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Original Interpretation

This video shows the original interpretation created by Doug Bowen-Bailey during the filming.   Be sure to read his reflections before moving on.

 Reflections on the Interpretation

by Doug Bowen-Bailey

The Context – The Best Laid Plans….

In viewing the interpretation, I think it is important to note that I had not originally planned to interpret this scenario. As the creator of this project, I intended to do the filming and design for the DVD, but not actually interpret.    Ah, but real life intervened….Kim Johnson, who interprets the segment on Osteoporosis, was scheduled to provide the interpretation. However, thirty minutes before the filming, a call came from the Emergency Department of a local hospital that they needed an interpreter, and the options were either Kim or myself. We decided that Kim should cover that job, and we would schedule her for another scenario. I would then do both the filming and the interpreting.

Because of this dual role, I had more information prior to the interpretation than I normally would. I had met with both Mike and Connie to actually come up with the scenario, and so knew the general sequence of what would take place. My mind was also occupied with thoughts of concerns about camera angles and lighting that would not normally be an issue for me on an assignment.

Advanced Knowledge

Because I had helped to create the scenario, I knew what the symptoms Connie was supposed to talk about. Subsequently, when Connie was talking about how she was feeling odd on glipizide, I actually interpreted that she was experience sweating without her actually signing it. She responded to the pharmacist’s questions without a disruption of the interaction, but it was actually me, as the interpreter, who disclosed the information. Upon reflection of this, I thought of how many situations I was in where I, due to a conversation in the waiting room, or having been present at a previous appointment, know significant background information about the patient’s condition and symptoms. This information can be extremely helpful, but it also can be dangerous in terms of influencing what I think I see a patient signing. Because I was expecting Connie to talk about her experiencing sweats, I “saw” her sign it and interpreted it, even though she didn’t actually sign it. Many times, such an error in the interpretation does not lead to any disruption in the interaction. At times, however, the patient may have been choosing not to disclose the information and it could significantly disrupt the relationship between the medical practitioner and patient.

In terms of the requirements for processing time, I think that the description of symptoms might be a situation that might require more processing time. My sense that it was shared between all three of us (since we were all involved in the creation of the scenario) led me to see what wasn’t signed. In another situation, where the doctor or pharmacist really didn’t share a knowledge of the symptoms, I think it would be more important to have processing time to allow for a more coherent and faithful rendering of the patient’s description of symptoms to allow them to be in control of disclosure.

An example of this actually happened when Connie described taking glipizide in the morning, and then being nauseous after waking up from sleep. This aspect of the scenario was not one we had discussed, so was not shared knowledge. The interpretation was that she was waking from a nap, but if I had utilized more processing time, I would have realized that she actually meant waking from sleep at night. The error in the interpretation was not significant in that it skewed the interaction, but it was an example of when a more consecutive approach might have led to a more accurate interpretation.


In the interpretation, one thing I felt was effective was the use of transitional phrases to mark when the patient was taking the conversation in new directions.   As Connie shifted the conversation to talk about the type of lid used on the medicine bottle, I utilized more processing time to see where she was going. In discussions with other interpreters, we often talk about how do you fill the silence when the hearing person sees the Deaf person signing, and yet there is nothing being voiced by the interpreters. In this situation, I used fillers like “So..” and “You know…” to allow myself more processing time while still assuring the hearing person that an interpretation was coming. It may have been possible to just have allowed there to be silence, though in mainstream American culture, we tend to fill in those silences and there is a risk that the hearing person may seek to interject something. I think it is an area which deserves more discussion in terms of strategies to manage the interaction to allow for the amount of processing time needed to work effectively. Because I was focused on setting up for filming, I had not talked with either Connie or Mike about the fact that there may be some sections in the interactions when there are pauses to allow for me to create a more coherent interpretation. In hindsight, that may have been helpful for my own self to allow myself the space to not use fillers like “you know…”

That said, I think using phrasing like, “I just want to say that…” and “Another thing I want to say..” made the interpretation clear in terms of marking changes in the direction of the interaction.

Respectful Language

In listening to the interpretation, one phrase stood out to me as not being a respectful choice: “I’m low vision.” Even though Connie signed “ME LOW SEE” which I think was intended as “I’m low vision,” I realize that in mainstream culture, there is an emphasis of not labeling people by their disabilities, but rather emphasizing their humanity. Given that this use of language is wrapped up in cultural perceptions that are not necessarily shared, this may have been a segment that would have been more effective if I had more processing time. Although it didn’t seem to skew the message, I think that a choice such as “I have a difficult time seeing these small letters” may have been a more appropriate choice for this setting than choosing to follow the form of the source text.

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