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Connect is delighted to have sponsored Nigel Howard’s Keynote at the WASLI Oceania conference in Fiji, reflecting our ongoing commitment to the development of Deaf Interpreting in NZ and internationally


In 2016, we had the privilege of being the recipients of Connect’s new graduate internships. It was the first year that Connect had decided to offer two internships instead of one, and since we had gone through the interpreting course as classmates and friends, it felt great to know that both of us would be experiencing the many benefits offered by the internship programme.

The first year of interpreting after graduation is full of challenges for any new grad. There is always a steep learning curve that comes when you finally start working as an interpreter, and there are many things that can only be learned by actually doing the job. Thankfully, the support offered by the internship meant that although we encountered plenty of challenges, we knew that there were always people with experience and expertise to guide us through them. Having a booking co-ordinator like Shiz (who was very familiar with us and our skills, having also taught us as students) meant that the jobs we were assigned to were challenging enough to stretch us, but not so hard that we were not competent to do them effectively. The huge range of contexts and clients we worked with gave us invaluable opportunities to develop our skills as professional interpreters.

Supervision has been a huge support for us in reflecting on 2016’s challenges and successes. Without the benefit of experienced hands guiding us through the process of self-analysis, we’d have found it difficult to accurately judge our ethical decision-making. Our supervisors offer fresh perspectives on the challenges we have faced, and, more crucially, help us to see more clearly where we might have put a foot wrong without realising it, or where we may have made a good decision when it didn’t feel like it at the time.

With solid and unfailing support behind us, we feel that 2017 will be a time of even more growth. We are looking forward to discovering new areas of strength by saying ‘yes’ to more challenging opportunities, and building up our strategic toolkits with tips and tricks gleaned from our colleagues. 

Julia & Reb

A huge thanks to Lynx of Connect Interpreting for the supervision workshop provided during the final weekend of October. Lynx very generously travelled to Palmerston North and ran the workshop at no cost for local interpreters. It was an excellent workshop and a rare PD opportunity for interpreters in the area. Unfortunately, Hawkes Bay had previous commitments, but Wairarapa, Manawatu and W(h)anganui were able to attend. A donation was accepted on behalf of DINZ.

Lynx began with an explanation of the difference between mentoring and supervision. This was very helpful, as only one member of the group had previous experience of formal Supervision. The benefits and aims of Supervision were also discussed and Lynx presented the What? / So What? / Now What? model.

At the request of one member of the group, the subject of vicarious trauma was also discussed. Lynx took us through the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale (this can be found on Wikipedia) – the scale rates a variety of life events with different values, up to 100. We were asked to tick all the life events that we had experienced in the past 12 months, then add up the corresponding values – the final score gives participants an indication of whether they have slight, moderate or high risk of illness. First this scale was applied to ourselves, and then it was applied to scenarios that we have experienced/witnessed in our roles as interpreters. The results were somewhat shocking for most of the interpreters in the group. Lynx recommended Tarsha Cutelli’s write-up of Rachel Coppage’s Vicarious Trauma workshop as helpful follow-on reading. This article can be found on the Connect Interpreting website.

A discussion was had around the “rules” for effective supervision – ask appropriate questions, avoid offering advice or answers, don’t moralize, etc. and then the group engaged in a session, guided by Lynx. Each participant was given the opportunity to discuss and to consider strategies for improvement around real-life interpreting scenarios that had raised challenges/demands of one kind of another – intrapersonal, interpersonal, environmental or linguistic.

As “outerpreters” we mostly work solo. Life can be busy. Without a decision to regularly participate in supervision, jobs follow jobs, and it can sometimes be difficult to carve out the time to stop and constructively reflect on the work we have done. Now, having a framework for peer supervision, we can more effectively focus on what we have experienced as interpreters (What?), analyse our feelings and think about why we did what we did (So What?), and consider how we might do things differently the next time (Now What?). Everybody wins.

As a group our intention is to meet together every second month for peer supervision.

Thank you Lynx and thank you Connect Interpreting for running such a valuable workshop for us.

Ruth Metcalf

Last month, a group of around 20 interpreters attended a Connect professional development session which focussed on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is often used as a way to manage stress, so this training fit in well with Connect’s PD theme for 2016 of ‘self-care’.

Running the session was Dr Chantal Hofstee, a clinical psychologist and the director of the company Renew Your Mind. She started off the session by talking about stress, and taking us through some brief mental exercises to become more aware of the physical responses we can detect in our bodies simply by thinking about a stressful situation. Although all of us are aware that stress isn’t good for us, it can be easy to forget that stress has real, negative effects on our physical health as well as our emotional wellbeing.

For example, we may be more aware of the fact that stress can lead to tight muscles in our shoulders and neck, or that we tend to breathe more shallowly if we are stressed, but not many of us would be aware that increased stress levels also increase blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system and increase the risk of developing high blood pressure. These are just a few examples, and the effects of long term stress can be serious.

