There was a day that anyone who knew sign language was an interpreter. I often say that back in the day, we did not know what we did not know. Over the years ASL interpreter roles have changed greatly. Here is a summary of several interpreter roles.
- Helper – d/Deaf people were viewed as needing help. Few skilled interpreters were available, so mostly family and friends were the interpreters. Help was generally appreciated.
- Conduit – Interpreters began to view themselves as invisible in communication. Also they became personally and emotionally detached, and not involved in the Deaf community.
- Communication Facilitator – Interpreters became more involved in explaining their role, set up lighting and seating, and meeting with Deaf people before interpreting. However, interpreters still didn’t accept the responsibility for clear communication.
- Bilingual–bicultural Professional – Interpreters took more responsibility for accurate communication, being the bridge between 2 languages AND 2 distinct and very different cultures.
- Ally – Interpreters began to view d/Deaf people as the experts on Deaf Culture and ASL. Interpreters began to use their own judgment in making communication clear and equitable, minimizing unintentional d/Deaf oppression. Deaf oppression examples: Interpreters make up signs, inform a deaf person that their voice is not understandable, or sign English rather than ASL.
Notice the progression in roles. It seems that many student interpreters follow the same progression as they learn and gain experience in ASL and the d/Deaf community. Nowadays, interpreters choose their role based on the factors in each situation. Much wisdom is required to be appropriate in each situation. View more at: TheInterpretersFriend.org/misc/models.html