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Tips From a Certified Deaf Interpreter

CDI Highlight Posts

Robyn Lehmann-Doane shares insights, perspective, and tips on CDI teaming.

Robyn started interpreting professionally with a RID-CDI Certification in 2008. However, she has been an informal Deaf interpreter for most of her life continuing to interpret as a DI up to the year of 2008. She was called into interpreting situations as a young child in an indefinite number of surroundings in a variety of language environments with a vast list of situational topics. She enjoys connecting and working with team interpreters in a broad range of interpreting assignments to provide communication access to various Deaf/HOH/DB clientele. 

As an experienced CDI, Robyn shared the following tips for any DI/HI team, understanding that each DI has their own interpretation style and unique needs since we are all different and cannot be lumped together into a one-size-fits-all mold:

TRUST is important with each other to have a successful team for each assignment.

  • Preparation is done and shared together.
  • Being able to work collaboratively to co-construct meaningful communication exchanges in a respectful and professional manner.
  • DIs need to trust their HIs voicing and choice of words in the translation process (In VRI –DIs can check for their HI team’s feed and communication for accuracy by turning on captioning in the video platform). A cue needs to be set up if the DI needs to communicate with their HI team about an error in their interpretation process.

Interpreting Needs Aspect
It is important to discuss each other’s needs as a team. This requires vulnerability, trust, and honesty since some of our weaknesses and strengths will be on display. Sharing our needs will ensure that both teams will be successful:

  • Identify the types of support needed for both DI/HI.
  • Decide and create specific cues for DI/HI teams to use with each other in case assistance is needed before going into an assignment.
  • DIs decide which language the HI should use when interpreting for feeding: English, PSE, ASL, or Flexible, etc.

Discuss who is in control, the DI or HI?

  • Will more than one team be needed or is just the DI/HI Team enough?
  • Will either the DI/HI require a hard stop or can they continue past the assignment end time if requested by the client? If a hard stop is needed, who oversees the backup plan?

Discuss how the DI/HI team will determine the pace speed depending on the nature of the situation:

  • Simultaneous Interpreting:
    • Discuss preferences on the speed of the pace and feed flow. 
    • Not everyone has the “working memory” to handle the fast flow of spoken conversation and still be able to draw upon signing concepts quickly enough to keep up with a rapid talking pace.
  • Consultative Interpreting:
    • The DI may want a continuous feed pace OR they may want their HI to break down the information into smaller parts and pause between each concept to prevent information overload.
  • Going between both Simultaneous/Consultative Interpreting:
    • The DI/HI team can adapt and go between Simultaneous and Consultative Interpreting depending upon the interpretation process and the Deaf/HOH/DB and other parties involved.

Establish Cues as a CHI/CDI Team:
This is when the DI-HI team needs to discuss and make sure that the integrity of the message is not compromised from the result of their cue negotiations.

  • Adjust the message by repairing the feed or interpretation.
  • Cues need to be pre-determined for inner-team communication to occur quickly and concisely.
  • Cues are often used for the following:
    • HI informs DI when a situation is about to start (like in high-profile interpreting situations).
    • HI needs to feed figurative language, jokes, poems, or any challenging dense information.
    • Lack of visual information from the party due to VRI interpreting and the inability to see what is happening in the environment, or the inability to see a speaker’s nonverbal communication, etc.
    • Message clarification is needed if something is forgotten during information overload, or when parties’ communication is overlapping other conversations, interruptions, etc.
    • When process time or pauses are needed.

Review and discuss prep materials before going into an interpreting assignment:

  • Check materials for any language concepts that may create issues in message interpretation and the different challenges that may occur in translating idioms, metaphors, analogies, figurative language, jokes, poems, technical language, etc.
  • Decide whether consecutive or simultaneous interpretation will be used or if both will be used interchangeably.
  • Discuss ahead of time if the HI will plan to use fingerspelling that requires exact word spelling during interpretation to ensure that the DI is able to reduce the mental processing that may cause information overload.
  • Discuss the prep material’s main points and goals to ensure message equivalency.
  • Some meanings may be based on phonics or auditory senses for teams to figure out the best incorporation into a visual message equivalency meaning.
  • Teams can discuss how to convey various message equivalency in the interpreting process.

Decide who takes the lead in explaining the interpreting process and answering client questions when entering the assignment:

  • Allowing the DI to explain this process enables the Deaf/HOH/DB consumer to observe the leadership role of the DI and to gain the parties’ respect towards the interpreting profession.
  • There may be times when the DI will ask the HI to take the lead depending upon the situation.
  • DI/HI teams agree together on any shared goals and interpreting responsibilities that need to be established.

Discuss as a team about the pausing that often happens with the HI’s feeding techniques to DI:

  • The HI may put their hands down, or their hands may be holding onto signs for a longer period which causes changes in the pacing feed.

Eye Gaze (Often a DI’s pet peeve):

  • DIs need their HI team to watch and monitor them to check for feed and communication clarification.
  • Eye gaze becomes an issue when HIs look down without maintaining eye contact with their DI team while feeding the interpretation.

Monitoring Head Nods:

  • Head nods are used by the DI to direct the feeding from the Deaf/HOH/DB consumer to their HI team. It is important to identify when the head nod and eye gaze from the DI is directed to the HI.

Signs vs Fingerspelling:

  • Discuss whether the HI is comfortable fingerspelling some words to convey specific concepts for the DI to produce the sign meaning from an array of different ASL signs at their disposal.

At the end of the assignment – Debriefing to discuss:
Debriefing after an assignment as a team allows both DI/HI to provide feedback on any aspects of the assignment to make any changes or improvements, or discuss any challenging demands before going into the next assignment.

  • Discuss any challenges faced by both teams from the assignment.
  • Discuss any corrections or clarifications during the interpretation process as a team during the assignment.
  • Discuss if there were any DCS – Demands, Controls, or Schemas that complicated the assignment and other changes that the teams need to make to provide message equivalence or ways to improve power dynamics that came into play.
  • Discuss whether any improvements or modifications need to be made for the pacing and feeding.
  • Discuss whether both teams were confident in the accuracy and integrity of their interpretations.
  • Discuss whether the interpretation process involved collaboration from both sides of the team.