Dr Hofstee also guided us through how stress can affect our emotional responses to a situation, and that our thoughts have a huge impact on our emotions. By being more aware of the thoughts we may not be conscious of, we can actually start to have more control over the emotional responses which we thought were automatic – such as stress.

Although stress is not usually considered a positive thing, Dr Hofstee explained that the stress response is our body’s way of protecting us from a perceived threat to our safety. The stress response state has been hard-wired into our brains for as long as our species has existed. For example, if you’re running away from a sabre-toothed tiger then stress is very useful – increased adrenaline allows us to run faster and respond more quickly and flexibly in order to escape. But the problem in our modern lives is that we rarely face sabre-toothed tigers! In other words, most of the time our stress response is not linked to a real emergency, because our mental state is triggered by our thoughts (usually that we can’t cope) – not necessarily by the situation itself.

One of the most interesting concepts Dr Hofstee taught us about was the concept of red-brain vs. green-brain. She described us as being in red-brain when we are stressed, and in green-brain when we are relaxed and feel present and connected to what we are doing, and asked us to consider how much of our time we spend in each of those states. We were also asked to reflect on what triggers us each to move into red-brain, and it was easy to understand how some of our answers were relevant to the stress we experience in our work. The overall aim of mindfulness is to practice spending more time in green-brain so that we can become less stressed, and avoid the ‘acting without thinking’ that is typical of people who are stressed.

However, we also learned that our brains are incredibly flexible. Research around neuroplasticity has shown that we can ‘rewire’ our brains, simply by changing what we think and do. This is a process that happens through strengthening and weakening neural pathways in the brain. Put simply, every time we think or do a certain thing, that pathway in our brain gets stronger (and pathways become weaker if we rarely think or do that thing). Whenever we need to respond to something in our environment we’re likely to use the stronger pathways.

So that basically tells us that if we want to be a more mindful and less stressed person we have to practice it so that those neural pathways become stronger and a more mindful response becomes like a subconscious habit.

Before taking us through some examples of mindfulness exercises, Dr Hofstee reiterated that mindfulness really just means paying attention with kindness; if we’re not paying attention to what we’re thinking and feeling then we can’t change it, and if we’re not simply observing with kindness then we are judging (which is a red-brain trigger). As interpreters, many of us can get caught in a cycle of self-judgment if we don’t feel satisfied with how a job went, so it was a good reminder to us that being overly-critical of ourselves (and/or others) only raises our stress levels and doesn’t serve us in a helpful way.

The feedback from the session was overwhelmingly positive, and many of us bought Dr Hofstee’s book and/or CD (also available on the Renew Your Mind website). Connect will be attempting to organise a longer session in July or August aimed specifically at interpreters and focussed on using mindfulness for stress management – watch this space! Details of other workshops Dr Hofstee runs can be found on the website.

On the 24th of March Connect Interpreting hosted a Professional Development meeting about Vicarious Trauma (VT). It was presented by Lynx and Rachel Coppage, who did a fantastic job. It was very enlightening, and has the possibility for the interpreters involved to reap long term benefits.  We started by brainstorming what we thought VT was. Some of the ideas were:

  • Recognising trauma in others that triggers reminders of trauma in ourselves (self-identification)
  • Empathy
  • Oppression, or perception of oppression
  • Injustice
  • Compassion

VT was then defined as:

  • The emotional residue of trauma
  • Repeated exposure to traumatic information and the trauma of others

It is also repeated occupational stress and secondary traumatic stress.  This is also linked to external and internal factors in ourselves.  This is because we cannot be totally removed from a situation, so any trauma or stress that is occurring in that situation will be linked to our here and now as well as our past life events.

External factors include confidentiality, perceived oppression and the cost of caring and the myth of neutrality.  Internal factors include things like our past traumas, our inner voice (negative and positive) and how we cope with things like stress and worry.  We then compared being overly emotional, eg emotionally interconnected, as opposed to being overly cognitive, eg maintaining a protective numbness around ourselves.

After this was a very interesting exercise.  We completed the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Normally this scale is done just for yourself, but we were asked to pick a couple of clients and complete the scaled, to the best of our ability, for them too.  The majority of the people present had a higher scale rating for their clients than they did for themselves, and this showed some of the subtler types of VT that we take on in our day to day lives.

Finally, we looked at how we could use VT in a positive way and how we could lessen the impact of VT in our lives.  We were given suggestions on ways to do this, including:

  • Talk about your feelings with someone, or look at retelling the story to yourself to encourage post-traumatic growth
  • Seeking collegial support to explore action ideas
  • Compare similarities and differences between the traumatised person’s and your experiences
  • Create a self-care plan
  • Create a discourse map for better mental preparation for high risk situations.

