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Ethics & Role:

Situational Studies:


Telephone Interpreting

Damon Timm

Decmeber 12, 2000.


The goal of this project is to come to a better understanding of the telephone interpreting process, enabling interpreters to become more prepared for telephone interpreting situations and ultimately become better telephone interpreters. The majority of the information gathered for this project was compiled by interviews from interpreters and Deaf consumers, while comparative information was gathered from some literature and field experiments. Unfortunately, there is not much updated written material on telephone interpreting--which is considered one of the most difficult types of interpretation by the majority of interviewees, interpreters and Deaf folk alike. This project will also comparatively examine the TTY Relay service as an alternative to telephone interpreting (and vise versa), and provide role play scenarios and feedback conducted at an Interpreter Training Program (ITP). Through the course of this project the conclusion has been drawn that there can be no single direct approach to all telephone interpreting situations. Instead, an interpreter must have access to a variety of approaches for any given telephone interaction; this project will provide an interpreter or interpreting student with a better schema for telephone interpreting situations that will guide and aid her or him towards making better decisions and judgments throughout the course of any given telephone interpreted interaction.

The Relay System:

Most hearing individuals who have used the relay system would agree that it is a very tedious, tiring and at times an extremely boring procedure. But, we would also agree that it has its merits, for those who do not have a TTY available, there would be no other way that we might communicated with a Deaf or hard of hearing individual at that time. To an individual who knows nothing about Deaf culture, TTYs or relay, a call from a TTY operator can elicit numerous reactions. Some people hang up the minute they hear the relay operator's introduction, others never fully understand the concept, and others still seem to adapt to it without much struggle. From a hearing person's perspective the relay call is a strange experience that compares with none other that we have on the phone. There is all this waiting and silence, the inability to interrupt, and the strange rhythmic monotonic pattern spoken by an often sexually mismatched voice on the other end of the line.

Most Deaf people, on the other hand, have had much more experience with the relay system. Some still avoid it unless absolutely necessary, others do not mind it for occasional brief usage, and others still have no qualms using it. Many Deaf people are more accustomed to the time it takes, to the pauses and possible problems that can arise. Most importantly, however, is the fact that after the relay call has begun, the interaction over the TTY has an extremely similar quality to that of direct TTY to TTY communication. The most common conflict or disparity that can arise with a Deaf person using relay (or a TTY) as a method of communication is that the interaction must take place in English. For many Deaf individuals, English is a second language and is not as easily mastered as it might be for a hearing individual.

Considering what the participant's past experience and knowledge of phone interpreting situations is very important. It is also interesting to consider how a telephone interpreting situation is almost the polar opposite of a relay situation. Consider that in a relay situation, the Deaf person's experience on his or her TTY is as expected and normal; however, the hearing person on her or his phone, is struggling through an awkward and strange method of communication. In a well interpreted telephone interaction, however, the hearing person may not even be aware that the call is any different than the majority of calls he or she receives (as will be discussed later), while the Deaf person with little experience using a telephone interpreter may feel strange. In the relay situation, it is the hearing person who is blatantly aware of a third party in the interaction; in most successful telephone interpreted situations, it is the Deaf person who experiences the third party phenomena.

Figure 1: Interpreter vs. Relay
"The Issue of Time"

Three telephone calls were placed to Northeastern University's voice response system. The goal of the phone interaction in all situations was to retrieve a student's course schedule from the automated system. The first call was placed by a hearing caller, the second was placed by a Deaf caller through an ASL telephone Interpreter, and third was placed on a TTY through the Massachusetts's Relay System. While the interpreted call took about 50% more time to complete than a typical call made by a hearing individual (in this case, the Deaf individual became confused with the automated menu system and had to call back), one can see a substantial difference between the relay call and the interpreted call. Automated systems, as will be discussed later on, can be very troublesome for the telephone Interpreter (and the relay!) The relay operator was forced to contact her or his supervisor for approval to record the class schedule for retyping because it exceeding the one minute limit for recordings. (Complete relay conversation text available in Appendix B.)

