Home > Opinion > Should We Trust Interpreters?

Should We Trust Interpreters?

February 26, 2007

 Written by Bug

It is said that trust is given to someone automatically, and will slowly erode if not maintained. For many reasons, the opposite is true with respect to deaf people and interpreters. Many deaf people recount stories of feeling “violated” by someone claiming to be a “professional interpreter” (linguistically/culturally competent, flexible, ethical, non-judgmental, and unobtrusive). The form in which trust is “earned” varies, but an interpreter must earn a deaf person’s trust.

It’s frustrating when you put much trust in the interpreter because they act like they know everything what you say until you notice something wrong or someone else tell you that interpreter doesn’t voice right and the information becomes lost and screwed up like they are unable to match the elevated register, vocabular, or descriptive language used in a meeting because of limited sign language skills then the professional doesn’t have full access to the flavor of the meeting. If in the interpreter skills, he or she is unable to produce English utterance that are complete, cohesive, using the jaron for the setting and at an appropriate register or style level, a power imbalance occurs. The interpreter is oppressing the deaf client because of her lack of skill. I am sure there is a difference between a professional who is speaking vs speaking professionally.

A few years ago, the lawyer at the court quested the deaf rapist why he raped a deaf victim. The offender signed ” I wanted to fuck her….” a court interpreter voiced ” I wanted to make love with her….”. The judge dismissed the case! He was free. Who is at fault? Of course, it is an interpreter’s. Later I was told that she didn’t feel comfortable to use the word ” fuck” because of her religion. I think she should not be an interpreter in the first place. If I were a victim in that case, I would sue the interpreter.

I sometimes feel insecure to have an interpreter around me. The hospital has their own interpreters, of course they are certified interpreters but still. Let’s pause right there and think for a while. I feel uncomfortable to have a female interpreter when I see my doctor. I did requesting to have a male interpreter but they did not provide one. Also, when I feel sick or want to see a doctor, I have to follow the interpreter’s day which is on every Tuesdays and Fridays while the hearing patients choose what day they want to pick the day. If the interpreter does not show up, I have to reschedule the appointment. It is not fair to the deaf people to suffer more while the others have an “easy life”. Also, if I go and see my doctor often, the interpreters already know more about my privacy. They have no business to make a rumor about the clients or being nosy in my life. How do I know? Don’t forget the world is so small, you can find a leak even though they don’t often use your name. They would say… ” that client ….” The clue becomes an easy target so others would know who the client is.

About relay service, it is nice to talk with them through either online or video phone. But one problem is (God forbids) they could steal your identification and we could be victims of fraud, will it happen? I hope not. My good friend had a bad experience with Sorenson Relay Service Interpreter. One day my friend didn’t feel comfortable to talk with that interpreter because he didn’t have a receptive skill so he told the interpreter that he preferred other interpreter. An interpreter was unhappy to hear about it. My friend hung up. A minute later, the relay interpreter called and asked ” Got problem with me?” My friend hung up on him again. A same person called and got angry with my friend. He hung up on the relay service interpreter. But the interpreter refused to give up so he called back, the phone rang many time. My friend never answered.

Another example of unprofessional interpreter you will see on the video I posted a link in here. The interpreter who couldn’t read a deaf French lady’s sign language, she ruined the deaf French girl’s dream. This young beautiful lady was the first deaf person to compete in the Miss France competition. Sadly the interpreter tried to translate it, then gave up and just stood there in silence while the Miss freaked out. Check this link, you will know what I am saying. http://sourds.ouest.free.fr/D142.htm

I am not saying that all interpreters are bad. Lot of them are good but some of them are worst. Many of them do not wish us to know their voice while we sign, have you notice that? They sometime hope we wont find their errors I have seen a lot of people working with the deaf children at school, they act like interpreters but they are not. They can hurt the deaf children’s future.

Being an interpreter requires continuous learning, inquiry, self-analysis and a commitment to becoming a true partner in the “duo” on a daily basis.

Deaf Mafia Collector story about the interpreter lying to the mafia is funny but not real. Check this out… Enjoy reading: https://fookembug.wordpress.com/2007/02/24/the-deaf-mafia-collector/#respond

Categories: Opinion
  1. mishkazena
    February 26, 2007 at 7:37 am

    An interpreter I knew broke the code of ethics when she shared medical information of her clients without their permission. This is a serious problem in a very small community, making people reluctant to use interpreters in confidential settings. I cannot understand how interpreters can live with themselves when they violated the basic rules of confidentiality and betraying their clients.

    The Sorenson VRS interpreter who cannot accept your friend’s declination of her service and kept calling back went over her professional boundaries and was unethical. I hope your friend to contact the coordinator of Sorensen VRS and file a formal complaint regarding her harassment as this behavior hurt Sorenson by giving it a bad reputation. Kudos to him for refusing to let this interpreter intimidate him.

