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ASL English Interpreters:Historical Philosophies

Page history last edited by Janna Dunagan 11 years, 6 months ago

ASL/English Interpreter: Historical Philosophies


Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) people were viewed as handicapped.  They were not thought of as not being able to maintain their life and business affairs without help from hearing people.  Interpreters became “helpers” and tried to help take care of D/HH people they interpreted for.

Machine (Conduit):    

This philosophy was the complete opposite of a helper.  They “followed the rules” and would not interpret conceptually accurate due to the focus on the quantity rather than quality of their work.  Interpreters were robot-like and would ignore any responsibility for the facilitation of the conversational act taking place between the hearing and deaf clients.


Communication Facilitation: 

Interpreters continued to have robot-like roles, but became more aware of the environmental factors that effected the interpretation.  “Interpreters became more aware of the need for appropriate placement, lighting, background, etc (Humphry & Alcorn, 2001, p 8.8).”  .”  Interpreters also began wearing smocks to contrast with their skin along with eliminating busy printed shirts and bright fingernail polish.


With the validation of American Sign Language as a true language and the recognition of Deaf Culture, the bilingual-bicultural philosophy transpired.  The bi-bi philosophy “hit the mid-point between the two extremes of over-involved (helper) and invisibility (machine) (Humphry & Alcorn, 2001, p 8.10).”  Interpreters became aware of different language needs, cultural awareness, and cultural norms. Interpreters also became aware of the interpretation process that required “cultural and linguistic mediation, maintaining dynamic equivalence and the speakers intent (Humphry & Alcorn, 2001, p 8.10).” 


Currently there is a new philosophy emerging in the field that is now known as the ally model.  The definition of an ally is the uniting of forming a connection or relation between two entities.  Interpreters are aware of the cultural and linguistic requirements along with a Code of Ethics to portray the speaker/signer accurately with their intended message and affect.  They also make cultural mediations and educate others of the practices to working with an interpreter to ensure a successful transmission of information between the two parties involved.

Humphrey, J. H., Alcorn, B., J. (2001).  So you want to be an interpreter: An introduction to sign language interpreting. Portland, OR: H &H Publishing Co.  8.1-8.10.

Published by Janna Dunagan on July 2, 2009


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