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National Symposium on Interpreting via Video: The State of the Practice and Implications
May 23-25, 2010
Gallaudet Regional Interpreter Education Center

Video Interpreting: The State of the Practice and Implications for Interpreters

Ms. Beverly Hollrah, Ms. Mary Lightfoot, Dr. Leilani Johnson, Mr. Richard Laurion, & Dr. Julie Simon

This presentation gives interpreters cutting-edge knowledge of Video Relay Service (VRS) interpreting and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), presenting results and implications of research conducted by the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers, Interpreting via Video Workteam (2008-2009).

We will explore the competencies needed by interpreters; perceptions of consumers, interpreters, and providers; and insights about Spanish-English interpreting in VRS settings. Audience members will have an opportunity to discuss findings in view of their individual experiences and viewpoints.

VRS Implications: New Demands on Interpreters

Dr. Marty Taylor

Video relay interpreting is a fast-growing industry in many countries around the world, requiring highly skilled and experienced interpreters to provide deaf, hard of hearing, and non-deaf callers with access to one another. Elegance, accuracy, and efficiency are never accidents but are instead a powerful combination of experience, attention to detail, and skill that only highly competent and qualified interpreters can accomplish.

This presentation will report on the results of a six-month research project consisting of site visits to five video relay centers across the United States. The report includes information gathered from 107 interpreters, VRS center managers, and trainers who were interviewed and/or observed on an individual basis. In addition, at each of the site visit locations five focus groups of 36 deaf and hard of hearing video relay customers were conducted. Based on the perspectives of these participants, the findings and recommendations of the site visits and focus groups will be highlighted.

The findings include the necessary skills, knowledge, and personal attributes of video relay interpreters, as well as recommendations for workload, compensation, and work environment. Implications for interpreter education programs, the deaf community, interpreting organizations, government, VRS providers, and further research will be illustrated.

The work of video interpreters is qualitatively and quantitatively different from other types of interpreting work. It is very complex and highly demanding. The multi-layered task requires a great deal of experience in every way. The industry in this new area, thus the VRS providers, are testing the waters to see the exact job requirements, what is physically and emotionally possible for interpreters to handle on a day-to-day basis, and how these requirements can be best achieved in light of the government structure and regulations that pressure the VRS providers to perhaps go beyond what is possible for them as a business and for the individual interpreter working in high-tech cubicles.

There is a serious shortage of interpreters in every sector; VRS is no exception. As a result of advanced technology, VRS has surpassed the supply of qualified interpreters. It is a very fine balancing act for the federal government, the VRS providers, and the interpreters to satisfy the much needed access to telephone usage between deaf, hard of hearing callers, and non-deaf callers.

It is well documented that teachers make over 200 decisions every hour. This can be said of video relay interpreters as well. The experience that is required, along with the specific skill sets, knowledge, and personal attributes, will be discussed. Implications for interpreters working in this industry, the training required, along with possible incentives and longevity will be addressed, including issues of burnout and injury. The impact on and recommendations from deaf and hard of hearing callers and interpreters will be provided.

Toward a Sociology of Interpreting

Dr. Jeremy Brunson

Practitioners and educators of sign language interpreting have produced a cache of scholarship that has focused on skill development for new and experienced interpreters, alike. This corpus has yielded significant contributions to the understanding of what it takes to render an effective message from one language to another language. This often micro-level analysis, largely out of the fields of linguistics and education, has been instrumental in redefining the work of interpreting from a charitable act into a viable occupation.

A growing number of sociologists from Canada and the United States have employed an approach to explore the social relations organizing institutions as people participate in them and from their perspectives. That is, the everyday is taken up as a research problematic. Activities are understood as being organized by larger social relations. This approach is called institutional ethnography. What I propose is an application of institutional ethnography to the study of sign language interpreting.

This presentation reports on qualitative data gathered using institutional ethnography. As is done with institutional ethnography, I start with a particular standpoint – sign language interpreters – and move into the extra-local apparatuses that organize particular experiences in a generalizing way. In seeing the work of sign language interpreters in VRS as a coordinated effort of many differently located individuals, we can see that interpreters are responsible to various institutions that organize this work. And incorporating this understanding into the training of interpreters can enhance their efficacy.

Examining the challenges of Trilingual (Spanish-English-ASL) VRS interpreting

Dr. David Quintos-Pozos

An increasingly popular setting for language interpretation in the United States involves American Sign Language (ASL) and two spoken languages (Spanish and English). This trilingual interpreting utilizes video and internet-based technologies to provide telecommunications access to deaf and hard of hearing individuals. In this Video Relay Service (VRS) setting, trilingual interpreters interpret calls between deaf and hard of hearing individuals who use ASL and speakers of Spanish and/or English.

The relatively short history of VRS interpreting (beginning in the mid-1990s) primarily involves bilingual (ASL-English) calls. However, Spanish has become a pervasive feature of many VRS calls, due in part to growing numbers of Spanish speakers in the United States and an FCC policy that VRS calls can either originate or terminate in other countries. The service allows for communication between deaf Latin Americans living in the United States and their Spanish-speaking families back home. Trilingual interpreters working in VRS find themselves navigating unique linguistic ambiguities. They also face unique situations with regard to training, teaming, and support. We begin to examine how trilingual VRS interpreters manage the unique challenges presented by Spanish VRS.

