If a team of interpreters is employed, how should the duties between the interpreters be divided? Does the Deaf participant have any preference? What would be the optimal arrangement for the Deaf person? The division of the interpreter tasks could be done in the following ways:
The typical “Hot/Cold” seat arrangement: The “working” interpreter sits in front of the Deaf person with the second interpreter facing the working interpreter to support her by supplying information as needed. They switch at prearranged intervals which are typically 20 minutes.
The modified “Hot/Cold” seat arrangement: The switch occurs every time there is a different speaker. For example, in a typical conference setting, the facilitator would welcome the participants and handle some housekeeping details, taking about five or ten minutes. The facilitator would then would turn the floor over to a colleague who would use the next five minutes or so to introduce the keynote presenter. Then the keynote address would commence lasting forty minutes or so. Instead of switching every twenty minutes from start to finish, the interpreters would switch every time a new person comes on the stage. In this situation, if there are more than two interpreters working at the conference, one interpreter would be responsible for the welcome address, the second interpreter would interpret the introduction, and the third interpreter would do the entire keynote address. This allows for a more natural and smooth transition between interpreters/speakers.
The “On/Off” seat arrangement: The “working” interpreter works for a specific amount of time that has been agreed upon by the interpreters. The “off” interpreter can do whatever they want, including leaving the room, texting privately, or the like, in an unobtrusive manner. This allows the “off” interpreter a mental and physical break to be fully energized to work during their rotation.
The “Deaf-focused” arrangement: While the “working” interpreter takes the major responsibility for communicating the lecture, for example, the second interpreter focuses completely on the Deaf participant and provides support as needed/desired. For example, when the professor refers to specific page or item in the book while lecturing (or a pastor referring to a specific verse in the bible, or a chairperson referring to a specific item on the handout), the second interpreter assumes the responsibility of locating the information on the document and pointing it out. This is done to make it easier for the Deaf person to quickly read the information while at the same time maintain focus on the interpreter instead of trying to locate the printed information and missing the interpreted message in the process. If there are two or more Deaf participants, the second interpreter is also available to clarify any confusion a Deaf person might have (e.g., not catching the fingerspelled word or not understanding a regional sign used by the interpreter), allowing the “working” interpreter continue interpreting without any interruption.
The “Double” arrangement: Both interpreters work together to support the experience/participation of the Deaf person. Instead of switching every 20 minutes or so, both interpreters remain seated in front of the Deaf person and are assigned to interpret for specific individuals in the room. For example, if the Deaf person is in a situation where there are many active participants with a group leader managing the discussion, one interpreter can be assigned to interpret for the group leader throughout the session, with the second interpreter handling everyone else in the room. If there is no group leader with everyone participating actively, the interpreters could switch every time there is a new speaker. This allows the Deaf participant to see different voices throughout the session rather than one voice every 20 minutes.
The “Deaf-centered” arrangement: If one interpreter is clearly not as qualified as the other, this interpreter remains in the support role throughout the assignment. The second interpreter can take over and work when the primary interpreter needs a break. Once the primary interpreter is rested and ready to resume, this primary interpreter assumes their role once again and the second interpreter continues their support role. An alternative with the second interpreter is for both the Deaf participant and the primary interpreter to leave the room together for a much-needed rest… a mental and physical rest for the interpreter and a mental and eye rest for the Deaf person. They return when they are ready to do so. The second interpreter continues to support the primary interpreter by providing feed as needed.
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