SLI/UCLAN Postgraduate Diploma in British Sign Language/English Interpreting Critical Interpreting Awareness Log 3 Interpreters’ Role, Professionalism or Integrity? The discussion about what is and isn’t my role has cropped up regularly throughout my interpreting career, be it in the workplace, at conferences, during training or in discussions with Deaf people and/or other professionals. Since attending the PG Diploma, the issue of ‘role’ has become somewhat of an anomaly in my mind.Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2008) propose ‘that the interpreter is there to enable two or more people who don’t speak or sign the same language to communicate in a way that they would want to communicate. Full stop. How this is achieved depends entirely on the setting, the interlocutors and their goals and the communicative competence of the interpreter.

’ I wanted to explore this notion of role and the confusion over the ‘role of the interpreter’ that there seems to be within the field.We are human beings and cannot step out of our role as a human being; I do not stop being a human being when I am working as an interpreter, just as I do not stop being an interpreter when I am in a situation which does not require interpretation. I do, however, consider my actions and behaviour when both in and out of interpreting situations and what the consequences could be for other aspects of my life, therefore behaving as a professional. For example, to mock Deaf people in an inappropriate manner in the pub amongst friends could ruin not only my reputation but the views of others about Deaf people.

To accept an interpreting job which would affect me negatively i. e. a difficult mental health case, may not be suitable for me, and so I may not accept it. I cannot switch off my emotions because I am in a situation as ‘an interpreter’ because I am in the situation as me, one cannot be extracted from the other. Role as a means of escape? The notion of ‘role’, in relation to interpreters, was questioned by Llewellyn-Jones and Lee (2008) in their conference paper for the ‘Supporting Deaf People’ online conference.

They posed the question, is the ‘notion of role simply a construct that interpreters have hidden behind to avoid their individual responsibility for professional decision-making? ’ I found this an interesting question and thought about what I consider my ‘role’ to be and my views on accepting responsibility for my professional decision-making. I also considered the ‘profession’ and wanted to look at this notion of ‘the profession’ versus professionalism.There are so many different viewpoints on ‘interpreting as a profession’ covered in a range of texts and constant debates over how we are viewed, how we are regulated (or not), how we (should) update our skills, whether or not we should have to be on a register, whether interpreters should have to evidence their continuous professional development and so on. I think the notion of role and the professionalisation of interpreters are inextricably linked. In the afore-mentioned paper, Llewellyn-Jones and Lee suggest there may only be ‘integrity’ to regulate interpreter’s behaviour as there are no clear rules to follow. n? teg? ri? ty // [pic][in-teg-ri-tee] –noun (Dictionary.

com) |1. |adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. | This raised many questions in my mind. If it is integrity that regulates our behaviour then whose moral and ethical principles are we following, and are they appropriate for an interpreter? Who decides a person is of sound moral character? And who knows if and when an interpreter is being honest? Do our Deaf consumers decide our integrity? Is it the case that we should all register with the NRCPD and ASLI to prove our integrity by adhering to their code of ethics?If this judgement of integrity is based on how we work, how will this be assessed, particularly post-qualification? Are we the judges of our own integrity? I think the issues raised here are interesting ones and I for one am paying close attention to the current debate amongst members of the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI) about Continuous Professional Development (CPD) as I think the issue of CPD links heavily with professionalisation and, in turn with this notion of ‘role’.In America there is ‘a strong system of Continuing Professional Development – in part due to the recognition of the need for continuing training for practising interpreters by the federal government’ (Witter-Merithew & Johnson 1999). This is a funded system whereby practising interpreters attend in-service training to gain the number of units required within a four-year cycle.

Witter-Merithew & Johnson used Trait theory to analyse the field of sign language interpreting and CPD is one of those traits considered necessary for professionalisation.The study suggested that from the evidence gathered, sign language interpreters are somewhere between a marginalised occupation and an emerging profession on the ‘Professionalization Continuum’ and had a long way to go before becoming fully professionalised. The only traits considered to have a high degree of emergence were the Code of Ethics and Culture (evidence of collective identity via formal and informal networks). Current debates by ASLI members in the UK have covered issues such as what is considered to be adequate CPD?Should CPD be evidenced and should it be made mandatory? There seems to be an overwhelming reluctance to have mandatory CPD and even evidenced CPD judging the comments made on the ASLI members’ forum recently, and I wonder why that is. There seems to be a general agreement that as professionals we should undertake CPD but what people believe is suitable greatly varies.

There is then a concern that without structure and a requirement for evidence, people will not actually be keeping up to date with new research, improving existing skills or learning new skills.There is also question over whether or not CPD is important at all, as one could evidence a range of CPD areas covered, and still not be a competent interpreter. Discussions relating to mentoring, assessment and re-assessment are being raised and I believe that poses questions about who and how is a person deemed suitably equipped or qualified to assess and re-assess others in the field? Who is assessing and re-assessing them? There is great inconsistency of interpreter’s skills, knowledge, experiences, attitudes and ideas about ‘professional behaviour(s)’ across the field and above all the notion of the role(s) of interpreters.If the profession wants to be seen as such, surely a tighter regulation of its members and their training and practice is warranted, so as a safe level of practice is assured throughout an interpreter’s career. Surely integrity isn’t enough, is it? Yet who would regulate the field? Who would decide how and why ‘they’ are the best people to do it? Lee (1997) suggested that there are ‘conflicting views of what interpreters should and should not do’.He believed that the lack of consensus (in America) about rules and models of interpreting are based on differing WorldViews of Deaf and non-Deaf interactions.

