Role Confusion?

by Jimmy Beldon

Translation by Doug Bowen-Bailey

I want a share a story of an experience with an interpreter who forgot the human factor. I realize it is important for interpreters to maintain boundaries, but sometimes, it can go too far.

This happened right after the birth of our child. The new parents had to move to a different room. There was a cart with all the clothes that the father was pushing. The nurse was pushing the mom, who was sitting in a wheelchair holding the newborn. Additionally, there was an IV which the nurse was also managing to move along. But with the weight of the mom and child, it was quite a strain on the nurse.

The interpreter walked along beside us. Eventually, we came to a closed door which didn’t have an automatic opener. While the interpreter, who had relatively empty hands, watched, the nurse managed to push open the door and navigate through with the wheel chair and IV. But once we were through that doorway, there was a small threshold to cross to get into the room.

I watched the interpreter just observed all of this without offering to help at all. I realized this interpreter was probably not savvy about realizing when to offer assistance. I don’t know if it was concern about role confusion, but the interpreter just observing everything made me feel angry. I felt like I wanted to knock her over with the cart to make her realize she needed to help. Of course, I didn’t do that and just pushed the cart through the door instead.

That experience really did make me wonder about that interpreter.