From one interpreter to another: food for thought

By Heather Loades

My name is Heather Loades and I am the eldest child of the family and both my parents are Deaf. I have worked in the field of interpreting for around 26 years in Adelaide having operated as a freelance interpreter and managed an interpreting service.

Lots of change has taken place during these years, but sometimes it seems the more we change the more we remain the same. Technology has had a positive impact on our profession and I love not having to look for a phone box in the pouring rain to call the agency in answer to a page.

Another positive change is the demand for interpreting services in a variety of areas has grown and now with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) rolling out even more growth. Now, in emergency situations such as fires or floods the emergency services now include interpreters on the television screen.

Recently in this state there has been a lot of chatter regarding the falling standard of interpreters. So my question is: as a profession how do we address this issue and how do we make sure that we as interpreters can equip ourselves with the necessary skills to keep up with the needs of the Deaf community?

The growth in the provision of interpreting services in the last few decades has been stunning. Interpreters are employed in a wider variety of situations. However, supply has not kept up with demand and, increasingly, interpreters find themselves being asked to work in areas for which they are neither really qualified nor equipped to do.

It is ok to say no to assignments, and ethically that is what we professionals should be doing. We should not be accepting work that is beyond our skill level. Consumers, Deaf and hearing, have the right to a service that ensures both parties leave the appointment with the same understanding.

Education and on going professional development is a must for all interpreters. Learning the language at TAFE and participating in a Diploma of Interpreting course is a good start but one needs to engage in continuing education.

So, if it is at all possible enrol in the Macquarie University course or, if this is not possible due to distance, investigate enrolment at a local university to complete an undergraduate degree. Having mentors that we trust and can go to for advice is invaluable.

I would recommend to new interpreters starting out developing a relationship with an experienced practitioner. Interpreting can be a lonely profession and having a mentor provides access for ongoing support and advice.

Interpreters are human and as such we have all had assignments that we wish we could forget, but these are the times when we need to be honest with ourselves when reflecting on our own practice.

Then we are able to acknowledge areas for improvement. Perhaps we can keep the conversation going in a robust manner so that improvements and change can take place to make the profession stronger.

As they say in the Theatre World break a finger, happy interpreting.

Heather Loades is an experienced Auslan interpreter, based in Adelaide. She gained her first NAATI accreditation in 1991. This article was originally written for the ASLIA e-update and is reproduced with permission.

Published: 06/07/2016