How Our Personalities Shape Our Interpreting - Part 2

Apr 2, 2021 | Interpreter Education

by: Judy Beldon-Feldman CSC, NIC-M - NIR Interpreter Coordinator

*Personality Traits

*Personal Bias

*Personal Values/Morals

*Cultural Competencies


We are discussing Personal Bias for part 2 of this series:

Bias is defined as “prejudice or to show inclination for or against someone or something.” This means we are unable to have a neutral viewpoint on a specific topic.

There are many different areas where we can explore the different impacts of bias in our interpreting. This topic is one that could take a semester or two to cover thoroughly. Everyone has biases, preferences, and prejudices. The purpose here is to bring to the forefront some of the specifics that we can look at that may be impacting our interpreting work.

Some aspects of our identities or lived experiences that might inform our personal bias include:

  • Gender
  • Ethnic/Racial Background
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Identity
  • Substance Use

In this blog we will talk about bias in a slightly different approach. Instead, the focus is about how our approach to the interpreting work may be consciously or unconsciously decided.

Let’s begin with a “regular” interpreting situation… is there really such a thing?!

If you are at an interpreting assignment, whether in person or on video: Do you consciously decide how you will approach the assignment?

  • Did you decide when you started working in the interpreting field, how you would approach interpreting? Were your interpreting choices informed by any of the following considerations?
    • Level the playing field
    • Prioritizing the goal of the meeting and the role of the interpreter
    • Who hired the interpreter?
    • Who initiated the meeting/call/ appointment?

Were you always aware of your answers?

Does your approach vary day-to-day, or depending on the assignment?

Why or why not?

NOW let’s look at a different scenario:

If you are at an interpreting assignment in person or on video, and the parties are both speaking simultaneously, do you consciously decide who you will defer priority to in “talking” over the other?

Some of the deciding factors may include:

  • Do you understand the Deaf person?
    • Are you comfortable with the fingerspelling, signs, and signing pattern?
    • Are you nervous you will not understand so you decide to defer to the Hearing person instead?
  • Do you have an underlying bias and feel that one person “should” have the floor?
    • Why?
      • Is it an authority issue? Is one person the parent, supervisor, doctor?
        • Do you believe the authority should have the control of the conversation?
        • Do you have an underlying resistance to authority and tend to interpret with that in mind?
      • Does the issue being discussed ring a little too close to home?
        • Do you want to really drive a point further and disregard the opposing interruptive comments?
      • Does one of the parties remind you of someone you don’t have fond memories of?
        • Are you annoyed just looking at or listening to them?
      • Do you want to level the playing field and always defer to the Deaf person?

You may find your answers eye opening. We all make split-second decisions that we may “replay” after the assignment has ended. Is it possible that the interpreter’s own bias played a role in the assignment? What would have happened if there had been another interpreter?

What about if you are working with a team? Do you see your goals aligned? Are you approaching the assignment from polar opposite viewpoints?

What do you think? If you see an opportunity or if you are ready for a challenge.. try a completely different approach and see whether that results in a more effective interpretation.

Stay tuned for PART 3 of this series… Personal Values/ Morals

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