In your role as an interpreter here at the University of Idaho, you will have many challenging experiences in your efforts to remain professional and impartial. This sheet is designed to aid you in your endeavors and to help you clarify some difficult situations you may encounter. You should be aware by now of the Interpreter Code of Ethics as set forth by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). If you aren’t, please make sure that you obtain a copy and study it, as it is an important tool designed to protect you, the interpreter, as well as the D/deaf student and any persons involved in the interpreting situation.
A question I get again and again from interpreters and staff alike is “How much help is appropriate for the interpreter to give the D/deaf student?” The answer is you are there to facilitate communication between the D/deaf student and hearing people. Period. That means you DON’T HELP. You are not a “helper” you are an interpreter. That means you don’t do ANY of the student’s work for him/her. This includes going to the library to look things up for the student, answering homework questions for him/her, explaining classroom material to the student, or answering questions on a test for the student. There are probably many scenarios I haven’t mentioned here, but the bottom line is you are NOT the student. You MAY NOT participate at any level in the student’s work except to provide the clearest, most exact communication you can for those you are interpreting for.
You are there for the student and the instructor equally. It is very important not to interject your feeling about what you are interpreting. To do so would be to “muddy up” the situation. It’s very easy in that case for either party to lose track of whether the responses are coming from the interpreter or from the other individual. The great thing about being professional in this manner is that YOU, the interpreter, are not responsible for the information being passed from one person to another. You don’t take ownership, therefore you’re out of the loop and have no responsibility regarding the tone or substance of the information.
Professionalism is critical to the interpreting situation. We have worked long years and have won the right to be called “professionals”. Not just your reputation, but the reputation of every interpreter who comes after you is at stake when you step into an interpreting situation. There are many people who have never worked with an interpreter. You may be the first encounter for them. It’s crucial for you to set a high standard of conduct and ATTITUDE. Most coordinators will tell you that given a choice between a “pretty good” interpreter with great professionalism and attitude or a great interpreter with a “so-so” professionalism and attitude they’ll take the “pretty good” interpreter every time.
There will be times when situations arise that you’re not comfortable with or sure how to handle. That’s what I’m here for. I may not have an instant answer, but we can brainstorm and come up with some ideas to help you out. I want to work with you as a team. You are an extremely important person here at the University of Idaho, and we want to do everything possible to help you to be successful. I am available by phone or email every day, including week-ends. Don’t hesitate to contact me at any time, no matter how trivial or large the issue that you want to discuss.
The numbers I can be reached at are as follows:
Work Phone: (208) 885-6307
Cell Phone: (208) 771-1178 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sincerely, Gloria R. Jensen Deaf Services Coordinator
Student Disability Services
University of Idaho