see if they're competent to be tried. Right? So that's court ordered. Then what do the courts do? They hire court interpreter.

Carla:

Cross training.

Agustin:

Well that's the thing that, you know, traditionally if you ask anybody, Oh, well, yeah, well I'm a court interpreter, I'll go to that. Then you go, but it's not a legal encounter. And the provider is a doctor, right? It's a mental health professional. Right? And now the encounter is not adversarial as it is in court. It's more collaborative. So what happens with the very strict, uh, adversarial, uh, traditional interpretation in court where you're taught, you, as an interpreter, you're a conduit, that's it. But in medical interpretation, you have this, uh, incremental intervention approach. If clarifying is necessary, if cultural brokering is necessary, even if advocacy is necessary, you can within certain parameters, intervene. So how do you handle that as an interpreter? Do you use one set of rules or the other because it's court ordered, but it's a medical encounter. What do you think?

Carla:

I think, assuming the interpreter has both sets of skills, that you would go with what the, the context of the interaction requires. It's medical interaction. So I would, I would choose to follow that medical set of rules. At the same time, it still is a part of the adversarial system. The Dr. may or may not have to testify if the interpreter is functioning more as a community based interpreter and if there is a question about the interpretation, then they have to be prepared to explain that as they get called to testify. So, um, yeah, I've thought about that before, and it's very interesting.

Agustin:

Yeah, it is very interesting because we had a case for instance in court interpretation you interpret what was said and that's it. During the mental health evaluation, uh, my friend, um, she was confronted with, one of the questions that this, uh, doctor was asking, for instance, tongue twisters. So how do you -- first of all, you can't interpret a tongue twister , because they usually play on words and whatever. And they're culturally based. Yeah. So even if you could potentially come up with a similar, it's a different ballgame altogether. And, and how do you handle that when you're supposed to just be a conduit? That was a question. Here's the question, and that's the answer, here's the answer. And she said 'I felt it was absolutely impossible to continue interpreting unless I talked to the doctor' because the doctor's like 'well we'll just use the same words.' That's not possible. So how? And you said something about cross training. You said we should have cross training or..?

Carla:

Yes, I was thinking in terms of the court interpreter should have both court interpreter training and mental health. That's different than the scenario you pose. But it does bring to mind what I know. I have never done this, but I have taken training and know interpreters who've done lie detector tests. And with deaf people, um, some of the questions are very similar to those. Like they want to know how to spell something. Well, maybe it's something we don't have a sign for, so we're going to have to spell it to them and then we just give them the answer back. So what those people do, uh, who interpret lie detector tests, is meet with the practitioner ahead of time and say, these are the kinds of things that cause problems for interpretation. That's kind of a proactive approach you could take. But if it happens in the middle and you can't interpret that, I think your friend's absolutely correct. You, you make your record that you can't interpret this because it's not possible in your language.

Speaker 3:

That's right. That's right. That's why she did the presentation because she said, 'I think maybe we should do, and what you've meant, she didn't call it that. But it seems to me that there should be cross training. What you propose is that the incremental intervention approach should be taught to legal interpreters in case they're confronted with a situation where they're not in a legal adversarial situation, but they're more in a medical encounter.

Speaker 4:

No, I, I've taught a class w um, with a guy who runs that mental health program in Alabama and we talked about the intersection of legal in medical and like with the police go and they want to talk to someone that they're interested in as a target in the hospital, you know, and you're the medical interpreter, what do you do if you know, this is going to be part of the investigation and you may be subject to testifying later.

Speaker 3:

That's right. And that's kind of the reverse thing because now you, you are used as an interpreter in a medical field to be a lot, have a lot more leeway, but because this is illegal encounter, maybe you shouldn't have that. [inaudible] exactly. So I think Carolyn, we're going to have to have another conversation just about this topic alone. I, you know, and in November we're having our, uh, conference here, we're calling it finding the parallels because we, we are, and I think we should find the parallels not only between legal and medical, but also between spoken language and sign language interpreting. And, and we did have a case here some years ago where we have two defendants, one who was deaf, and the other one who spoke Spanish. So that was an interesting table for the defense. You know, we had the Spanish interpreter as a sign language interpreter. We had the proceeding interpreters in sign and Spanish. So that was a lot of fun. So, um, we promise you half an hour and believe it or not, it's been half an hour. We could be talking forever, but I don't want to keep you, I know you have something else to do and somewhere to go. So I really appreciate it, but be prepared. Cause maybe we'll ask you to come back and continue conversation with us. I'd be happy to. All right. Thank you again for inviting me. Thank you. Bye bye Carla.

Speaker 2:

[inaudible] Bye.

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