Rule 755

Let’s play “Ok/Not Ok”

Investing in an opportunity you heard about interpreting.

Not ok.

Learning CPR while interpreting for a Red Cross course and later performing CPR on a person having a heart attack.

That is Ok.

You see the obvious difference, right?

Rule 735

Dear Deaf Client,

You know that Code of Professional Conduct forbids me offering personal opinions.


While we are waiting for your job interview at a clothing store I will hold your purse as you try on clothes, but I will not tell you which outfit looks better.

Note from Uncle Dale: The Casual Overstay Is A Dangerous Thing.

I recently heard from a few readers that they were unfamiliar with my early Rules because they jumped in later and it was just so much work to scroll all the way back to the beginning of the Blog.

I agree.

I’ve got to figure out a way to make searching the Blog easier.

Project for this summer. Maybe when I finish the book or any of the other thousand projects I have in front of me.

It will happen. The question as always is when it will happen? I am pretty sure I’m not the only one who understands that feeling.

Annnd back to the point.

I have started with Rule 1 and just posted them in order, like a “throwback-a-day” calendar.

I had forgotten that not all my Rules were posted without some controversy (I will confess I never expected so many people were so deeply invested in saying “irregardless.” Supposably it HAS been accepted as an actual word, but it’s my suspection that most people still agree with me. Grin)

Recently my throwback a day arrived at Rule 15

The point of this Rule is that when we begin casually chatting after appointments we risk forgetting the reason we are there and that the CPC is still in full force, that it doesn’t matter if the appointment is over, we are still there as Interpreters (read the amazing work of Robert Lee on Role-Space, it will change your life forever). Many of the hardest conversations I’ve had with Interpreters facing ethics complaints start with, “ok, you need to understand, the appointment was OVER…”


I am not saying that you should break eye-contact with the client and run out of the door the moment the appointment is done. As more than one reader stated, talking after an appointment was a great way to network and it shows clients we’re not just there for the money- but are actually invested in them.

The practical upshot of all these reader comments was, “if I am a conscientious observer of the Code of Professional Conduct I can have a post appointment conversation and be fine.”

Which is true.

Well, true to a point.

Absolutely have a cordial and friendly conversation with the client as you pack it up and say goodbye. What the Rule is saying is that chatting about personal things or sharing stories is best done at Deaf activities and social events, not on the back of your work role.

This kind of familiarity breeds a level of comfort that may not fit the role you are occupying at that moment. Getting that comfortable can lead to lapses in your attention as to where you are and why you are there. Again, when counseling Interpreters before ethics inquiries I often hear, “I thought [the client] understood we were just talking and I wasn’t interpreting anymore,” or “[the client] is the one who started asking me questions….”

As with all the Rules, Rule 15 is an oversimplification of a generalized truth. The true story behind the Rule is a cautionary tale of an interpreter becoming too comfortable with a regular client and the profession line getting fuzzy. The result blew the interpreter’s career, family and life apart.

But I can’t tell you that story.

So, I’ll tell this one.

It is based on a story from the Bible.

Don’t stop reading! I’ve used analogies like this before. As always, the religious text is just the structure upon which I am hanging the story, not the point of the story (not preaching… the story just works to make my point). And usually, whether or not you are in anyway religious, most people are at least familiar with the story, so the context is accessible.

This one comes from the story of David and Bathsheba.

The first time I asked my father if I could take the car and drive my friends to a party on a Saturday night he told me I could, if I could answer one question. He asked me, “what was “David’s first sin?”

David? Like in the Bible?

“That David.”

I thought for a second and I told him it was lust.

He asked, “why do you think that? Show me.”

So, I opened a Bible and read Second Samuel 11 verse 2:

“And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon”

My Dad smiled and said, “that is the result of his first sin, but not the primary sin itself. Read the first verse. Everyone skips to the second verse without paying attention to the first verse.”

