Anything You Can Do … I Can Do Better


Anything you can do, I can do better

……..I can do anything better than you.

An old song which sometimes comes to mind when interpreters comment on another interpreter’s skills.

  • She wore nail polish
  • He wore a white shirt
  • They kept surfing their phone during a team assignment
  • She kept messing with her hair
  • His fingerspelling is impossible to read
  • He smelled of cigarette smoke
  • She used too much signed English and not enough ASL
  • He’s just difficult to work with
  • She cannot handle constructive criticism
  • Her facial expressions are too vague

This is an ongoing issue with few black and white answers.  Sign Language Interpreting agencies should be qualified and accountable.  Sign Language Interpreters should be qualified and accountable.

What is the proper and effective way to let someone know “how they can improve” without causing hard feelings and coming across as disagreeable? Is it the interpreter’s responsibility to correct another interpreter?  Should interpreters report other interpreters to agencies when they notice inappropriate or unprofessional behavior? And who should complain?  The interpreter or the Deaf client?

With social media, it’s not difficult to snap a photo or video to post online.  Is this appropriate?

This post is full of questions and not so full of answers.  Some point out that there is a responsibility to say something on behalf of the deaf client. But HOW to say something is a bit trickier.

In management training, the “sandwich” technique is often taught to explain how a manager can best point out areas of concern.

Essentially :   Point out a strength / Point out the issue needing correction / Point out a strength

But interpreters don’t “manage” each other. Can this method still be useful?

How would this work?  “your facial expressions are perfect / red nail polish?  really? / LOVE that black shirt! ”

Interpreter 1:  “When I work with other interpreters, I appreciate constructive comments on how I can improve my skills. Are you comfortable having this conversation at the end of this assignment? We could possibly assist each other. “

Interpreter 2:  (hopeful response) “Sure. I’m fine with that”

Interpreter 2: (dreaded response) “I’ve been interpreting for a long time. I doubt I need constructive criticism, but I’m happy to provide feedback regarding YOUR skills.”

Obviously in a VRS setting, there IS a Manager to provide direction. Sometimes the deaf person will provide feedback and requests.

Few jobs come with this kind of dilemma.  Usually there is a manager or ‘someone in charge’ to provide correction when needed.  In most situations, there is someone there who is qualified to gauge whether or not they’ve hired someone who is qualified to do the job.

Remember this guy? 

Only those familiar with sign language would know something was “off”.  Those in charge of hiring him had no clue.

Has anyone found a solution to this problem?  Any effective techniques you’d like to share?  If not, please enjoy the video 🙂



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About Evelyn

Evelyn Hunter is a SODA with years of experiential study in Deaf Culture. She attended Gallaudet University to immerse herself in this unique deaf world while working for the University and studying sign language to hone her skills. Evelyn has served in training, relationship sales, and marketing -- always seeking to expand awareness of Deaf Culture and the unique challenges the deaf face on a daily basis. The Sign Language Company has recently established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and a website with a blog, as Evelyn coordinates the marketing and outreach efforts for the agency. Her goal is to attract new clients seeking exceptional service, while maintaining optimal relationships with clients who have selected The Sign Language Company for over 20 years.

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