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Team Interpreting: Two Heads are better than one!

Jul 16, 2021 | Interpreter Education

by: Sandy Mahoney, CSC, BSBA, MBA - NIR Interpreter Coordinator

Many interpreters have been asked to Team Interpret, but primarily work alone. Team interpreting refers to situations where two or more interpreters are working together with the goal of creating a better interpretation for the Deaf and Hearing client(s). The team member may be another ASL/English interpreter or a CDI (Certified Deaf Interpreter).

Expectations for the Team

The primary expectation for team interpreting is that the message will be clearer and meet the needs of the presenter, and the Deaf and Hearing client(s). The goal of Team interpreting is to ensure that both Deaf and Hearing clients receive the intended messages within a framework that provides seamless transitions. Team interpreting refers to situations where two or more people are working together to maximize their interpreting strengths and supporting each other while presenting ONE interpretation that is clear, accurate and meets the expectations of the speaker(s) and participants. With any assignment, but especially for team interpreting it is important for the team to have conversations about the work, and our preferred methods for working together. Everyone on the team is responsible for the success or failure of the work.

Pre-assignment Preparation

When both team members feel comfortable discussing their work, the resulting interpretation is successful. This means, the two interpreters do not only talk about how long each member of the team will interpret, or how to switch off, but also discuss the shared primary goals for the rendered message(s). Since, our team is often a CDI, we need to find ways of providing feedback within the interpretation that may be different than has been true in the past. When working with a new colleague, it is recommended that you give yourselves more time to discuss your expectations. This preparation time is used to:

  • Discuss each interpreter’s vision and goals for the teaming process
  • What each interpreter needs to be successful?
  • What strategies do you use to sustain active involvement in the process when you are in the supporting role versus the active role?
  • How do you decide when to provide a feed, what are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you prefer a feed in ASL or English? Do you want feedback/encouragement from your team?
  • What preparation needs to happen with consumers?

During the Interpretation

Do time frames need to be adjusted for which Interpreter is in the “hot seat” based on the length of the presentation, best practices for the consumer, or strengths and weaknesses of each team member? If a feed is not used immediately, it may mean that it was not seen or heard or will be utilized later in the presentation. The active interpreter must be provided with some latitude about how and when to use a feed. Notes left for the team to view while they are not actively interpreting may be extremely helpful. Leave supportive encouraging notes to boost your team.

Post-Assignment Meeting

Here is your opportunity to receive and provide constructive feedback from another professional in our field. You may want to discuss what worked and did not work to improve the message for the participants. Perhaps, you will discuss specifics of the set-up, or teaming process that were successful in enhancing the message. Finally, this is your opportunity to resolve any issues or concerns between team members. Remember, it is a rare gift to have the opportunity to discuss your work with another professional. Be kind, constructive and supportive of each other.

Teaming is a tremendous professional opportunity to work with a colleague and to continue to grow!!

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