Comfort Zone Interpreters

  • September 17, 2013

chocolate chip cookies, about 6, on a plate with a glass of milk to the left, all on a counter.I get it. You like what you like. Meeting new people is hard. Teaching a new interpreter your signs and the things important to your education, work, or life is time consuming. Familiar interpreters are like warm cookies and milk, while breaking in a new interpreter is more like mystery meat. I get it. That said, you can’t use the same interpreter for every appointment. It’s time to move out of your comfort zone, and perhaps take more responsibility for your own communication.

The Drawbacks

Interpreters are humans. As humans we’re prone to the same problems that you are. We get sick, we’re at high risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries, our cars break down, we get stuck in the snow, we have families and loved ones who need our attention and occasionally we take time off. We’ve dedicated our careers to serving other people’s communication needs, but we’re still human. Relying on one interpreter for all of your interpreting needs doesn’t make sense if that interpreter happens to be a human.

Interpreters are fallible. When we work in a vacuum with no other interpreter for comparison or correction, I think we’re even more fallible. By insisting on using only one interpreter, you’re also limiting yourself to that interpreter’s interpreting skills and world knowledge.

Interpreters have bills to pay. It’s an ugly truth, but most of us work for money. When consumers insist on using only one interpreter, that interpreter is given more power in the interpreted situation than she or he would normally have. The interpreter not only controls the communication happening now, but could be tempted to influence future interpreting requests.

Interpreters need boundaries. While most of us find it rewarding to work directly with consumers, maintaining our role as a person separate from those needing interpretation is key. Maintaining neutrality can be difficult when interpreters and consumers are too familiar with each other.

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

If you’re concerned about specialized jargon or signs, you can create a log. Either you or the various interpreters who work with you can keep it updated. When a new concept comes up that requires a sign to be “invented,” it goes in the log. This can be electronic like a Google document that can be shared via email, or it can even be a notebook that you keep with you or in your desk. The newer interpreters will be able to catch on quickly, and will appreciate that you’re taking responsibility for the communication too.

If you don’t want too many new interpreters, let the agency or school know you’d like just a small team of interpreters. As a scheduler, it’s no problem for me to work with you to come up with a number of interpreters that’s comfortable for you.

Ask for help. If you’re not sure where to start, people like me are happy to lend a hand. I recently went to visit a new client who is transitioning from a single interpreter situation to a small team. I came to their office, met with the consumers and was given a tour and vocabulary lesson for the work that they do there. After that visit, I created a log for the team of interpreters to use when they go to work. As they work, they’ll add to it as needed.

To be fair, sometimes interpreting resources are limited due to certification, geography, language use, etc. These situations are fairly unique in my experience.

Photo by: Cookie Girl

Share this article


Request Interpreter



Contact Us

Service Area

We provide interpreting services throughout Colorado, including Denver and the metro area, Boulder, Brighton, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland, Monument, Pueblo and more.

Schedule a sign language interpreter