  2. February 26, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Its best to trust your judgment. If you feel there is something wrong and trust that because most of the time D/deaf customer are correct with their true feelings.

    Did you know that many D/deaf people have special powers inside them. They need to trust that feeling because when we lost our sensory in the ears and the sensory part tend to go towards the feeling part.

    If you feel the interpreter is not honest or whatever and ask for a quick replacement. D/deaf customers needs to be in control and not interpreters. Interpreters are tools and communication tools are important. D/deaf must pick the best and relax while watching the interpreter.

    Do not worry about hurting the interpreters feelings. It is good that the interpreters get feedback from their customers. This will get the interpreter to get more training. The more the interpreter is trained and the better they do on their assignments.

    If the interpreter did a very good job and send them a letter telling them what they did good is very important. They will polish up the skills more on the areas they are good at.

    There are a lot of good/bad interpreters and good/bad D/deaf customers.

  3. Gillyob
    February 26, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Same with my friend, Judy, (not real name), her husband is dying: Interpreter; debbie (not real name) was at hospice to be her interpreter, then Judy went home to sleep. Next Morning, The Hospice tried send fax to Judy about her hubby passed away but Judy didnt know. Interpreter Debbie found out and told other friends about Judy’s husband passed away, so other friend spread the news to deaf community while Judy still didnt know. Then other friends contacted Judy to tell her Sorry about her hubby.
    She was stunned and didnt know so She upset about it.
    I know interpreter shouldnt say anything about every deaf’s personnel. Some interpreter I do trust…but some I dont trust..because they are some of deaf’s favorism.
    like Daughter/Mother..Daughter is interpreter, Mother is deaf and Mother already knew some happened becuz of her daughter told her but didnt tell her the names..(how do we know if its true). For sure, Daughter would tell mom our names..
    I really feel bad about Judy for unknown that hubby passed away..Hospice still shouldnt call the interpreter to tell her.
    I think reason is..They tried to reach Judy.
    Most of all, I really appreciate that Interpreters do be there for us, help us to be our Ears..to know whats we need..

  4. Wolfers
    February 26, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I have mixed feelings about this. Really…. I remember one time a professor was so arrogant that he patronized the whole class, “you don’t know anything about this, do you? DID any of you complete 101 psychology? I don’t think so.” Anyway..one day he mockingly asked if any of us knew about Pavlov. I was fed up at that point, so I interrupted him and explained about Pavlov and how that experiment led to behaviorism by Skinner. He then came to the interpreter and patted her back while saying, “Good for you, but I am sure the interpreter here added things for you.” The WHOLE class (including me and interpreter) fell silent in shock. The interpreter was TOO upset to continue interpreting so the other interpreter took over. It took me few moments before I was calm enough to shoot the professor down explaining that what I know is exactly what I said, the interpreter did NOT add anything. In other words, proving you wrong and threatening your sense that the students don’t know anything, you got defensive by attacking me and the interpreter. I feel sorry for you.” The whole class cheered.
    Another incident- I survived a hit-and-run incident and that I was in the hospital. I was unable to get much help- the hospital would not cooperate in getting interpreters. The next day, a friend interpeter from VA (150 miles down) drove up, saw me, and shouted at the administration, threatening to report them. I got interpeters but still not great- later on, I found out that interpeters CAME as VOLUNTEER, because they knew the hospital wouldn’t pay. So….. how can one say the interpreters don’t think of other folks? If not for those interpreters, I would be in much worse situation, I believe.

  5. Rox
    February 26, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Anytime an interpreter violates the CPC (Code of Professional Conduct), formerly known as COE (Code of Ethics), you can report them to RID and their certificate may be taken away.

    Another way we can fight back about this… Anytime an interpreter starts talking to you about another client, interrupt them and say “I’m not interested in violating that client’s confidentiality, let’s talk about something else.” By listening to their gossip, we are only encouraging their behavior.

  6. February 26, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Yeah! That is old story about how interpreters abuse code of ethics / code of professional conduct. There are few interpreters that I know and have experienced. Some are what we called Queen Bees. They were terrible in power grab and domination of other terps. Some terps are bad. Most are good. I rather focus on them. They are even part of RID.

    I sometimes think RID is a BIG joke. They cannot seem to achieve in resolving problems in some communities. This is why each state has its own commission to deal with interpreting issues.

    More or less, we need more laws with teeth in them to reinforce what we have been expecting from them!!!!!

    I know of soem interpreters who abuse are in Florida. I know a mother and daughter who try to put themselves on pedestals and I had to leave that agency as I cannot deal anymore with their bigotry, ignorance, selfishness and corruption. The lady owns some real estate and put her clients in there. The daughter cannot even sign and still uses mostly SEE… Some older deaf have complained to me……

    Geez whiz! The world is not perfect! We simply need more laws with teeth to weed out bad terps as well as their cronies….

