What that means to me: The Tireless and Tiresome Search for Meaning

Part II

Should empathic responses be an expected skill of the community interpreter?

As part of our development as interpreting professionals, we should actively seek to develop empathy for people and in our practice, display empathy – even to ourselves. Our emotional reactions to the people we work with are best not repressed but considered as an opportunity to seek further meaning.  In the case from last week where patients appear to have an insufficient understanding and clinicians an insufficient amount of time, frustration is signalling a threat to our value and commitment to meaning and understanding.. However, an empathic response should not be confused for a passive one. It does not mean letting people “off the hook” for insufficient comprehension or insufficient attention when both of these contradict the over-arching values of the setting, as in a medical setting.

What that means to me:

In essence, all participants in the communication event (minority and majority cultures) are yielding or expected to yield to the values of the setting. Should interpreters do the same even when these setting-specific values conflict with our professional values? Might “do no harm” as is the case in medical settings be prioritized over neutrality or even fidelity? Perhaps interpreters working in community settings should redefine neutrality not as a passive stance but as an active commitment to the overarching values inherent in the setting.

What that means to me:

It means the tireless and likely tiresome commitment to a three-year PhD research thesis which considers whether the best ethical stance of a community interpreter is in direct alignment with the values of the setting, even when those values conflict with the values of the profession.

Robyn Dean