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 WHAT DOES "QUALIFIED INTERPRETER" MEAN?

That little question that can only have a big answer, so put a fire under the tea kettle and find a comfy chair; this is gonna take a while.

We'll take a look at various factors that will influence our opinion of qualified versus not qualified.  We'll also take a look at the real world, the way things happen in practice, and talk a little bit about why they might happen the way they do.  But, first, an overview.

OVERVIEW

Under FACTORS and PRACTICE (below) we offer what can at first glance feel like a dizzying array of points and perspectives to be considered.  So, before plunging the reader into all that, we hope this bit of opening commentary will ease the way.

In its Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the Congress of the United States legally defined "qualified interpreter" this way (28 C.F.R. § 104, retrieved 20090525): " ... an interpreter who is able to interpret effectively, accurately and impartially both receptively and expressively, using any necessary specialized vocabulary."

Why didn't Congress simply deem a RID-certified interpreter as legally qualified and be done with it?  Why go into all that about receptivity, impartiality, and specialized vocabulary?  Because it matters.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Put yourself in the place of a deaf consumer.  You just got a new job at the the U.S. Post Office and you are scheduled for training on the equipment and procedures you need to learn well in order to be successful at your job.  This portion of your training will last one week.  You are excited, feel up to the task, and are looking forward to this opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and competence.

Scenarios:

1. The interpreting agency sends a RID-certified interpreter to facilitate communication.  You haven't met him until now, but you are relieved to know that your service provider is highly skilled.  During introductions, you learn that he has no experience in this situation (the USPO) and is not familiar with the considerable volume of highly technical language that is involved; but, he assures you that he feels confident that you and he can figure it out and manage through together.  No good.  This interpreter, while he may be RID-certified, is not qualified for this assignment because he does not have knowledge of "necessary specialized vocabulary" (ADA).

2. The interpreting agency sends a state-credentialed interpreter to facilitate communication.  You haven't met him until now, and you are concerned that he is not RID-certified.  During introductions, you learn that he has considerable experience in this situation (the USPO) and is completely familiar and comfortable with the considerable volume of highly technical language that is involved.  He assures you that he feels qualified for this assignment.  And you agree.  While this interpreter may not be RID-certified, he is qualified for this assignment because he meets the ADA's requirements.

3. The interpreting agency sends a RID-certified interpreter to facilitate communication.  You haven't met him until now, but you are relieved to know that your service provider is highly skilled.  During introductions, you realize that the interpreter is using signed English, not American Sign Language.  Your first language is ASL and, while you can understand signed English, your primary fluency is of course in your native language.  This week's employment training is critically important.  It is your right to receive the interpreted training in your native language, so you ask the interpreter to use your language (ASL) rather than signing his (English), but he explains that he's most competent signing English and that his certification is in transliterating, not interpreting.  No good.  This interpreter, while he may be RID-certified, is not qualified for this assignment because he is "not able to interpret effectively" in American Sign Language.

4. The interpreting agency sends a RID-certified interpreter to facilitate communication.  You are relieved to know that your service provider is highly skilled; however, no introduction is necessary because you have used the services of this interpreter in the past.  A couple of months after one of your interpreted medical appointments, you learned that this interpreter had discussed your interpreted medical information with a shared friend.  However well meaning he may have been, he had clearly breached the RID Code of Professional Conduct and had embarrassed you in the process.  You hadn't complained to RID because you had hoped others would; yet, here he is, still in business.  No good.  This interpreter is not qualified for this assignment because he previously betrayed confidentiality and apparently has a personal motive to learn and share information about you; he cannot "interpret ... impartially."

Do the four scenarios above cover all the possible ... to be continued.

 

 

FACTORS

1.  Deaf Consumer-Approved

If a deaf consumer specifically requests or approves of a suggested interpreter, chances are good that the interpreter is qualified from the perspective of the deaf consumer to do the job in question.

Such qualification carries a great deal of weight.  For an inexperienced hearing person whose job it is to hire or arrange for interpreter services, the fact that the deaf consumer accepts an interpreter as qualified for the particular assignment may be a good reason to give that terp the job.

Just because an interpreter is consumer-approved for today's assignment does not necessarily mean s/he will be qualified to perform a different assignment, which may require an interpreter with different experience, credentials, or special knowledge.

2.  Credentials

2a. Certified member of RID?

Certified members of RID are recognized within the profession as having attained and demonstrated a high level of knowledge, skill, and ability, related to sign language, interpreting, and ethical and business practices.  As such, certified interpreters are usually well-aware of their own qualification for a specific assignment and are bound by the RID CPC to decline assignments for which they do not feel themselves qualified.

Certified members of RID are typically excellent go-to interpreters for most high-risk situations.  Certified members are proficient in a broad range of assignments, including community, educational, medical, and other commonly encountered settings. 

- Specialty certified membership or generalist (community) certified membership or both?

Interpreters holding a specialty legal designation have demonstrated a high level of competence in this area.  Interpreters holding a specialty educational designation have demonstrated a high level of competence in this area.  Likewise, specialty designations for oral interpreting and other specialty areas.

We would be remiss if we did not refer you to the source concerning RID Certification.  For more information (and there is lots more!), please click here to visit RID.

2b. Holds state-level credential?

- Specialty credential or generalist (community) credential or both?

2c. Non-credentialed?

- Has not yet passed professional evaluation; may have tried and not passed, or may be scheduled for an evaluation.

- Associate RID membership?
- Member of RID local/state chapter?

 

3.  Experience

4.  Knowledge

5.  Skill

6.  Ability

7.  

1.  Is the interpreter a Certified member of RID?

2.  Does the interpreter hold a state-level credential?

 

 

IN PRACTICE

... to be continued.

 

 

This page was edited: 09/15/2009
This page has been visited Hit Counter times since: May 15, 2009.
TerpTopics is s trademark and service mark of TerpTopics, LLC. © 2008; 2009. All rights reserved.

TerpTopics™ is an independent entity; as such does not claim or attempt to claim, represent, or imply by any means whatsoever that it is associated with any other entity that may or may not offer services, goods, or information of interest to interpreter, Deaf, or student communities.  The opinions expressed here those of TerpTopics unless otherwise stated.  Please keep in mind that, while every effort is made to present correct, appropriate, and reasonable information that is based on our experience, anecdotal experiences of others, or developed during the general course of study and professional development, we do not represent TerpTopics as having cornered the market on wisdom (heck, no!) or experience; one reason why links to several other good and reliable resources are made available throughout this site, and we hope that earnest seekers of knowledge will take advantage of them.

 

 

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