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Living with Deafblindness

Using Auslan Interpreters in Educational Settings

What is the role of the Auslan interpreter?

An interpreter’s role is to ease communication between signed and spoken languages. Interpreters sign everything spoken and voice everything signed. They also abide by a strict Code of Ethics. They are to interpret messages by maintaining original intent and meaning. Interpreters are to remain neutral and do not share personal opinions or advice. Furthermore, interpreters have an obligation to respect confidentiality.

Working with an Auslan interpreter: Some Tips

  • Before the class starts, it is helpful to meet with the interpreter(s) to explain what will be covered. Provide the interpreter(s) with a copy of the course syllabus and/or other print materials to review and to follow as the class progresses.
  • Provide a location for the interpreter, so that the Deaf student has a line of sight. This may be to view the professor or lecturer, overhead or Power Point presentations, and the interpreter simultaneously.
  • Speak directly to the Deaf student, not the interpreter. For example, say “Do you have your homework?” rather than “Does he/she have his/her homework?”
  • Direct eye contact. While direct contact is valued particularly in one-to-one interactions, direct eye contact on the part of the Deaf individual is not always possible, as the Deaf individual will need to watch the interpreter, as he/she signs.
  • Try to face the class when you speak. Some Deaf students prefer to follow a lecture through lip reading and use the interpreter as a backup when they cannot understand.
  • Repeat other students’ questions. This will allow the interpreter to make sure he/she does not miss the questions especially if they are asked in the back.  Identify which student is asking the question.
  • Speak clearly, in a normal tone, and at a normal pace. If there is a problem with keeping up, the interpreter or the Deaf student may ask the speaker to slow down or repeat a word or sentence for clarification.
  • Ensure Deaf students’ participation.
  • Remember that the interpreter is a few words behind the speaker. Therefore, allow time for the Deaf student to obtain all the information and ask questions.
  • When there are audio-visual presentations, allow the deaf student time to follow along with the presentation and look at what is being displayed. If you can, provide “advance copies” of the visual presentation to the Deaf student before the presentation.
  • Give the deaf student enough time to read any written materials before you speak. Deaf students receive their information visually. If you speak while they are reading, they will not be able to watch the interpreter and read at the same time.
  • Use overheads or handouts. This is especially important when you will be reading extensive passages aloud. Rather than having to watch the interpreter, the student can read the passages in print. If you cannot provide written materials or cite a page number in the students’ text, remember to speak at a normal pace. Most people speed up when they read written materials aloud.
  • Permit only one person to speak at a time during group discussions. It is difficult for an interpreter to follow several people speaking at once. Ask for a brief pause between speakers to permit the interpreter to finish before the next speaker starts. It can be helpful to ask people to raise their hands and wait to speak after they have been recognised. This allows the Deaf student to see who is commenting.
  • Provide good lighting for the interpreter. If the interpreting situation requires darkening the room to view slides, videotapes, films, or overheads, auxiliary lighting is necessary. This is so that the Deaf person can see the interpreter. If a small lamp or spotlight cannot be obtained, check to see if room lights can be dimmed or a door or window shade opened to provide enough light to see the interpreter.

Please NOTE if videos/DVD’s are to be used in the classroom or recommended to view through online studies these must be captioned.

Interpreters work in teams. The interpreting process requires continual short-term memory usage and conceptual processing. To maintain a high level of interpreting, teams relieve one another. Both are working throughout the class session. The “off” interpreter provides support and feedback to their team.