Here and in the pages that follow, we will try to address professional sign
language interpreting, interpreters (what they do and how they do it), and what
it takes (and what you might do) to become
one. But, before we delve into specifics, let us examine the
meaning of professionalism as it relates to the interpreter.
Just as there are paid workers who saw, hammer and nail bits of wood into useful
things and are not professional carpenters, there are workers paid for
providing sign language interpreting services who are not professionals
in the the sense that we mean it here.
So, how does a professional
sign language interpreter differ from a non-professional service
Enough cannot be said about the
essentiality of ethical behavior to professionalism. Ethics is the very
foundation upon which a professional career is built and maintained.
Professional interpreters uphold and
follow the NAD-RID
Code of Professional Conduct (CPC). It is our experience
that some paid interpreting service providers do not. Interpreters who
have not taken the time to learn and internalize the CPC, or do not
conduct themselves according to its tenets, are not professionals.
Some believe professional conduct to
be merely a matter of using common sense and doing the right
thing. They are mistaken. What seems common sense to one
of us may not be common sense to another. To one person doing
the right thing may not mean the same as it does to another. And, such
guides are personal in nature, not professional. Personal guides are
important, of course, and may be used with professional guidelines; yet,
personal ethics alone do not satisfy consumer rights and expectations.
If you believe that professional
ethical conflicts are rare occurrences; that an interpreter probably doesn't
encounter that many gnarly situations in the course of his/her work, this
is simply because you have not yet walked in the shoes of an interpreter.
For a full-time interpreter, ethical conflicts can arise daily, sometimes coming
in a barrage. Being an interpreter can feel like being inside a ethics
popcorn machine (some days, an ethics volcano). With no professional
guidelines at the ready, interpreters can become confused and make choices they
and their consumers may later regret.
The CPC unites interpreters
under a set of tenets, and its driving force: "Do
no harm." Consumers of interpreting services have rights
related to the service quality and interpreter behavior - moral rights and legal
rights. Reflect CPC guidelines in your work. Adherence to its tenets
is the professional interpreter's duty and responsibility - to
him/herself, to our consumers, and to the profession.
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