The differences between using a telephone interpreter and the relay service are important to keep in mind when approaching a situation--especially an interaction with a Deaf consumer who may not be familiar with telephone interpreters. A fact that may surprise some interpreters and hearing individuals familiar with the relay is that many of the Deaf people interviewed said that they prefer to use the relay system over a telephone interpreter in many situations. These Deaf people cited a number of reasons: [1] freedom and independence, [2] fear of misinterpretations, [3] prefer to communicate in English and [4] simplicity and convenience of making brief telephone calls. Many of the Deaf individuals polled had never experienced telephone interpreting in the past, and those that had had only used telephone interpreters within their work situation, most of them with staff interpreters. Of course, there were number of the Deaf people interviewed who also said that they preferred telephone interpreting over the relay system for many reasons as well: [1] mistakes often happen with relay system, [2] an interpreter is able to express affect, emotion, mood, humor, etc., [3] American Sign Language preferred mode of communication and [4] that the TTY can be very time consuming (see Figure 1).

These findings illustrate the importance of an interpreter’s open-mindedness and flexibility entering a telephone interpreting situation. Considering the place relay has for a method of telephone interaction can sometimes be helpful when preparing for one's own phone interpreting interaction. It is also important to consider that while it is almost certain that a hearing individual would prefer almost any form of communication over that of the relay service, this may not be the case for the Deaf individual.

Telephone Interpreting Positions:

Most all of the Deaf individuals interviewed who used interpreters for telephone conversations on a regular basis worked in settings where staff interpreters were present. For the most part, this occurred either in agencies with numerous Deaf clients or educational settings. Those Deaf individuals interviewed who did not work in these settings were less likely to have ever experienced a phone interpreting interaction--some never had. Therefore, the conclusion can be drawn that one is likely to be telephone interpreting if he or she is a staff interpreter at a place of employment with other Deaf employees, or a freelance interpreter who is filling a per diem [1] request either replacing an absent staff interpreter or acting as a staff interpreter might though only on a limited basis. Finally, another possible situation in which a phone call interpretation may occur is as a freelance interpreter on an impromptu basis. Each of these situations presents unique considerations and opportunities that should be considered to ensure a successful interaction.

The most obvious advantage to a staff interpreter interpreting a telephone conversation is familiarity. Unlike a freelance position, the staff interpreter is able to establish a rapport with his or her Deaf colleague. Much of the pre-conferencing (which are discussed in the next section) a staff interpreter will have to do during his or her first interaction will later become second nature and expected. The staff interpreter has the opportunity to become familiar with all aspects of the how the Deaf person prefers to have calls interpreted as well as, perhaps, how hearing people who are regularly called react. Staff interpreting situations present the greatest opportunity to create successful, accurate and efficient phone interpreted interactions.

A freelance interpreter filling a per diem request is quite possibly replacing a staff interpreter on vacation, or at the very least taking on staff interpreter like responsibilities. Often, a company, business or school may only hire a freelance interpreter once or twice a week instead of having a full or even part time staff interpreter. It is, of course, possible that a freelance interpreter might arrange to work the per diem assignment every week; but in this case, the position becomes more similar to a staff positions than to a freelance position. Unfortunately, a freelance interpreter is not privy to the kind of relationship and rapport a staff interpreter is able to build over time. Instead, she or he enters each telephone interpreting interaction with much less foresight as to what will occur and must do more pre-conferencing--and possibly even educating--than a staff interpreter.

