Monday, October 8, 2007

Two-Faced ASL Interpreter? Experience Finish you?

Have you had a wonderful hearing friend and taught that person everything about sign language and Deaf culture. Then you encouraged that person to get better and better by being their mentor. Then this interpreter becomes nationally certified and you celebrated with that person. Few weeks later you asked to go out and that interpreter did not want to hang out with you anymore because you became that interpreters' customer or client.

Has that happened to you, too?


The Expatriate said...

I have never experienced this however I am thinking outside of the box here.

It could be for various reasons that the interpreter is approaching with a professional manner towards the Deaf person.

Rather than saying "two-faced", is it possible that the interpreter is struggling with the personal and professional boundaries. There's always the Code of Ethics as well.

Since you mentioned it was a few weeks after the interpreter got certified, everything is all new and it's so natural that one would want to totally absorb everything.

Anonymous said...


First of all, I enjoy watching your other vlogs on DeafVideo.TV.

Now the interpreter...they may have their own "professional" reason for not trying to associate with their old friends or any deafies. They may lose their trusts from their Deaf clients if they see their interpreters hanging out with other Deaf people. Just some confidental issues.

I sometime feel that way toward SOME interpreters, seeing them (off duty) at deaf clubs, events and school etc associating with certain people....then when I have my appointment somewhere, this interpreter shows up....I can feel uncertain about the confidents just because I've seen their involvements in the community or some crowd.

I can understand it wouldn't make sense if I befriends someone, taught the person sign language then get "dumped" maybe bec of their profession later on.

Anonymous said...

Dang, the expatriate beat me.

IamMine said...

Sorry to be not too friendly on this topic, and not going to buy the expatriate's defense. Thanks, but no thanks.

I've had that experience and I do NOT appreciate it at all.

Granted, not all interpreters are like that, but PLENTY are.

Sure, there are Code of Ethics but for them to be snubbish OUTSIDE of work envirnoment is NOT okay and NOT cool at all. Associating with other interpreters is fine - but to completely blow us off?

Hey anyone wants to do a vlog about Code of Ethics - I bet you many deafies do not know or fully understand the entire thing.

I could go on but I'm going to shut up 'cause I'm just going to open a can of worms, pissing off the interpreter community.

And my next vlog is going to do exactly that, anyway. I can't tell you when because my schoolwork has been getting heavier.

Keep your eyes peeled, though.

Deb Ann said...

I know what you mean but not every interepreter like that. My friend's still hurt since the female interpreter used him all the way from the beginning until she's professional interpreter, she ignored him. He thought that they were very good friends but not.

Candace A. McCullough said...

Thank you, Iammine! Exactly my thoughts. Stephen, thank you for bringing it up.

Barb DiGi said...

Pah to see you on your vlog! I obviously have missed yours previously but please accept my belated welcome to the vlogoland!

This is an interesting topic making me looking back. Interpreters are no different than people in general. Some people (co-workers, childhood friends, fraternity/sorority, etc.) turned out to be your lasting friends and some went on their separate ways. I believe it goes the same for terps since some of them chose to continue the friendship and some of them don't for some reasons.

In my opinion, interpreters who chose not to be in contact with their deaf friends (after getting their certificates) who invested a lot of time teaching them and hanging around with them on a personal level are what I call them inconsiderate scoundrels! If the level of friendship is personal and deep then BAM it is being cut off because of the change in status has nothing to do with professionalism. You and that terp were good buddies, good friends, right? For he or she to cut off after obtaining a certificate, to me, is not acceptable. I understand what the Expatriate and the others said about maintaining their code of ethics but that doesn't mean their friendship that was formed in a meaningful relationship should be cut off.

My mother taught ASL to a dear friend for years before she got her certificate and their friendship remained unchanged. It is obvious to me that your two-faced terp used you for your signing skills and was not a true friend to begin with.

Deaf Socrate'sTrail said...