Ok, I will admit I was intrigued. So I read Second Samuel 11 verse 1:

“And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.” (Emphasis added)

My father said, “David’s first sin was forgetting the responsibilities that came with who he was, forgetting what he was supposed to be doing and ending up hanging around in a place he knew he was not supposed to be. David was the king and was supposed to be leading his armies. But, he stayed home. He knew wasn’t supposed to be there but he thought, ‘maybe just this once, it’ll be ok just this once’ and the result destroyed his life and shook his kingdom to the core.”

My Father look me in the eyes and said, “David saw Bathsheba and lusted because he stayed too long in a place he was not needed and so he was in a place he should not have been.” Then my father drove the point home. “Most of the real problems we have in life start because we forget who we are and end up hanging around in a place we know we are not supposed to be.”

I got the point. He let me take the car.


Rule 15 is about paying attention to Role-Space. Remember who you are. Remember why you are there. And if your role as an interpreter is no longer needed where you are, Go Home.

Rule 703

Nurse: “Ok, we just need you to sit in the room and make sure she keeps breathing….”

UD: Again, I’m sure they haven’t given me a complete list of the things they don’t want me to do as a contractor. But I’m pretty sure that would be on it.

(Pirate voice) Means no.

More wit and wisdom of Tyler Forsgren.

Note From Uncle Dale: Checking The Box.

Hi one and all. Uncle Dale once again busily typing with my thumbs.

Interpreter forums on social media (lightning and thunder).


They are the greatest blessing and most terrible curse to the interpreting community.

They are a fantastic way to “crowd source” for information and to get a little guidance.

They are also a good way to find out you are not alone in your frustrations or concerns or joys or confusion.

These forums allow interpreters to access hundreds of years of collective experience, a wellspring of knowledge unparalleled in history, making the library at Alexandria look like the “local attractions” pamphlet display in the lobby of a hotel.

Unfortunately, such forums have downsides as well.

They are fertile with confirmation bias. Bring the most outlandish idea to the circus and you can always find people who believe and support it.

These forums devolve very quickly into text book examples of “group think,” where one idea is held as sacred and unquestionable and any attempt to discuss it is treated as heresy to the point where tradition is defended for its own sake without regard to context or pragmatism.

Left unchecked these forums can be powder kegs for racism, sexism and almost any other “ism” you like.

I’m not trying to be alarmist or even speaking against Interpreters on social media. I’m just asking us all to be careful.

In the end I believe the good interpreter forums do vastly outweighs the danger, so long as you recognize that venturing in to these forums you are constantly sailing between Scilla and Charybdis.

If Uncle Dale can give one bit of advice about these forums it’s this:

There are no absolutes.

Beware the post or response that seeks a yes or no answer that applies to all situations at all times, because in interpreting almost every question is an open question.

That is tough for many of us because we came there looking for “an answer” not a discussion.

This starts a dangerous journey. Many read a question posted on one of these sites and think they know “the answer.” What they actually know is what they think they would or would not do in factually exactly the same situation.

But we never will be in factually the exact same situation. Ever.

Because although we may have been in similar situations and may well be in similar situations again, we have NEVER been in the exact same situation as the interpreter who posted the question, because we work in a world of humans and every human interaction is unique (tangent alert! Every situation is unique. It is NEVER “very unique.”

Unique means “being the only one of its kind; unlike anything else.

Unique is an absolute, not a a gradient. It either is or it is not. Something can not be “kind of unique” or “somewhat unique.”

It is or it is not.

That is actually important to our discussion).

Over the last couple of days I have either observed or been involved in discussions on a couple of different forums where a question is asked and the responses devolved into “if you don’t believe exactly as I do you are wrong.”

Nope I’m not. I just have a different perspective.

Now, let me set out this caveat-absolutes can exist in the world of interpreting, but they are rare! So very very rare.

They are rare because each interpreting situation is unique. That is an absolute.