Finally, the last type of telephone interpreting interaction that tends to occur is one that may be unexpected. A number of the interpreters interviewed stated that on occasion they were asked to interpret telephone calls unexpectedly. As with the freelance interpreting mentioned about, much more thought must be put into the pre-conferencing and possible education to ensure that the interaction will be successful. Often, these types of impromptu phone interactions are spurred because the end of the interpreter's scheduled time has not yet been reached, but that the specific purpose for the interaction has been completed. For example, supposing an interpreter schedules herself from 2pm to 4pm in a meeting with said Deaf individual and the meeting ends at 3:30pm. It is possible that the Deaf employee may ask if the interpreter would not mind interpreting a few phone calls before she leaves at 4pm. In these situations it is important to remember not to rush the interaction or the pre-conferencing due to time constraints--doing so may end up causing more trouble and taking more time than necessary.


The majority of the pre-conferencing that takes place prior to a telephone interpreting interaction will be no different than any other interpreting situation. Basic background information, such as who the Deaf person is calling, what his or her name is, whether or not they have called this person before, etc., is all valuable. Knowing whether or not the hearing individual on the other end of the line has ever experienced a telephone interpreted phone call can be very helpful in aiding the interpreter's decision as to how she or he will approach introducing the interaction. Also, it is important to know how to say the hearing and Deaf individual's name before the call begins--this will help avoid unneeded dead air and awkwardness (e.g., "Hi, this is--um ... Augustine, calling for--um ... Henrik? Is he there?"). However, as with any other interpreted interaction, the interpreter must be aware of how much is too much; a brief, two minute information gathering telephone call should not require ten minutes of pre-conferencing! [2] In addition to the basic pre-conferencing, the interpreter may want to ask whether or not this interaction will be handled consecutively or simultaneously, which will be discussed in detail in the following section (The Interaction/Interpretation).

The one aspect of the pre-conferencing that is different from any other interpreted interaction and should certainly be discussed the first time an interpreter works with a Deaf individual--and perhaps each successive time as well--is how the Deaf individual feels the interpreted interaction should be introduced. Depending on the situation, the interpreter does have some influence on what decision is made and it is important for she or he to be aware of all the options available and which might work best for the given interaction. The more aware the interpreter is of the benefits and downfalls of the different ways of introducing a telephone interaction, the more likely the Deaf individual will be able to make a well informed decision that will facilitate communication. There are three different approaches available, and possibly combinations therein depending on how the interaction plays out, to the Deaf consumer and interpreter regarding how the telephone interaction may be introduced and identified: one, the fact that the telephone interaction is an interpreted one is not relayed in any way to the hearing individual; two, that the Deaf individual introduces the interaction as an interpreted one (e.g., "Hello, my name is Ralph and I am speaking through a sign language interpreter); and finally, that the interpreter introduces the call him or herself (e.g., "Hello, my name is Phyllis and I am interpreting a telephone call for..."). Each of these approaches has its own positive and negative assets--knowing which approach will have what effect on a given interaction will help an interpreter make better pre-conferencing decisions.

No Introduction:

While all three approaches have potential for success, from the interviews and literature reviewed, not introducing the interaction as an interpreted one allows for the most natural, successful and expedient phone interaction. The reason for this is fairly simple: many hearing individuals telephoned have little or no concept of what it means to have a conversation “telephone interpreted” nor what it means to be “speaking through a sign language interpreter.” By starting the interaction as it would be with any other telephone call between two hearing individuals, the phone call sounds much more natural and is more comfortable for the hearing individual on the other end of the line. There is less confusion and the hearing person is less likely to fall into a sort of telemarketing response--for this is often the impression they receive when the first thing they hear is: “hello, this is an interpreted phone call.”

One beneficial aspect of non-identified interpreted interactions is that some business and government agencies will not accept third-party calls with regards to personal or private information. If a call is introduced as an interpreted one, there have been cases where the government agency has told the Deaf caller that he or she would have to call back either on the TTY/TDD number or through relay, for they could not accept calls place by a third party on the behalf of another individual. [3] If the call is not identified as an interpreted one this problem, logically, does not occur.