Well, In that real world, Number of Deaf friends associate with the professional interpreters are not easy! Being an interpreter was taught by one's friend felt betrayed thatis real world! Pleasure and professional do not mix in that Deaf community, depending on what situation the interpreter is willing to associate with a dearest friend might be a different story but one already recieved RID certificated and naturally RID requires for most interpreter to comply code of ethics. For some reasons the interpreters might do for one's only friend personally not professionally. If Deaf person already taught that person who become a fluent interpreter and choose not to become too close to that Deaf person!A client or customer and professional intepreter do not associate for any social, well it depends on what kind of situation. A prfessiona interpreter can associate with one dear friend outside of one's job might be okay. If they like each other romantically that would create a lot of conflict whether inside job or outside? I understand RID can invoke professional interpreter's certificate if one violates a code of ethics.

Football said...

Ha, I have heard this story all over again. Oy Vey!

ASL Risen said...

Oh I remembered that 3 of the interpreters did informed me that their OWN Interpreter Agency did WARNED them not to social with some of us in Deaf Organizations and Deaf Clubs.

kw said...

I am late-deafened, so I haven't had this experience. I am just learning ASL myself. But personally? I think this is really sleazy behavior. Horrible!! You supported this person for so long in his/her efforts to become an interpreter and now he/she doesn't want to be your "friend"??? At the very least you deserve an explanation of "professional" boundaries, but I should think because of the special bond you developed during those years when you were mentoring that person, those boundaries don't apply. I'm just appalled. Yes-- you've been used and I don't blame you for feeling hurt. You should let him/her know how you feel and tell him/her that you won't be recommending your deaf friends to use him.

Jean Boutcher said...

There should be the separate wall between the deaf people and
the interpreters.

Any deaf who finds out that an interpreter has violated the Code
of Ethics should report to the

"Familiarity breeds contempt."
Mark Twain

Andy said...

In my case, there cannot be a wall that separates Deaf people from the Interpreter. Deaf people are a vital part of my life (mom and dad). Many of my closest friends are Deaf. I believe that is WHY the Code of Ethics was established, to prevent sharing of stories in such a small world.

An ASL agency that discourages Deaf / Interpreter friendships is an agency that I would NEVER work with!

It's this attitude that SOME (emphasis on the some) interpreters have that can create hostile environments for many. Interpreters are not better than anyone else, they are not more professional than anyone else, they just have a job, like anyone else. The job of an interpreter relatively 'simple': Go in, make sure communication is understood by both parties, and get out. Do not interject your opinions, do not share what happened with anyone.

Andy Olson
Coda Brothers

mishkazena said...

No, I haven't had that experience. I have few friends who became interpreters and remained friends with me, even after they got certified, etc. We all know about the code of ethics and they don't talk about their work with me. Just like I don't discuss my work with them. We all respect the boundaries our professions demand of us.

The 'professionalism' isn't the real reason. The interpreter just wants to blow off that deaf person and couldn't think of a good reason so he uses a flimsy excuse. Sad to say, this hearing person took advantage of the deaf person and dropped him when he no longer could benefit from that friendship.

Unfortunately some people are free-loaders. Not all hearing interpreters are that way, though.

Dianrez said...

Division between interpreter and client is supposedly a good thing, but I don't feel good about the way it is practiced.

For example, in all-day work meetings where I am the only Deaf person, the interpreters disappear at lunch time, leaving me alone while coworkers gather to talk shop over lunch.

Here I think it should be part of the interpreter's job to join me for lunch so I can chat with my coworkers or professionals from other agencies. Usually there are two interpreters for all-day meetings, so they can take separate lunches so one can cover for the other. (Interpreters also get breaks every 20 to 30 minutes, while the client doesn't.)

I appreciate it when interpreters choose to stay with me for any reason, even through breaks, even if it is only to chat about personal things. Frequently there will be other people who come in to chat, too, or to give pointers that I need for the rest of the meeting or appointment.

Sometimes I pick up valuable information about the art of interpreting, and they pick up info about Deaf people and tips on new signs, or current events that the other may not know about in the deaf community. This is true teamwork between the client and the interpreter.

