Humor and stories for interpreters: Team interpreting

David Bar-Tzur

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Four arms grasging their neighbor's wrist

(The image above is from'sWebpage/hollie.html [Hollie Megan Dearduff], which is no longer extant.)

Illuminated letter Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a place beyond sight and sound, of an unspecified context. . . heck maybe it *wasn't* me ;-) So I, as a participant in this unspecified event, get roped into interpreting -- flapping-the-hands kind of interpreting, that is. Flapping-the-gums interpreting was being handled by a talking/signing Deaf person.

So I hear a voice saying something. Whoop! (patented Gary Sanderson sound effect). . . up go the hands. After a couple of minutes of this, I'm thinking, "When is this person going to stop saying the same thing over and over again?" What's more, they were increasing in speed. I could barely keep up without tripping over myself. It was more and more like a race, until the presenter (who was an interpreter) stops everything and explains.

It turns out I was interpreting the voicing of the Deaf interpreter, who in turn mistook my signing for participation (and not interpreting), which I interpreted, which *they* interpreted. . . like a tea-cup ride gone bezerk. My first experience with an interpreting feedback loop.

Illuminated letter National conference, three of us teaming together, we get the giggles. No reason, we just start laughing. We had to switch off every 3 seconds. I finally had to hide behind the screen. Could not look at the other interpreters without laughing.

Illuminated letter I was teaming with another interpreter who was voicing and I was backing her up. We were voicing for a Deaf person who was describing different devices that Deaf people use in their daily lives (i.e., alarms with lights or vibration, ttys, etc). The person was explaining that there was a new (at the time) watch that had a vibrating alarm. Well, my team person stumbled and the result was "a vibrator that watches"! Needless to say, I had to take over, while she regained control.

Illuminated letter An instructor in a theatre class said, "You know that old Carol Burnett show, 'Once upon a Mattress'?" What I saw from the interpreter was "You know that old Carol Burnett show, 'Once upon an Actress?"

It was all I could do to just slip in the correct title to the student and promise to explain to my team person when the class took a break.

Illuminated letter I am lucky enough to get the opportunity to team interpret fairly often and I have to say that I benefit from it in some way every time. However there is one job in particular that stands out in my mind as the epitome of what this is really all about.

A colleague and I were interpreting for a fund raising banquet attended by fairly high profile hearing contributors that were about to hear a presentation from a Deaf student who participated in the Gallaudet Deaf President Now rally. My team person and I were to voice this energetic and proud presentation and needless to say we were very nervous. My team person's strengths in voicing are that she misses virtually nothing and she has a very short process time that works well for her. What she believes to be a weakness of hers is her English vocabulary and ability to quickly form coherent, grammatically correct sentences when voicing. I on the other hand have an extremely long process time, which usually works well for me but I don't believe would have in this situation, and my strengths lie in English grammar and vocabulary and being able to match register.

The way we decided to do it was that I would be the primary "voicer" while my colleague was the "feed" interpreter. She was right there for me when I needed it and we did a beautiful job (if I do say so myself!!). Afterwards several people came up to us to congratulate us on a job well-done. (People who know interpreting and the process). It was one of those times when you wished you had the job you did on tape. My team person was fabulous, we complemented each other beautifully. (You know who you are dear!!)

Illuminated letter I ran into a problem with a teamer who picked her nose. At break I asked her if she needed kleenex, because I was uncomfortable coming outright telling her not to pick her nose. You know what? She didn't believe she did it. It was something she did as a habit. Lucky for me [not for her] we were being taped. Afterwards, we sat down and watched. She was appalled. . . shocked etc. She was so grateful I told her. By the way, I am not worried about embarrassing her by discussing it on the net because she passed away a couple of years ago.

Illuminated letter Two interpreters working in a short-term seminar. One Deaf consumer in a room full of (mostly) zero-head but kindly hearing people (colleagues of said DP). The down interpreter slips out to make a visit to the ladies' room. Time passes; she doesn't return (who knows why?). The hot-seat interpreter [HSI] checks his watch and puts his hands down.

DP: Uhhhhh, what's happening?
HSI: Oh. My thirty minutes is up. She'll start when she comes back.
DP: ???????!!!!!?????

And, yes, ladies and germs, the HSI sat on his hands, so to speak, until his partner in crime returned to resume interpreting.

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