A few issues raised regarding non-identified phone interpreted interactions revolve around the consequences of the hearing individual not knowing the call is being interpreted. For instance, there is often lag time in-between verbal exchanges or instances where the hearing individual interrupts the Deaf caller's turn more often than not. In these cases, it is often helpful to mention that this call is interpreted and to explain some of the guidelines for having a successful interaction. Both the literature and the interviewed interpreters unanimously recommended that the Deaf people should take it upon themselves to intervene and explain the situation at hand. The reasons behind why the Deaf person should do the explaining (while the interpreter is doing the interpreting) will become apparent after considering the next form of introduction.

Overall, this form of introduction (or lack there of) works well in interpreted telephone interactions when: [1] the call is made to family, friends or other familiar hearing individuals who can recognize that the call in interpreted as soon as the Deaf person introduces his or herself; [2] the call will be very brief; [3] the call is to a government or other private agency; and finally, [4] any call placed where the interpreter feels extremely confident of her or his understanding and ability regarding the Deaf person in the interaction.

Introduction by Deaf Individual:

This form of introduction was also recommended highly by interpreters and Deaf people alike for certain situations. A call being introduced by the Deaf individual (and voice interpreted by the interpreter) might begin like this: "Hello, my name is Ms. Doe and I am speaking through a sign language interpreter." Sometimes it is also helpful, when introducing the call in this manner, to briefly explain to the hearing caller that she or he needs to be aware of the reasons behind lag time or silence and the effects of constant interruptions. This form of introduction can be used at the beginning of a calls or during the course of a non-introduced telephone call that has become awkward or sub-optimal.

This introduction can work well with individuals who may have experienced interpreted phone calls in the past, but do not know the Deaf individual who is phoning personally. A hearing individual familiar with how telephone interpreted interactions occur, will benefit greatly from being aware of the interpreted nature of the call from the beginning. Announcing that this call is interpreted can also be beneficial during calls placed by a Deaf individual of one sex with an interpreter of another. "Hello, this is Mr. Smith," can sometimes become awkward and even unbelievable coming from the mouth of a female interpreter.

While there are numerous benefits to this form of introduction, it still has potential to become confusing. Many hearing individuals may grasp the concept of what is being relayed to them over the telephone; much in the same way some people misunderstand, and then terminate, relay calls. It is important to remember that most hearing people do not have a very accurate schema for interpreted interactions, and trying to explain it over the telephone can be confusing. Sometimes this kind of introduction can lead into a much more lengthy and tedious introduction on the part of the Deaf individual that it may be worth. It often takes more than a single sentence to explain the situation, especially to an inquisitive and curious hearing person. If the plan and hope was to make the call expediently, this form of introduction may not be the best choice.

Finally, the last issue raised is how this form of introduction created a third party that could be addressed within the interaction: the interpreter. A hearing individual may have the tendency to directly address the person to which he or she is verbally conversing. By mentioning that the call is interpreted, the interpreter suddenly becomes someone that can be spoken to directly and is expected to respond--and as in regular interpreted interaction, having the hearing person address the interpreter instead of the Deaf individual is awkward and can be difficult to resolve. This issue becomes amplified during a phone conversation because the hearing individual may not be able to visualize the situation as easily as he or she might when everyone is within the same room.

Introduction by the Interpreter:

Only one of the interpreters interviewed brought up the occasional need for the interpreter to introduce the interaction his or herself. All of the other interpreters did not recommend this form of introduction, nor did they spend much time discussing their reasoning. However, since a very valid point was raised by this interpreter regarding the use of this form of introduction, in addition to a few Deaf individuals [4] who expressed this form of introduction as their preference, it warrants some consideration. But first, in order to understand where this form of introduction can be effective, one must understand the effect that it has.

As mentioned earlier, introducing the interpreter as a third party within the interaction can sometimes lead to sub-optimal circumstances. If the interpreter takes it upon his or herself to introduced the call (e.g., "Hello my name is Robert Smith, I am a sign language interpreter interpreting a call for Howard"), the hearing individual may be inclined to address the interpreter as opposed to the Deaf person. Again, it will depend on the hearing individual's experience with interpreters, but it is a safe assumption that this is what will happen. If this is the desired effect and the interpreter has reasoned that this will facilitate the most accurate and successful interaction, than this approach should definitely be considered.

