You had a bad day, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad interpreter.
This may apply to you today.
Remember this when it applies to your team tomorrow.
You had a bad day, that doesn’t mean you’re a bad interpreter.
This may apply to you today.
Remember this when it applies to your team tomorrow.
I’m not interpreting for your amusement. I don’t do funny voices.
A good interpreter gets all their CEUs.
A great interpreter still goes to workshops even when they don’t need any more CUEs.
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’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?
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.
VRI Interpreters! If you can put on pants and maybe, I don’t know, shower-even when you don’t need to (because seriously! Who would ever know)-then maybe VRI is for you!
Like a Drone pilot, VRI Interpreters sit in a room with the power over life and death hundreds or even thousands of miles away (but unlike a Drone pilot “life” is really what you are going for).
VRI! Sure VRI is a two dimensional presentation of a three dimensional language, but let’s not get bougie and start demanding ALL the dimensions. Ok?
I’m sitting in the Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris on my way to Malta for a week (look it up. Grin).
Being on a trip like this always gets me thinking about all I learn just being in “not America.”
How we got to Malta is a little bit of a story in and of itself, but, in a rare moment of self-editing I will not tell it here, because if I do I will never get to the reason I sat down to type this out with my thumbs in the first place.
Suffice it to say it had a lot to do with never having met anyone who had been to Malta. As my Note will hopefully emphasize, that is reason enough to go almost anywhere.
Now, the Note I sat down to write.
Years ago I hired a former student to be a Lecturer in my program.
I was thrilled she accepted the position (I firmly believe the strength of a program can be measured by how many former students you would love to bring back to teach).
She was an amazingly gifted student (and has gone on to become one of the finest Interpreters, and in all honesty, one of the finest people I have ever had the pleasure to know).
As a student she had one quirk that caught me off guard. One day in class she told me that she would never work in VRS interpreting.
I agree! because my ADHD CANNOT abide a cubicle.
That was not her reason.
She did not want to work in a VRS setting because “ASL from East of the Mississippi scared her.” It scared her BAD.
I couldn’t let that lie now could I.
Quite literally I picked up my cellphone and called Anne Leahy in Washington D.C. I said, “Anne I’m sending you someone you need to teach how to walk on hot coals, she has all the skills but she doesn’t know how tough her feet are” (not the last time I’ve sent Anne someone with skills o’ plenty and let her take care of the confidence part).
Anne brought out the best in her and sent me back an amazingly well rounded interpreter.
She certified before she graduated and charged out into the world to get some real experience.
A few years later I got approval to hire a Lecturer for my program.
When my former student applied I was thrilled! She was as amazing a teacher as she was at everything else.
The next summer I was invited to CIT in Puerto Rico and I asked my former student, now colleague, if she would like to go as well.
She was nervous.
“I’ve never been out of the country,” she said.
“And you still won’t,” I replied, “Puerto Rico is part of the United States. They use the dollar and have Walmart’s and stuff. You don’t even need a passport” (which is good because she didn’t have one).
She felt better. Somewhat. I mean when you think about it Puerto Rico is waaaay east of the Mississippi.
So. Off we went.
When we landed I dropped her off at her hotel and checked into mine then I picked her up and we made plans for the first day of the conference in the lobby of my hotel. When we finished I suggested we get something to eat.
Now, I have a friend who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and I asked her what is “not to be missed” as far as local food.
“Mofongo,” she said.
So we walked over to the concierge and asked if there was a place near the hotel where we could get Mofongo.
“Yes!” she said, “there is a great place within walking distance.”
At that moment felt a hand in the middle of my chest and my former student, now university colleague, pushed me backwards, leaned into the the concierge and asked, “have you ever actually eaten Mofongo? I mean, what’s it like?”
The concierge looked at her kindly and said, “that is kind of like me asking if you’ve ever eaten a turkey dinner. Yes, it’s the national dish.”
I reached forward and gently took a hold of her ponytail and pulled her backward as her ear passed my mouth I whispered, “we need to talk.”