Agencies that warn interpreters not to talk with Deaf clients except on the job, to just "go in and leave when the job is over", even if a teacher wants to talk after class or a nurse wants to go over a treatment plan with a patient after seeing the doctor, are unethical, anti-social and anti-Deaf.

Interpreters are dependent on the deaf community for their bread and butter, and should treat their clients with the same respect a realtor treats a client, or a businessman treats a customer. Those that don't, deserve to be treated like poor service clients asking for a different interpreter next time.

giwe22 said...

Hi, I am an ITP student now and wish I could make friends with a Deaf person. I'm finding it difficult and not easy to penetrate the community. I would never take advantage of learning the language, yet sometimes feel there are not too many Deaf people willing and interested? Any suggestions? I believe in friendship and I can also be professional while 'on the clock'...confidentiality is always important.

Joey Baer said...

I did not experience this before but I have seen that happen several times. It is nothing new when we see many interpreters became more distant from our community as they move up job-wise.

Like some commenters say above, that is not acceptable at all. Of course, interpreters have code of ethics to follow but other than that, I do not see why they became more distant. Mind boggling!

Jean Boutcher said...


I agree with you and a couple of professionals here.

An interpreter should stay with you not only for a meeting but also for lunch, and breaks. An agreement should be made prior to attending a meeting a week or two in advance so as to ensure that you would not be inconvenienced.

I have a friend who is a V.I.P. who very highly values her privacy as well as that of her family, relatives, and friends. She has an interpreter whose office does not adjoin her office but is located across the hall so the interpreter would not snoop, manipulate, or get to become familiar with visitors the V.I.P. receives unless she calls her.

"Familiarity breeds contempt."
Mark Twain

Anonymous said...

I once was a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor in the early 70's. It was very tough not to be sociable with some DEAF people who happened to be my clients. It was never easy, and I could imagine how the interpreters must feel about us as their customers/clients.

terpstudent said...

I am an interpreting student and would like to say I agree 100%. interrpeters hsould not turn their back on Deaf people who helped them, this is disrespectful.
I have also had Deaf people I am friends with and who have mentored me say they will not have me interpret for them when I graduate because we are friends. Is this the sam ething?
I wonder about Deaf perspective?

RG said...

I'm hearing, a former interpreter and now a teacher. In my ITP I was taught that hearing interpreters owe the deaf community for our education in ASL. It doesn't matter whether our teachers were deaf or hearing, because somewhere along the line, ASL was passed along to our teachers who taught us. (Of course it's a sorry interpreter who never learned any ASL from a deaf person!)

As such, it is part of our ethical responsibility to donate our time back to the community. So there's that aspect of it, that we don't turn our backs on the community once we are out there and earning money as interpreters.

To me this is the same situation and this interpreter is turning his back on the "community" by distancing himself like that.

My teacher told a story about seeing a deaf friend at a party. A week or two earlier, she had interpreted for this friend, in a totally professional context, at a doctor's appointment. When she approached her friend at the party, she said "I haven't seen you in so long! What's been going on?" I thought it was a great example of how professional interpreters can have friends as clients and keep the two realms separate while maintaining confidentiality.

One of these comments struck me, about how this friend possibly doesn't understand the Code of Ethics or doesn't know how to apply it to what CAN be an ethically sticky situation of having a friend for a client. Some people do go overboard in the interest of maintaining professionalism, and that can be excused. But I don't think it takes a great deal of intelligence or sensitivity to realize that turning one's back on a friend like that, especially one who had such an impact on one's interpreter education, is really uncalled for.

I hope the interpreter discusses this with more seasoned colleagues and realizes that he made an error in "reassigning" you as a "client" in that way.

michiko said...


I do not know the backgroung of this friend's interpreter.

However there is two different aspect of this:

1. I am deaf and I trained/taught my friend to learn sign language and he/she decided to become an interpreter. He/she takes the test and passed.
That means this interpreter may not have the training or experince of becoming an interpreter.

