Friday, March 13, 2009

"don't interpret that!"

There is a situation I run into regularly while interpreting which I find interesting. I experienced a slight twist on it recently, so it brought it back to mind and raised my curiosity, again.

Here's the deal. My job as an interpreter is to, well, interpret. This means I interpret everything. If a person is signing, I interpret everything into spoken English. If a person is speaking English, I interpret everything into sign language. Sometimes it is more complicated based on a number of factors - but that's the basic idea.

So, the situation. The person using spoken English swears and then says "don't interpret that."

Wait. That's my job. That's why I do what I do.

What this has meant is that the person who swore doesn't want the other person to know they said that. If it's in an elementary or middle school, I get that the teacher doesn't want the students swearing, yada yada. But, still, the kids with usable hearing heard it - so why shouldn't the students who are deaf get to hear it through the interpreter?

Recently there was a situation where various people involved were swearing. One person decided that it wasn't okay to do that to the interpreter. The new spin is that they were fine with swearing, but felt it wasn't right to "make the interpreter swear." Huh! I hadn't heard that reason before.

But it did make me think. I am fine with swearing; I don't make a habit of it because I know it is offensive to some, or it's not professional (work and swearing = not a good thing if the words are my own and I'm there as a professional). But I do swear sometimes and it doesn't bother me unless it is being used as a weapon against someone. What I find much harder to interpret is a lot of really religious god-talk or gay bashing or racist comments. But people don't think about those. And I'm not saying they have to because, my job is to interpret what the participants are saying to each other, not share my own personal opinions.

It just struck me that I may be interpreting for someone who swears and then apologizes as if it's offensive (which is fine, I don't mind - swear or not - apologize or not *grin). But then that same person may go on to talk about the supreme deity of his or her choice punishing those who are homosexuals and how that is right and true, but there is no thought that that may be offensive, and no apology (I don't expect or need one - just noticing the disparity).