This approach may be helpful when working with Deaf individuals who are not as familiar with the interpreting process. For example, if the interpreter is working with a Deaf person who continues to sign "TELL HIM" or "ASK HER", this may be the way he or she is used to placing telephone calls. Perhaps the only experience she or he has had has been with family members placing the calls for her or him. In such cases, the interpreter will have to use his judgment to decide whether or not an explanation regarding the interpreting process will be a good use of time for the given interaction. If not, it may be best to have the interpreter introduce the telephone conversation. During the remainder of the interaction the interpreter would apply such voicing and sign techniques that match how the Deaf and hearing individuals are addressing each other, such as: "Mary would like to know if she can pick up her car this afternoon" or "He says that will be alright." Referring to both the hearing and Deaf individuals within the conversation in third person may lead to a more successful interaction.

The Interaction/Interpretation:

There are a number of aspects of a telephone interpreted interaction that are unique from other interpreting situations that need to be considered. These facets, although important to consider prior to the interaction, tend to occur during the interaction. The interpreter needs to consider [1] how the interaction will be conducted (e.g., consecutively, simultaneously, with the Deaf individual voicing, etc.), [2] how to empower the participants, [3] non-linguistic interpretations (e.g., background noises), and finally, [4] how to manage the interaction. By having a firm understanding of the different ways he or she can approach this aspects of the interaction, an interpreter is better able to create a foundation for a successful interpretation.

Typically, when we consider consecutive interpretation, we imagine an interaction in which one party either speaks or signs while the interpreter collects the entire message (i.e., waits for the person to stop speaking or signing) and then interprets this message as a whole into the target language. As opposed to simultaneous interpretation in which the interpreter typically begins either speaking or signing in the target language before the originating party's message has been completed. The term consecutive interpretation, however, when used in the context of a phone interaction, can have a slightly different connotation. The interpreter's interviewed used this term to refer to an interaction which takes place, more or less, as follows: the Deaf individual explains ahead of time what needs to occur during the telephone call (e.g., checking on a flight reservation), gives the interpreter the necessary information and then has the interpreter place the call. The interpreter does not sign to the Deaf individual during the course of the call; instead, she attempts to accomplish whatever task was set before her, and then relays the information or result of the call after the fact. This approach to the interaction can sometimes be helpful when retrieving trivial information from computerized phone systems, checking a flight reservation, calling information, etc. It is imperative for the interpreter and Deaf individual alike to feel comfortable and confident with this form of interaction.

In addition to whether or not the interaction will be handled simultaneously or consecutively, there is also the possibility that the Deaf individual will speak for his or herself during the interaction, and the interpreter will only be used for English to ASL interpretation. Logistically speaking, this will require more than one phone receiver and/or a speaker phone. A problem that could arise, as relayed by a few of the interviewed interpreters, is that the hearing individual could have a difficult time understanding the Deaf person's speech--using a phone as the medium for communication often makes anyone's voice more difficult to understand, especially an unfamiliar one. As with any of the other problems that may arise during a telephone interaction, any difficulties should be first attempted to be solved by the hearing and Deaf individuals involved. It is important for the interpreter to remain within his or her role and continue interpreting the interaction, rather than becoming part of the interaction unless entirely necessary. The interpreter must assume that these are both competent individuals who can resolve their own problems.

An interpreter entering an unfamiliar telephone interpreting situation should remember that it is possible the Deaf individual has little or no experience using a telephone. [5] As hearing individuals, we have used telephones for the better part of our lives and are very familiar with dial tones, ringing, operators, dialing outside lines, busy signals, call waiting, etc. It is easy for the interpreter to assume that the Deaf person has had as much experience as she has had with a telephone and act in habitual ways that may be considered oppressive (e.g., dialing or using the operator for the Deaf person). In lieu of this, an interpreter's default assumption should be that the Deaf person would like to take care of everything; not so much in the sense that he or she already knows what must happen, but that he or she should be empowered and given the opportunity to handle all aspects of the interaction. This can mean that the interpreter, in some situations, must also take on the role of an educator. In these situations, it is important to remember what a hearing individual might take for granted regarding telephone interactions that she or he has acquired through experience during the course of his or her life that a Deaf individual might not.

