SLS Sign Language Services - Interpreting and Consulting Services
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WORKING TOGETHER : Pointers for working with an interpreter

You may never have had the experience of working with an interpreter In the beginning, this new experience may seem a bit strange, but adjustment to the situation will be easier if you bear in mind the following guidelines:

  1. You will be communicating with the deaf/hard of hearing individual through another person who will be transforming the spoken word into the language of signs.

  2. The interpreter will need to adjust to your pace and sometimes it will be necessary for you to adjust to the pace of the interpreter. Usually the interpreter will ask you either to stop momentarily, repeat, or slow down. This is to insure that the deaf/hard of hearing person receive your message in full.

  3. Generally, the interpreter will stand either to your left or to your right. This enables the student to maintain eye contact with both you and the interpreter. This is most important for rapport with deaf/hard of hearing persons.

  4. Wherever the interpreter stands, there must be good lighting available.

  5. In using demonstration and visual aids, it is important for the presenter to allow extra time for the client to see what is being demonstrated as well as to see what is being said. With a hearing client, you can turn your back to the audience and simultaneously elaborate a point as you demonstrate. With a deaf person, this is not possible, since the deaf person must turn his/her attention from the interpreter to the board or screen to see what you are demonstrating and then go quickly back again so that he/she will not miss the explanation. The best way to handle this is, first, to be more explanatory as you go over the points on the board or screen, avoiding such vague references as “this” or "that”. Second, pause more often as you speak, trying as much as possible to maintain eye contact with the deaf person. Finally, watch the interpreter as he/she attempts to draw attention to specific items.

  6. Generally, it is best if you can rearrange the seating so that the deaf person sits in a semicircle, able to view one another. This particularly useful in discussion type situations.

  7. When using an overhead projector, slides, video tapes, and/or films, it is sometimes necessary to either reduce the lighting or turn off the lights completely in the room. In such situations, it is important to provide a small lamp or spot to focus on the interpreter while discussion or explanation takes place. Your interpreter can usually assist you in setting up special effects
    when necessary.

  8. Sign language does not contain signs for every word in the English language and it is particularly lacking in specialized jargon. Usually the interpreter will have to fingerspell such words using a manual alphabet. Often the interpreter will also be asked to pause and define the term. It is most helpful if you can jot down specialized jargon on the chalkboard or give it to the interpreter before your presentation so we do not misunderstand the concept.

  9. Question and answer periods will pose no problems. If the deaf person is unable to vocalize their question, they will need to sign the question to the interpreter and the interpreter will then vocalize the question to you. The answer will need to again pass through the interpreter.
It is useful for the presenter and the interpreter to become acquainted at the beginning of a meeting or presentation. At that time, questions involving these guidelines and other points may be clarified. It is also helpful to provide the interpreter with presentation information material prior to the appointment.