How to Use an Interpreter
Interpreters relay information from one distinct language to another distinct language, always conveying the content and spirit of the speaker, using language most readily understood by the person(s) they serve.
Communication Link: Think of an interpreter as a telephone. The telephone only facilitates communication, it is not able to give opinions, feedback, or instructions. The interpreter - like the telephone - will facilitate everything he/she hears, even if it is personal, confidential or unrelated to the topic at hand. Any information you discuss in the presence of an interpreter and a deaf student will be interpreted.
Do I need to slow down? Slowing one's natural speech patterns is not usually necessary for interpreters; if the interpreter misses something or feels the teacher is going too fast, the interpreter will ask you to repeat the information.
Who do you look at? When using an interpreter, always maintain eye contact with the deaf individual. This is why we encourage hearing consumers and interpreters to stand next to each other. This encourages the hearing consumer to look at the deaf individual instead of the interpreter. It also lets the deaf person know the information is coming from the teacher not the interpreter.
Who do I speak to? When speaking to the deaf student address the student, not the Interpreter, for example say “Do you have your homework today”, instead of "Ask her if she has her homework today."
Voicing - The interpreter will always use first person, both in signing and voicing. When the interpreter suddenly blurts out "I don't understand this stuff!", it is not a joke nor the interpreter's own complaint -- it is the student requesting help.
Confidentiality - Interpreters must follow a strict code of ethics, one of which is Confidentiality. By Texas law, interpreters are not allowed to discuss ANY information about a consumer (deaf or hearing) during or after an interpreting assignment. Asking the interpreter "Do you know this person?" or "Do you know anything about this situation?" is inappropriate. (Remember the telephone example.)
Opinions - Interpreters are not to share their opinions. Interpreters can not discuss their feelings with you about an interpreting assignment. Please do not share information with interpreters about students or families that is unrelated to the assignment.
Discipline is the teacher's responsibility. This is for all students in the class – both deaf and hearing.
Inattention to the interpreter means inattention to the teacher, to the class, to the information. Remind the student to pay attention to the interpreter as often as necessary (just as you would with a hearing student).
You may have one or two interpreters in your classroom. If the deaf student is in the mainstream classroom less than 1 1/2 to 2 hours one interpreter will be there to facilitate communication. If the student remains for more than 1 1/2 to 2 hours, two interpreters will switch off every 20-30 minutes.
Interpreting involves processing information and switching from one language to another language which can be both mentally and physically taxing. If you have one interpreter it would be good to change from lecture to independent work every 30 to 45 minutes to help the interpreter and the deaf student. This gives the interpreter a physical break and the deaf student an eye break.