Another aspect of empowering the participants during the course of a telephone conversation is making non-linguistic interpretations. This can mean "uh-huhs" or "nods", relaying background noises, static, ringing, etc., and making some production choices that may not correlate with a concrete linguistic utterance. To better understand what this means, an interpreter should take the time to examine what tends to occur vocally during a given telephone conversation--what kind of behaviors are present. One will notice that any kind of prolonged silence on the opposite end of the line is awkward, and often broken up by "are you still there?" Hearing individuals on the phone tend to provide constant auditory indications that let the other participant know that she or he is listening and understanding what is being said. An interpreter in a phone interaction should remember that she or he needs to continue checking in with the hearing person, in some form or another, so that the hearing individual is provided with the sense that this is an appropriate and successful phone interaction.

The last, and possibly the most important, consideration an interpreter should have is how he or she will manage the interaction. In a face-to-face interaction where the participants are in the same room and can see the visual clues that all people use during an interaction, the interpreter will often be able to rely on the participants to discern among themselves when the other person is finished, whether or not they can interrupt or whether they are sad, happy or angry. Granted, the participants do rely on the interpreters to manage face-to-face interactions, however, with phone interactions there can be more difficulties and challenges that arise because all the participants are not in the same room. As mentioned earlier, the hearing person may have hard time understanding how there is an interpreter involved in this conversation and that it is really a Deaf person making the call if they are unable to see that side of interaction. Interruptions and turn taking can be a little more difficult, because the hearing person cannot see when the Deaf person is signing nor can the Deaf person see when the hearing person is speaking. Finally, the two participants are completely disconnected emotionally during a telephone conversation. There is no way for either participant to know how the other is feeling without an interpreter present.

Managing the interaction also means developing or applying techniques that make the interaction smoother and more efficient. An example would be having the interpreter, using pen or pencil, write down any important information gained from the call (e.g., phone numbers, an address or a flight numbers). This can save time and may be less prone to error than having the Deaf individual write down fingerspelled numbers or addresses. Of course, this action must be approved by the Deaf person before the interpreter take the liberty of putting pen to paper.

Challenges an Interpreter May Face:

All of the interviewees, in some form or another, stressed the difficulties inherent within two types of telephone interpreted interactions: automated phone systems and conference calls. Both present unique difficulties and considerations that should be touched upon.

Any hearing person who has used an automated phone system in the past realizes that they can at times be tricky, confusing, time-consuming and tedious. It is easy to become stuck within unwanted or unneeded nested menus with little hope of finding the proper selection without calling back. Here are three examples of how interpreting automated systems can, or did, extend the overall length of the call and create potential difficulties for the Deaf individual: [1] in the test run by the author (Figure 1), the Deaf individual (and interpreter) became stuck within a sub menu not realizing how far back she had to backtrack to arrive at the main menu; after traveling in three or four unsuccessful and confusing loops, the call had to be terminated and then remade. [2] Another of the interviewed interpreters told of a situation involving a large company that required new job applicants to complete a telephone interview session through an automated system. Estimated time to take the automated interview: 20 minutes. Actual time using an interpreter: 1˝ hours. [3] At a nearby University all class registration must be done over the phone and during allotted time blocks; the students are given a maximum of two tries during their time blocks. If the registration is not successfully completed within that amount of time, the student must obtain proper signatures, documentation and further hassle to register for classes--so, in addition to the typical pressure behind an interpreted interaction this one has a two strikes and you are out rule. Almost any interpreter or Deaf individual who has used an automated system that involves more than one or two menu options and sub-menus has a story to tell.