2. I taught my friend sign language and decided to become an interpreter, I usually refer them to go to ITP program due to the fact that they provide intensive training for the interpreters. The ITP program offers deaf culture, code of ethics, and other programs that can help the future interpreters to prepare for professional jobs and for the friendship in the deaf community.

Therefore it is important for all future interpreter to take the educational programs. If they don't take the ITP programs, most likely they don't really understand the depth of the interpreter's role.

Just a thought!

ASL4U said...

I disagree. Many times the ITP has TAUGHT the interpreters to separate from Deaf. The ITP Explains that it is for Code of Ethics reasons but really the ITP wants Interpreters to be separate like Doctors or lawyers. Not your "friend" - it makes Interpreter Keep in the hearing world SEPARATE from the Deaf world. That is the goal. It is sad - because without Deaf world - we do not improve out interpreting - and we do not learn what DEAF want.. we can only ask what other interpreters think are good answers to our difficulties.
Not all interpreters know enough about Deaf to make good decisions - MOST do not... because MOST are ITP trained and they do not ask Deaf what they want, they only ask interpreters what is good or bad or right or wrong.
I see ITPs teaching interpreters that Interpreters MUST NOT stay and work during lunch break (but we get PAID during lunch! Of course we should stay!) but the ITPs are teaching interpreters to NOT stay. This is to make sure the interpreters ASSERT their right to have a break and give them good excuse to not "socialize" with Deaf.
Many Many ITPs teach many many WRONG ideas to baby interpreters.
I'm very sad that Deaf world thinks educated interpreters are great...
for me? the BEST interpreters are Deaf-Made. But the Deaf community now doesn't remember how. Hearing world has taken that away from them. And even the Deaf teachers at ITPs - have to teach what the hearing world says to teach - even if they think its wrong.

Jim said...

I am joining this conversation very late, so sorry to all in advance.

I am fortunate that I learned sign language to help members of my congregation get spiritual information only. It was many years later that I took up interpreting for $$ at an agency.

OK that finish. Suppose some person your friend, they friend true-biz, not play act. Suppose friend stay friend true. Suppose happen get R-I-D certification then drop friend no more ... fakey fakey they really liar.

Sorry I am mean but that true. R-I-D certification require suppose happen conflict where you personal friend with person that influence you have to step back not interpret that fine. Suppose your friend teach-you ASL fine so you can take up certification? That fine! Wonderful!

So you not interpret that friend suppose conflict require you not do it. So what? My opinion, myself feel owe that to friend for many hours time spent teaching to help me learn.

Myself use sign language since 1981 ... now 27 years. Maybe I not match thinking new interpreter, but feel myself suppose deaf friend teach-to-me ASL put in time work hard to help me skill tops ... suppose I reject as friend I am worse than two-faced.

Suppose happen I learn ASL and my friend only problem that is no problem to me. There are many many deaf need skill interpreter ... suppose my friend I not interpret because conflict fine. But refuse friendship? PLEASE.

I have to agree ... to refuse friend with that person teach, invest time much to help ... very sad ... support long time prejudice that hearing only want take advantage deaf. That is not true for many hearing ... but sad experience just reinforce prejudice.

I am sorry for you ... sorry your "friend" really fakey fakey not true-biz friend nothing.

There is nothing "professional" about this, and I know from many years interpreting not only in community but also at community and state college levels. This is just wrong.

Please understand clear this not match all people. Thank you for love shown and help to others. It is appreciated.


Kimberly said...

Hi everybody...I am an interpreter and I'm shocked that some interpreters behave that way. My best friend in hs taught me sign language and we are still friends. I think some people use the code of ethics to hide behind. We don't have to take every assignment the agency offers us. We can say no anytime. They asked me before if I wanted to interpret for my friend, and I said no. The reason is because I can't be neutral in that situation. My friend deserves someone who will fit that situation better. My relationship with her is much more important and valuable than the money. I would never just cut off my friendship with a Deaf person because I'm an interpreter. That's just WRONG! Where is their Deaf heart? And I'm very sorry to hear that has happened to so many people. :(