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This framework comes from the work of Dr. Melanie Metzger as explained in her chapter on “Interactive Role-Plays as a Teaching Strategy” in Innovative Practices for Teaching Sign Language Interpreters. This framework makes it possible to make the most effective use of observation of an actual interpreted event.

Interpreting Strategies for Interactive Discourse

You can observe the actual interpretation created during the filming of this project. It is presented in the format similar to the picture at right where you can watch simultaneously all parties in the interaction. In doing so, it is possible to observe features of interactive discourse and recognize the interpreter’s strategies for coping with this discourse.

Metzger separates interpreter’s strategies into two categories: interactional management and relayings. In the first category, she lists:

  1. Introductions;
  2. Summonses/attention-getting strategies;
  3. Turn taking and overlap; and
  4. Responses to questions.

In the “Relaying” category, she lists:

  1. Source Attribution;
  2. Requests for clarification; and
  3. Relaying of pronominal reference.

A brief description of these strategies are below. For more in-depth descriptions, see the chapter (and its bibliography) referenced below.

Interactional Management

Introductions: This refers not only to the introduction between the individuals who require the presence of an interpreter, but also the introduction of the interpreter. In this segment, the introduction of the interpreter happened prior to filming. For a resource with this feature, see Dr. Carol Patrie’s series on interpreting in Medical, Legal, and Insurance settings available from Dawn Sign Press. (www.dawnsign.com.)

Summonses/attention-getting devices:    This refers to how an interpreter manages getting the attention of participants in an interaction when they may have different formats for getting attention. For instance, a person using spoken English may say a person’s name and assume that that individual will then tune in. However, if a Deaf person isn’t looking, an interpreter needs to have an alternative strategy to simply signing that person’s name.

Turn taking and Overlap: In a natural interaction, speakers have to establish the right to take a turn and negotiate giving the floor to others. The signals for turn-taking are different between languages, and so an interpreter needs strategies to guide the turn taking process. Additionally, speakers will often talk over each other or overlap. Given that an interpreter can only interpret one utterance at a time, interpreters have to make choices about how to handle those overlaps.

Responses to questions: Interpreters are often asked questions directly by the Deaf or hearing individuals who are participants in the interaction. Interpreters need to make decisions about how to respond in a way that most effectively ensures that the interaction moves forward in a way respectful of all parties.


Source Attribution: Particularly for individuals who have limited experience in working with an interpreter, they may be unsure when they see or hear the interpreter talking if those ideas are generated by the interpreter–or come from someone else. Source attribution refers to the strategies used by interpreters to make the source of an utterance to all the participants.

Requests for Clarification: Given the importance of understanding a message before being able to interpret it, interpreters may at times need to request clarification before being able to proceed. Interpreters need to have strategies for effectively asking for clarification.

Relaying pronominal reference: This refers to how interpreters handle the use of first-person versus third-person address in an interaction. For example, if an individual keeps saying, “Tell her…” does the interpreter maintain that form and allow the Deaf person to make a request to be addressed directly or switch it to the first person to not draw the attention away from the topic of the interaction.


Metzger, M. “Interactive Role-Plays as a Teaching Strategy,” in Roy, ed. (2000) Innovative Practices for Teaching Sign Language Interpreters. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press. http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/IPTSLI.html

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