    I hate Sunday School terps….they are worse terps! I am glad there are screws being tightened by having laws to protect the profession and clients.

    Good job reporting!


  7. mishkazena
    February 26, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I noticed I made many mistakes in my first comment. Pardon me for these errors as apparently I wasn’t fully awake when I wrote them.

    Oh, there are many good interpreters, Wolfer. I didn’t mean to imply that they all are bad. Just like any other field, there is bad apples in every bushel.

  8. Anonymous
    February 26, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Curious, what is the nearly ratio between man and woman as interpreter?

    And where can I find the list of certified interpreter?

    Interesting story.

  9. Lantana
    February 26, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Having to trust an interpreter is pretty degrading. How about the questions they ask you pre-op? “Are you sexually active?” “Have you ever had a social disease?” And so on it goes. And if you happen to know your terp in a social setting, it is eve more embarassing.

    I have even told the interpreting service whom I DO NOT WANT as an interpreter and they still sent that person. Even tho I notified them weeks in advance. How about when they send a MALE when a woman is having a pelvic exam? I kicked one male interpreter out and he kept telling me defensively that he was married and a “Man of God”. So? You are still a male! Most of the time I would just rather depend on my own lipreading skills.

  10. February 26, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Nice blog you have there, interesting read. Never thought that having an interpreter would ’cause so much harm to other people, but nonetheless, humans aren’t perfect; we can only hope that we can minimizes effects of errors and hope that it would ruin others.

  11. February 27, 2007 at 1:02 am

    Dear all, thank you for your comments. Its always good to receive words from readers …good or bad….as it at least shows that there is actually someone out there reading our blogs so they can feel the same. We want people to learn that they are not alone. Others have these problems and we need to be bonded in a way that we can help each other out. The main thing we would like to say is “Hang in there and don’t let them control you just because you are deaf or Deaf.” – Fookem and Bug

  12. February 27, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Anonymous, you can find lot of details and list of certified interpreters at http://www.rid.org/

  13. TS
    February 28, 2007 at 10:34 am

    How about doing a blog/vlog on “do we trust hearing signers”…what are their motives in the deaf community?

  14. King (not real)
    March 1, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Wow, I do need the ASL interpreters for communicate with hearing people (salesman, insurance agnecy, etc.) but stock angencies, bank professionals, doctors are scary to have the ASL interpreters which can go though my pravicies!

  15. March 9, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Maybe there is not enough promotion given to learning American Sign Language during advanced education, such as college. I learned from people who do it, the pay is pretty darn good.

    That’s not to say that people should only go into the field for money, but it just made me think. When people talk about good-paying jobs, they never even *think* about ASL interpretation.

    People are more likely to take CPR than ASL, I’m sure.

    I keep thinking I want to either take ASL or Spanish in college (I doubt I would have time for both). Not to be a professional interpreter, but because it could help in any job in which there is interaction with deaf people.

    Since right now I only go to school part-time, I am only hoping.

    I’m sure the problem is a lot to do with not enough people entering the field. They *never* have enough people. “Beggars can’t be choosers”, I guess? That’s so sad.

    Out of curiosity, do those “certified” ASL interpreters in hospitals get certified in something medical, too, like medicat transcription or nursing, so they can catch any dangerous misunderstandings?

  16. Anonymous
    March 23, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Respond to wholeshebang’s question, ‘do those “certified” ASL interpreters in hospitals get certified in something medical, too, like medicat transcription or nursing, so they can catch any dangerous misunderstandings?’

    No, the certified ASL interpreters translate between doctors/nurses and deaf patients. That’s it but the sign languages can be misunderstand sometimes. They have to be careful with signs. Mostly, they did not bother to stop the patients what it is if they don’t know the signs. Or poor ‘eyes recieve’.

    Hope I answer your question clearly. Any one wants to add? Feel free to do that. 😉

  17. Chris
    April 12, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    WOW! I was actually insearch of info on trust for a psych class but this caught my eye on my search results! I am also an ITP student. We talk about situations like these constantly in my classes, but it is enlighting to read comments from D/deaf themselves. Is there a place that interpreters and D/deaf can give and get good honest feedback in constructive and respectful ways? I know sometimes it is hard to give harsh feedback face to face. It is hard to get it face to face too. Especially new interpreters really need to know the issues you’re discussing. Thanks for the insight (and the for break from my psych assignment).

  18. April 13, 2007 at 12:19 am

    Chris, we are glad to know that you found it for your research. I am not sure about the site you would like to have the opinions, feedbacks, advices, etc. Maybe you can try this site, http://deafness.about.com/ It’s a good place where many people leave their messages even you can post your topic in there. We wish you a good luck with your studies and goals.