In this presentation, we will report data from two sources: surveys that were completed by 37 trilingual VRS interpreters and phone interviews with representatives from four trilingual VRS providers. All data were collected in 2007-2008.

The interpreters completed a survey inquiring about various aspects of their work. This included providing the following:

  • Background information about themselves (e.g., language proficiency, months of experience, aspects of the mechanics of the calls)
  • Interpreting-specific information about linguistic aspects of the calls (e.g., decisions about how they manage linguistic differences that are unique to Spanish)
  • Information about working conditions and challenges that they are confronted with

The VRS providers were asked questions about various aspects of the trilingual calls that are supported by their trilingual VRS interpreters. For example, they were asked about the average length of the trilingual calls and whether interpreters could team interpret or transfer calls to another trilingual interpreter within the agency. Additionally, they were asked questions about the types of support (e.g., training specific to trilingual matters) that they provide trilingual interpreters. These questions were geared toward developing an understanding of the structures that were in place to help support robust trilingual interpreting services.

In our presentation, we will provide an analysis of the linguistic challenges of trilingual VRS interpreting as well as other types of issues (e.g., the physical demands of such interpreting) that arise. We will also discuss the ways in which the providers are trying to support such interpreting. We hope that this analysis will provide us with a direction for how to proceed in the future with development, training, and policy matters regarding trilingual VRS interpreters.

Demystifying the “IT”: What a Superior VRS Interpreter Does

Dr. Norma Oldfield

VRS trainers and managers have agreed that there is a certain something that they see in their top Video Interpreters (VIs), they know it when they see it. This is a workshop that walks us through a research project that has taken those vague qualities and defined them, tested them and put them in a useful format. Participants will learn how VRS managers measure great performance, what VRS interpreters feel is important to do the job, and where the two sets of expectations overlap.

RID Video Remote Interpreting Standard Practice Paper

Ms. Yoshiko “Koko”‘ Chino, Ms. Mary Kay Adams, Mr. Gino Gouby, & Ms. Tina Schultz

This presentation will synopsize the process, results and implications of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Video Relay Service and Video Remote Interpreting Standard Practice Papers.

RID, as the national professional organization for signed language interpreters, is the entity responsible for promulgating standard practices in the field of signed language interpreting. Experts in the field of interpreting and video interpreting have contributed to the development of the Standard Practice Papers which are used as a guide by interpreters, businesses, and consumers world-wide.

This presentation will synopsize the development of these two papers and explore the implications of these papers on the future practice of video interpreting.

VRS & VRI: Benefits & Challenges for Consumers

Mr. Claude Stout

This workshop focuses on the consumer experience while using Video Relay Service (VRS) and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). We will identify benefits and challenges of both services and analyze how they empower consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing in their daily lives. We will also examine various factors that contribute to successful adoption and use of VRS and VRI i.e.: the interpreting profession, video technology, government regulations, demand/supply, training, and outreach.

Occupational health risks among different interpreting settings: Special concerns for VRS and K-12 interpreters

Dr. Robert Pollard & Ms. Robyn Dean

This presentation will describe the results of a compelling research study funded by the 2009 RID research grant. The study focused on occupational health risks in the interpreting profession and was designed as a larger, better-controlled replication of a study conducted five years earlier by the same researchers.

The 2009 study involved a nationally diverse sample of 457 interpreters who completed the Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ). The JCQ is a well-validated and widely used measure of occupational health and related health risks and problems. The international JCQ database contains response patterns for a large number of occupations.

The JCQ responses of our study sample were analyzed in relation to the participants’ primary interpreting work setting: K-12, community/freelance, “staff,” or VRS. We also tracked age and gender and employed statistical controls so that respondents’ work experience did not skew the JCQ findings. Further, we compared our interpreter sample’s responses to the JCQ norms for other “practice professions” (e.g., nurses, teachers, doctors) as well as “technical professions” (e.g., architects, engineers). The JCQ variables we examined were: decision latitude, decision authority, skill discretion, role constraint, psychological distress, depression, physical exertion, and job dissatisfaction.

The results of this study demonstrated numerous patterns of significantly higher degrees of occupational health risks among interpreters compared to other professions in the JCQ database. Furthermore, the response patterns for the four interpreting work settings (community/freelance, K-12, staff, and VRS) showed interesting patterns of certain shared occupational health risks as well as some significant health risk disparities. The disparity patterns virtually always indicated that K-12 and VRS work carried higher occupational health risks than community/freelance and/or staff interpreting work and, between K-12 and VRS, VRS was always the higher-risk work setting of the two.

This study has important implications for interpreting practice, interpreter education, job safety and design, the occupational health of interpreters, and consumer awareness as well.

The presenters will briefly present the data, provide suggested interpretations of the data and will engage the audience in a discussion of the interpretations and the implications for the profession.

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