I got the address for the restaurant from the concierge and we started walking toward it.
“Where to begin?” I thought. I cleared my throat and said, “my father once told me if you haven’t had a parasite at least once in your life you have not eaten enough interesting things.”
She stopped and looked at me just as you are imagining she looked at me and said, “ok that’s crazy.”
“Maybe,” I replied, “but here is what is going to happen tonight. You have a per diem for meals from the university. We are going to this restaurant and ordering Mofongo and you are going to try it. If you legit don’t like it I will spend my own money to buy you a Subway sandwich. Deal?”
“Deal,” she sighed. And off we went.
For anyone who doesn’t know Mofongo, it is mashed plantains fried crispy and smothered in stewed meat. It. Is. Fantastic.
She loved it. She ordered it everywhere we went for the rest of our time in Puerto Rico.
While we were sitting at that very nice cafe in San Juan, eating delicious food, I asked her a question that had been elbowing its way to the front of my mind ever since I first asked her if she wanted to go to CIT.
“You don’t have a passport?”
“No,” she replied, “never needed one.”
“You should get one.”
“Why?” she asked, “I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
“You need a passport,” I explained, “for the same reason that I think golf would be a much more interesting game if they just added a penalty box. They don’t have to change the rules at all-just add a penalty box. The fact it is there will inspire its use.”
She looked at me puzzled. It was not the first time and has not been the last.
“Think,” I explained, “you’re not planning on going anywhere and maybe it’s because you don’t have a passport, but, if you had a passport you would be inspired to use it!”
“I don’t know…” but she was thinking about it.
“Look at you right now. You’re stretching your experiences. You are in your twenties, you have a job that gives you some disposable income, you will never be this mobile, this free in your life.” I made eye-contact. “Get a passport.”
And she did.
Since that meal of Mofongo in Puerto Rico she has been all over the world. She has been to Russia, Thailand, and more countries in Europe and South America than I could possibly remember. She is no longer a Lecturer at my program, she has gone on to do phenomenal work in every area to which she sets her hand. And she has used her passport (I actually called her to see if she could cover some classes for me for during this trip and she was in Lisbon).
The point is she will tell you that each one of these trips has made her a better interpreter. Each has added to her knowledge base. Each one has expanded her cultural awareness and expanded her mind to the diversity of ideas. She has a better understanding that I do of what makes it easier and harder to navigate in a culture that is not your own using a language that is not your own.
She was already awesome and these experiences made her better.
It’s Awesome Gain.
So, here I am now I’m sitting in a cafe called Xemxija on the island of Malta. I took my own advice.
Why Malta? Do you know anyone who has been to Malta. Now you do.
What do you know about Malta?
Well now you know about this^^. This is the oldest know human manipulated edifice on earth. It is literally the first stone they know of on the planet that someone, or more likely, some group of people said, “we should pick this stone up from here and place it, in a very specific way, right there.”
It’s the pillar of the Skorba Temple. It’s older than Stonehenge and predates the pyramids by thousands of years.
This is the only painting Caravaggio ever signed. It’s here on Malta (there are actually two other Caravaggio paintings on Malta).
From what I can see the ADA has not made its way to Malta, but I’ll ask these folks about it tonight.
In Thornton Wilder’s famous play ‘Our Town’ Mrs. Gibbs pines for the experience of going to – ”a country where they don’t talk in English and don’t even want to”
Every interpreter should pine for that same experience. It will make you a better interpreter and a more well rounded person.
Get a passport.No matter your age or place in life-get a passport and let it inspire you.
p.s. Before I published this I sent it to the interpreter it is about. She asked me to quote her:
“Meeting Dale Boam changed the trajectory of my life. He was the first person to see the light inside me and demand that I stop playing small. I never knew that life outside of the comfort zone would be so worth it.”
If it hurts it’s a problem you shouldn’t ignore.
If you think that ignoring the pain will make it go away, just remember…