You know how a conversation, like a good book or a thoughtful movie, can remain at the top of your sub-conscious mind and pop up into your thoughts long after it has ended?
I can’t stop thinking about a remarkable young woman-my kids’ best friend- and her job as a deaf interpreter. As we sipped chai and nibbled on naan, she explained how she sits in a cubicle with a web cam and screen and makes phone calls for deaf clients. The client and interpreter can see each other through the web cams; she makes the phone call to the hearing person and speaks the words that are communicated through sign language. Then she takes the spoken side of the conversation and translates it in sign language through the web cam back to the deaf person.
The calls can be casual requests, birthday greetings, or bad news.
My friend, the mediator, is required to reflect the mood as well as the words of her client. She has to make decisions on the spot for the right word, and interpret groanings that have no words. She can let the silence speak for itself or explain, “Sir, your sister is sobbing right now…”
Also the moods and words of the two parties may be very different. The interpreter has to switch back and forth to accurately translate the conversation. It is a job which requires intelligence, empathy, integrity, quick responses, decisiveness, flexibility.
“It’s so incarnational,” I exclaimed. “You become the caller, and faithfully represent that caller to the receiver. You don’t take on flesh and blood, but you become his or her voice. It’s really quite a Christ-like job.”
But after a couple of days, it dawned on me how very Holy-Spirit-ish it is. Because so many times there are No Words. Only groanings. Only cries of the heart. We fumble, mumble and stumble; we trip over syllables trying to capture the words to speak our hearts.
Oh my. A job that reflects two persons of the Trinity. That’s what I call a job from heaven.
Yes, it is and it’s quite a responsibility as you are also the link between 2 cultures, you are showing the Deaf world the hearing culture and bring the hearing world to Deaf clients. You have to batter down misconceptions on both parts and do it in a sensitive way. It’s a humbling job to have. On top of all that you must respect the privacy of all involved, no matter how good an interpreter you are, you are still an intrusion in a conversation and to do it well, you have to become the emotional vessel, then void all those emotions after the job is done without venting them in the ‘normal’ human way because talking about them breaks the Code of Ethics and is just wrong. Thank God He knows out hearts, I don’t understand how anyone can interpret and not be a Christian because the only way you can let issues accumulated from your job go is to give them over to God! I would ‘rant’ at Him all the way home from work sometimes! Does your friend work in Seattle? Video conversations and test messaging are about the best things we’ve developed for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
I wonder if she is who I got the one time my sil used that form of relay! Whoever it was was WONDERFUL! I definitely give kudos to those who interpret. 🙂
There is a woman in my singles group at church who interprets the church service, who also does this. It’s truly a gift and she says she loves the job. I really admire people who can do this after taking a year of ASL in college myself. It’s not an easy language to master!
Carol, your last sentence says it all. And I should think only a Christian who walks closely with the Lord would be able to handle such a job. It is mind-boggling even to think about it.