Interpreters only need to know two things:
- Sign Language; and,
- Everything Else.
Interpreters only need to know two things:
Someday I hope to have the same amount of confidence in my skills that my team appears to have in them.
Vicarious Trauma is an unavoidable hazard of interpreting.
Vicarious Drama is a purely recreational by-product of interpreting.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.
Usually it’s not.
(Shout out David Wycherley)
Live your crazy dream!
“Lately is seems there’s been a run of crazy dreams and [one] who can interpret could go far,
Could become a star!”
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
You meet 7-year-old you. 7-year-old you asks, “what do I do for a living when I grow up?”
Ok interpreters, is what you tell you a warning, or are you giving you something to look forward to?
A teacher teaches you something you didn’t already know.
A mentor helps you realize how much you do know.
A teacher instructs you on a principle or skill.
A mentor helps you to figure out how to apply it.
A teacher gives you a grade.
A mentor gives you a perspective…
I am both a teacher and a mentor and despite what I said above the VERY end goal of both jobs is the same. I want you not to need me. If I do my job correctly, I will teach you more than just skills and applications. If I do this right, I will have instilled in you a love of the process and a desire to improve your abilities because you love to, not because you have to. Most importantly, I will have helped you develop the internal structure and foundation so you know how to continue learn, to teach yourself, when I am gone. In order to be the best mentor I can be, there are some things that both you and I have to clearly understand.
IF YOU COULD DO IT, YOU WOULD NOT NEED ME.
The whole reason we are meeting is to develop your skills. If you could produce a perfect interpretation, you would not need me. (I, on the other hand, would love to make an appointment to have you mentor me!) You should not be shy or embarrassed to show me your work. That is why I’m here. If you hold back, I can’t get a good read on your cur- rent levels – in other words, I can’t evaluate what I don’t see.
Don’t apologize at the beginning or the end of an exercise. You don’t have to. I’m not offended by gaps in your skill sets. Don’t stop in the middle of an exercise to tell me you messed up. (Psst. Big secret? I know when you messed up… I can see it.) Just take a breath in through your nose and out through your mouth and move on. Once again, that is why we are here!
Don’t worry about screwing up in front of me! Take risks. Be creative. If you are going to be wrong, be definitively wrong! I will pull you back if you are getting too far out there. If you play it safe the whole time, you will just pro- duce the same work, and therefore the same errors, over and over. Keep this in mind: no matter what happens in this interpreter lab, there is ZERO POSSIBILITY that anyone will go to the morgue or that anyone will go to jail. It is my job to make sure you succeed in your work. (Because the client trusted me enough to agree to have you come to her work or doctor’s appointment or other meeting. She trusted me enough to agree to let you learn while she lives. I will NOT let either of you down.)
WE ARE NOT HAVING A COMPETITION.
I am not competing with you so don’t try to compare yourself to me. Unbalanced comparisons lead to hopelessness. Let me put that another way. I’m better than you at inter- preting (at least right now). If I wasn’t, you would have no reason to want me to mentor you. But I do not have more inborn ability than you. Any natural talent I may have started with has ceased to be important a long time ago (I will explain that in a minute). What I do have is time invested in doing this work. If you are just starting out, I could have very close to 30 years of experience more than you. (Wow, that made me choke just a little… I’m so old.) It’s not about talent. Talent gets you two years of people saying “Oh you are so talented” and after that, people want to see skill. So, I am better than you, but not because I have more ability. I just have more practice.
Don’t get discouraged if it looks easy for me. The operative word in that sentence is “looks.” It’s never easy, even for me. What looks like ease is the application of years of interpreting things just like this. I have a full toolbox to choose from and I will help you build yours! You must always remember that behind my smooth production and calm eyes there is a massive amount of mental dancing happening!
DON’T DEIFY ME, I WORK FOR A LIVING!
I send students out to work with experienced interpreters and sometimes when they come back, I hear, “She is so great at interpreting! I will NEVER be that good!” Don’t do that. She was not born interpreting like that. She had to work to get there. As you are now, that highly skilled and experienced interpreter once was, and as she is now, you may someday be – if you put in the work and time. She didn’t get there by rubbing a lamp or answering a wizard’s riddle or winning the lottery. She tried and failed and got up and dusted off and tried again. If you knew how many times she failed, you would know how dangerous it is to put her on a pedestal. Every time she fell down on her journey she got back up.
MY FINAL POINT.
My job is to help you to stand up when you stumble until you can stand up without me. If I do my job right, you will call me long after you have become that skilled, experi- enced, working interpreter to help you help the next gen- eration. My job as a mentor is to help you to become the mentor who comes after me.
You interpreted for that mess, but you did not live it. It isn’t yours. Put it down. Walk away.
No matter what Sign system your clients tend to use, a deep study of ASL (Read: BSL, LSF, Deutsche Gebärdensprache…) will help you produce it more eloquently.
The wisdom of Adam Bartley.