He suggested dominant WorldViews influence interpreting models and that it was generally non-Deaf people that were imposing their view of the world on Deaf people. He went on to suggest that this occurred to disempower Deaf people and keep non-Deaf people empowered as this was what hearing people are used to, and that they are uncomfortable with Deaf people being actively engaged in defining new models.This ‘faulty power-dynamic’, as Lee calls it, could be part of the reason why interpreters in the field are so reluctant to agree to a structured, evidenced CPD system, and also why a consensual agreement of role cannot be made. Perhaps Llewellyn-Jones and Lee are right, and interpreters don’t want to take responsibility for their decision-making and therefore want to avoid being in the position of having to justify their actions and decisions regularly to fulfil their CPD obligations. ProfessionalisationSelf-regulation of sign language interpreting in the UK at present is in a state of flux.

Whilst there are efforts by ASLI (the professional body) to encourage people who are interpreting to achieve recognised qualifications and become a member of the (NRCPD) register, it isn’t required for all areas of work, and the public at large aren’t fully aware of whom they should or should not book. Under ‘Best Practice Guidelines on the ASLI website it states ‘some areas require the use of an interpreter registered with the NRCPD, such as work in the criminal justice system (e. . police and criminal court work).

The NRCPD website states that ‘Since January 2002, a National Agreement between police, courts, and other legal agencies has been in force. For criminal cases in England and Wales, legal agencies will try to use only the services of Members of the Register, and in the case of spoken language interpreters, Members of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI).There has been a shift in recent years for legal (and to a large extent mental health services) to ensure they have a ‘registered’ interpreter (MRSLI) present rather than a student, ‘unqualified’ or ‘unregistered’ interpreter but for areas such as education, this is not deemed necessary. Witter-Merithew and Johnson (In Press), when talking about market disorder and the implications for professionalisation, discuss the number of individuals working without the necessary qualifications and how the profession has been unable to gain control over the market elements impacting on this group of interpreters.The reality of the situation ‘has dramatically delayed completion of the professionalisation process and perpetuated the market disorder’ (market disorder is here described as ‘the difficulties a business or profession has in securing and maintaining control over the variables that impact operations and delivery of goods or service).

Tseng (1992) suggested market disorder is the first of four stages to professionalisation and it seems that this is where sign language interpreting currently sits.Conclusion One could propose that we are not yet a profession but in a state of market disorder as discussed by Witter-Merithew and Johnson (In Press). There is no consensus on how interpreters should or should not behave and this could well stem from the varied nature of the work and the people involved. No two situations are the same and interpreters can only draw from their training and experience. The training is varied, as is the experience, therefore no common practice can be set as the benchmark.

There can of course be guidelines and anecdotal evidence of situations that worked well but then the next time a similar assignment arises, some of the variables will have changed. To define an interpreters’ role is to justify professionalism, this is usually required when the professionalism is under question. For example, people have a clear expectation of how a doctor will usually work and know that they are regulated.However, interpreting is such a new field, and one which many people will never directly encounter, so interpreters do not have the same social status and in turn, the expectations of interpreters are unknown. For regular users of interpreters there are certain ‘expectations of and demands of their (interpreters’) practice, most of which are concerned with confidentiality, neutrality, accuracy, and faithfulness to the message’ states Roy (2000).

The idea of neutrality here is questionable as pointed out by Metzger (1999) who said it was a myth, and behaving as a neutral conduit went against human behaviour.Perhaps as the number of interpreters increases and awareness of the use of interpreters grows, so then will our status. This could be dependent on the situations where interpreters are used, the complexities of assignments, as well as the socio-cultural backgrounds of those engaged in the interactions and who are forming opinions of interpreters. In order to raise the status of interpreters, however, we will surely require a professional body to regulate interpreters and our practice.We do not currently have to be a member of the professional body and registration is only encouraged. Training is varied, CPD is not mandatory and once qualified we can practice for life without re-assessment.

Consequently, we are back to the dilemma: how do we become regulated without consensus on our role? Are we actually a profession yet if this is not in place? I suggest not. However, I do believe that there are professional interpreters in the field of interpreting, but that it is attitudinal, and not because we are members of a profession... et.

I also believe our ‘role’ is just the behaviour we adopt for certain situations and that we can’t be taught it, we can only be taught the skills to enable us to make professional decisions. As for our behaviour being regulated by our integrity, I am inclined to agree to an extent but I feel there is more to it; adherence to ethical and moral principles can become a sticking point when working between two or more cultures where they may be conflicting principles. References Metger, M. 1999) Sign Language Interpreting: De-constructing the Myth of Neutrality. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press Roy, C. (2000) Interpreting as a Discourse Process, Oxford: Oxford University Press Llewellyn-Jones, P & Lee, R.

G. (2008) The ‘Role’ of the Community/Public Service Interpreter. Supporting Deaf People Online Conference Paper Witter-Merithew, A. & Johnson, L. (In Press). Market Disorder Within the Field of Sign Language Interpreting: Professionalization Implications.

In D. Watson (ed), Journal of Interpretation.RID Publications: Alexandria, VA. Tseng, J.

(1992) Interpreting as an Emerging Profession in Taiwan – A Sociolinguistic Model. Unpublished Master’s Thesis. Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan Dictionary. com Unabridged (v 1.

1). Retrieved August 19, 2009, from Dictionary. com website: http://dictionary. reference.

com/browse/integrity Dictionary. com Unabridged (v 1. 1). Retrieved August 19, 2009, from Dictionary. com website: http://dictionary. reference.

com/browse/role www. asli. org. uk www. nrcpd. org.