To expedite the automated phone process, there are a few things an interpreter can do. First, discuss with the Deaf individual whether or not she has ever called this service before, and whether or not she would like all of the menu items interpreted or whether the interpreter should simply pick the appropriate menus so that she can talk to a real person. Almost all of the Deaf professionals interviewed expressed that a portion of the time she or he prefers to have the interpreter simply wade through the menus without bothering to interpret each option or choice, especially if it was a menu system that she or he had to call often. [6] In the case that the Deaf person would like to have all of the options interpreted, it is imperative for the interpreter to have concrete signs for the concepts of "SELECT" "PUNCH" or "PICK", and how she or he will effectively list numerous selectable items.

Conference calls--as with any large interpreted group interaction--are another difficult facet of telephone interpreting. Unlike a large group interaction where the interpreter may have the luxury of being able to point or index whom is now speaking, in a telephone interaction the only two people in the room are the interpreter and the Deaf individual. This requires tremendous role shifting ability on the part of the interpreter, especially if there are more than two people on the other end of the telephone. Role shifts may have to be done from side to side, forward and backwards and with eye gaze. Conference calls are interpretable! In fact, one of the interpreters interviewed relayed a scenario in which there was more than one interpreter/Deaf pair within the conference. A helpful tactic to apply during an interpreted conference call is to have everyone in the call identify themselves before they begin speaking (much like large Deaf-Blind interactions). For example: "Philip speaking; I would like to add..." This will not only be helpful for the interpreter to identify who is speaking but will also give her or him more time to switch roles.


As one can see, telephone interpreting is not a simple subject. There are many noteworthy considerations that an interpreter must be aware of to ensure a successful telephone interaction. However, successful interactions are possible! Hopefully this project has opened up new discussion and answered some questions regarding the telephone interpreting process giving perspective and practicing interpreters some of the tools necessary to ensure a successful interaction. This is far from a conclusive analysis and may have provided more questions than answers; it is important to remember that at the very least, the time taken to consider some of the issues raised here is greatly beneficial to an interpreter's ability to function successfully and efficiently.



[1] Per diem is Latin for "by the day" or "every day." An intake specialist at the Massachusetts's Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing classified a per diem freelance request as one that required the interpreter to interpret in a business or office setting for any number of situations that may occur during the course of the day (e.g., meetings, telephone calls, interviews, etc.).

[2] One of the Deaf individuals interviewed expressed a certain dislike for interpreters who felt it necessary to gather every bit of information possible from the interaction. Her point was that often a Deaf person does not know exactly what it is she or he will say, or what will occur. Many times these decisions and actions are taken during the course of the call and are unpredictable.

[3] That the government agency would have the Deaf caller phone back through the relay system as opposed to using an interpreter is truly ridiculous! Is not the relay operator a third party? This goes to show what kind of knowledge companies and people have of telephone interpreted interactions. To them, relay operators seem much more trustworthy than interpreters when it comes to confidential information. But how much more private is the TTY anyhow? Could not anyone just as easily call the TTY number and say they were someone else? It would seem to cause many more false identity issues that using a certified or state screened interpreter with some form of recognizable credentials.

[4] All of the Deaf individuals who said that they preferred to have the interpreter introduce the interaction had experienced a limited number of telephone interpreted interactions. That is to say that they were not employees of an agency or school that used interpreters on a regular basis.

[5] The difference should be made between using a TTY (one typed into and read) and a telephone (one spoken into and listened), because while a Deaf individual may have extensive experience using a TTY he or she may be unfamiliar with telephone usage.

[6] Not surprisingly, the Deaf individuals interviewed expressed the same distaste for the automated system as a typical hearing person would. None of them cared for the systems very much, nor did they care to have to select their way through multitudes of menus items.


Proper Citation of this Document (MLA)

Timm, Damon. "Telephone Interpreting." American Sign Language Interpreting Resources, 12 Decmeber 2000.