Elements of one situation may have striking similarities to another situation, but no two situations are ever exactly the same.

No matter how detailed a post requesting feedback on what an interpreter should or should not do in any situation it can never paint a complete picture. There may be one detail, so insignificant in the mind of the interpreter posting question that it would never occur to them to include it, that would change my perspective and therefore my answer to the query.

This is the biggest danger posed by these social media discussions. We make sweeping pronouncements based on very little information.

The person making the post wants an answer to a question that the post only somewhat defines.

A specific answer.

A direct and specific answer.

A direct, specific and universally applicable answer.

Truth? There isn’t one. Even if the question is clearly defined there is rarely one single shining correct answer.

This is because in the world of humans interacting with other humans only correct answer to any question involving making decisions is, “it depends.”

That is infuriating, I know.


none-the-less it is true.

We want answers that allow us to check a box:

__ yes __ no

__ right __ wrong

__ do __ do not

We will not get these answers. That’s not how interpreting works.

One cannot have “check box absolute” answers for questions about a job constructed entirely of variables.

There is not a “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” answer to most interpreting related questions-only a generally or a generally not, because every situation is unique.

I have seen fantastic discussions where Interpreters explain what they have done is similar situations and why they chose to do it, and others propose a different perspective and why they would choose a different path and both are recognized as valid.

I have also seen these discussions devolve into Interpreters calling each other names, or calling each other to repentance for questioning or proposing a different perspective from their own.

I have seen the CPC wielded as a sword or a club to pummel those who disagree.

Perhaps the worst thing I have seen is discussions collapsing into racism and sexism.

This is not the norm, of course, but it happens often enough to raise concern. We cannot tolerate racism and sexism, but that is a different Note.

The CPC is by its own definition a means of expressing guiding principles. It is not yes or no or check box answers to any questions.

There are as many different interpretations of the CPC as there are situations where interpreting occurs.

Moreover, many Interpreters add their own unwritten or unspoken rules on top of the CPC. This is fine but you cannot enforce your personal rules on other Interpreters.

We have to remember that the job of an interpreter is to accurately and effectively interpret from Deaf Sign Language to Spoken Hearing and Spoken Hearing to Deaf Sign Language using any specialized vocabulary. Anything beyond that is an ethical or other consideration attached to the job, but not the job itself.

The CPC guides professionalism in doing the job described above in the most general sense but cannot anticipate all situations and actually says Interpreters are supposed to apply the CPC using their best judgement (look it up. No I’m not going to tell you where it says it. Read the CPC).

There are rare occasions where an interpreter on one of these forums may need to be corrected for something that is obviously counter to the CPC. The problem is it is not a rare occasion that it happens.

We as Interpreters need to learn the difference between “wrong” and “different than I would do.”

Because those two concepts are very, very different.

We are all in this together. Let’s take time to learn from each other and spend less time worrying about our way being the right way.

Rule 690

Leave it outside. You are working now.

Whatever it is, pain, heartache, infatuation, excitement, success, failure, joy, anger, love, loss…

Leave it outside.

It will be there when you are finished.

Rule 660

Make sure you turn off the “Send My Location” function on your cell phone when texting from a job site.

(Holy crap! That’s like a real RULE! How did that get in here?)

Rule 637

“It was just that one time…”

Unethical behavior is like a mouse in your house. If you see one there are many many more there, you just haven’t seen them yet.

Rule 633

If the Hearing Client says, “But the other interpreter always does [ethically shaky thing] for us…”

Never forget:

  1. They tell the other interpreter exactly the same thing about you; and,
  2. The other interpreter doesn’t do [ethically shaky thing] either.

The Wit and Wisdom of Aaron Shoemaker

Rule 615

Making ethical decisions in a vacuum is like getting lost and only asking yourself for directions.

This is a combination of the Wit and Wisdom of two people, Xenia Fretter and one other reader who asked not to be named. Thanks to both!