  19. Anonymous
    July 28, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Ridorlive wrote this on his blog. I wanted to copy it and share this with you. He wrote-

    Just saw the last 15 minutes of American Inventor on ABC-TV.

    One of these contestants is Deaf man. Very cute. Anyone knew his name? He is quite beautiful to look at.

    He won the support of the judges, so you guys will get to see him again next week.

    But the female interpreter was horrible. She literally embarrassed the thousands of professional ASL interpreters out there. I could not barely understand what the fuck she was trying to say. I had to read the captions rather than to watch what she was trying to say. That’s how bad she was!

    Fire her, ABC! Get a professional one, damn you, ABC!



  20. Lisa C.
    November 30, 2007 at 12:54 pm

    I have trouble trusting the CODA interpreters because I notice they had broken the code of ethics by telling their deaf parents and some deaf people about their clints’ medical records.

  21. November 30, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Likely I mention about not certificate interperter doesnt really understand and I did complained to forgien language. I told them Dont hire them.

    I agree with Lantana and Lisa C about CODA interpreter issues sometime mess up. Not always. Few of them I know I dont hire CODA intrepeter. but I love one interpreter .. she is herself as CODA. She is really supportive alot. SAD she moved to near Tri Cities,WA.

    Sometime I dont really want male interpreter for ob/gyn. I agree the stuff the medical office say you have to go with male interpreter. I said Hey, you have no right to tell me. It is my right. CAll agencies .. She called them and the owner scold her. she say you should have notifity to agencies what is my preference. she stunned. I said “YOU SEE! As same as HIPAA is kind of complciations. it is my right. not their work to butthead to male interpreter.”

    Deaf Patient do have a their right.. not medical office handled it.

  22. Keinark
    January 13, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Great comments all around. As far as the medical interpreting goes… ugh.. Can be very frustrating. I’m a certified interpreter and I can tell you that hospitals are notorious for trying to weasel out of providing interpreters. The sad truth is that the ADA law states “reasonable accommodation,” which means that although you have the right to get an interpreter, you don’t have the right to request a specific interpreter. This also includes getting a male or female. Many times, doctor’s offices and hospitals will use less than qualified interpreters because they are cheaper than nationally certified interpreters.
    The best thing to do is to continually complain about the service you are getting to the hospital administration. Talk to other Deaf people in your community that have had bad experiences at that hospital or doctor’s office and encourage them to do the same. Also, you can contact NAD and see what they would suggest you do.

  23. Stevie
    January 29, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    I want to thank you for bringing these things to light. I am hoping to enter the ITP this year, and reading this was an eye opening experience for me. I’ve seen some lousy interpreters while job shadowing, but I had no idea the abuse of the code of ethics was so common. I’d love more information on this, if you can point me in the right direction.

  24. Abdullahi sharif
    May 14, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Dear all,

    I would like to ask you several questions, if you have them, please help me,

    1-what are ethics for interpreters?
    2-why are ethics important for interpreters?
    3- what is the difference between Ethics and Code of conduct?

    thank you for your help !

  25. HansensView
    May 23, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Keinark Says: “The sad truth is that the ADA law states “reasonable accommodation,” which means that although you have the right to get an interpreter, you don’t have the right to request a specific interpreter”

    I disagree with your comment. I believe part of the problem is that the interpreting agencies refuse to accommodate the deaf person on their preferences of interpreters. When the interpreting agency do not have the specific interpreter, they refuse to call the service provider requesting the interpreting services, .i.e. hospital, that they are unable to provide the services because they do not want to lose the “contract.” This puts a deaf person stuck in the middle: The right to effective communication as the ADA allows it and the interpreting agency refuse to contact the hospital they are not able to meet the means of communication for the deaf person.

    In many circumstances, the deaf or hard of hearing customer is in the best position to determine which method of communication is necessary to ensure an equal opportunity to benefit from the services. Therefore, the customer’s judgment regarding what means of communication is necessary to ensure effective communication must be given great deference. This is called “primary consideration” under the ADA. The interpreting agencies often overlook it and think their business is more important than the deaf/hearing customers. Therefore, it is truly sad!

  26. Aslrunner
    August 6, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I am a Sorenson Video Interpreter. I just wanted to clear up one thing. The interpreters sometimes get blamed for doing what the caller asks them to do. For example, if a caller (VP or voice) tells us to call someone, we do, and if that person who answers declines the VRS call they might hang up, but if the caller tells us to call again, we do. So, that interpreter who called over and over might not have been acting on his/her own accord. Our job is to serve the callers. Of course, I wasn’t there. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I have experienced similar situations where a person tells me to call again, call again, call again, and the recipient gets mad and yells at me, the interpreter, even though I’m just doing what my client tells me to do.

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.