I loved some of the practical solutions that we talked about. These included regular attendance at the Connect Peer Supervision groups, self-care through exercise and me time and doing something to ‘shake off’ the work day, like having a shower.  Another suggestion from a friend of mine after I told them about the meeting was keeping a Gratitude Journal.  She recommends writing 5 things that you are grateful for each day in a journal. Some of these can be as simple as someone smiling at you as they pass to a morning or afternoon tea chat with close friend you haven’t seen in a while.

I learnt A LOT from this very short session! I learnt that while our internal and external factors will always be present, it is how I react to them and how I view them, be it positive or negative, that will mostly colour how I am affected by these factors.  Thanks to the Connect team for hosting this meeting, and a special thank you to Rachel Coppage for her insight and expertise in the area of VT.

Tarsha Cutelli

Connect Spring Workshop Success!

Despite the intended presenter/facilitator falling ill and cancelling at the very last minute, Deaf and hearing participants still trusted that we could pull something out of the hat and deliver a worthwhile programme. Thanks to some talented and knowledgable local, national and international Deaf and hearing presenters, together with some fancy apps and WiFi, we were able to offer two full days of collaborative learning.

The third annual Connect Spring Workshop was held on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th November 2015. It was a huge success, despite a large and unexpected spanner being heaved into the works just three days before the Workshop was due to begin. The advertised facilitator, Darlene Thornton, became ill and was unable to travel from Australia to present. As usual the Workshop programme was to have covered three days, with a Deaf only day on the Friday focussing on Deaf Interpreting, plus the Saturday and Sunday when hearing participants had registered to join together with the Deaf participants. On hearing the news that Darlene was unable to travel, the participants were offered a full refund but were also given the option of continuing with a different programme. Over half the participants were still committed to attending – including those who were coming from as far away as Wellington and Christchurch.

Thanks to a number of generous Deaf and hearing people with terrific energy and initiative, together with Darlene agreeing to present for three hours via video link, the Workshop went ahead – albeit with a radically altered programme. All the presenters bar one were Deaf, and all of the presentations and discussions were in NZSL. The three days were condensed to Friday and Saturday (luckily it was no problem to change the venue and catering details). A huge thank you to AUT who provided the venue, and to Ravee Patel of Thyme Out Cafe (a Youthline catering business), for being so helpful and flexible.


Myra Barret opened the Workshop on the Friday with a blessing and a waiata, followed by a brief introduction by Roger Wyrill, Chairperson of Deaf Interpreting New Zealand (DINZ). The first presenter was David Krueger from Vermont, USA.

First presentation

David is a friend of Rachel Coppage, and at Rachel’s request David kindly presented for an hour and a half on his experience as a Deaf Interpreter in the US. Rachel offered to interpret from ASL to NZSL, so it was also a session where participants experienced live Deaf interpreting. Some bullet points and highlights from his presentation include:

  • Hearing immigrants who don’t have English as a first language are provided with spoken language interpreters; Deaf immigrants who don’t use ASL as their first language should likewise have access to a Deaf interpreter (DI).
  • Hearing interpreters who have had many years of experience are generally more reluctant than newer graduates to work with DIs.
  • Hearing professionals often feel left out of the loop when a hearing interpreter is trying to ‘break down’ a concept for a Deaf client with MLS. Working with a DI means that four people (hearing professional, DI, HI and D client) work more as a team, with the hearing interpreter being able to ‘feed’ the professional what is being interpreted by the DI.

David’s presentation finished with a question and answer session. This was very helpful and informative; questions covered a range of issues including booking processes, payment, the problems inherent in small communities, ethical considerations, confidentiality and trust, promotion and education.

Second and third presentations

Darlene Thornton very generously offered to present via Zoom Video Conferencing, despite being too unwell to travel. Darlene is from a Deaf family (third generation), with a degree in linguistics and teaching. She is passionate about linguistics, deaf history, and improving Deaf lives.

Darlene began with some comparisons, examples, experience and explanations of Deaf interpreting and translating. She touched on some extra challenges such as the need for appropriate cultural awareness (for example, a Maori Deaf person may bring whanau with them to an assignment), working with older Deaf and with Deaf children. She also discussed what it means to be a ‘native’ signer.

Darlene updated the participants regarding the current Australian situation, including registration, qualifications, accreditation, and the need for the Deaf community to support and lead the development of Deaf interpreting. She acknowledged that while Australia is ahead in some respects, NZ has the advantage of legislative backing with the NZSL Act. She also talked about promotion, working with hearing agencies, and educating those professionals who could potentially work with DIs (for example psychiatrists and counsellors).

Like David earlier in the day, Darlene noted that some hearing interpreters are easier to work with than others. Collaboration with hearing interpreters, through shared learning opportunities, may help to mitigate the resistance to DI from some quarters. She suggested that DIs in the US, UK and Europe may have some ideas on how to resolve some of the issues and challenges.

After lunch Darlene clarified the difference between proficiency, fluency and competency. Darlene’s area of expertise is in ‘discourse’; the next part of her presentation focussed on the different processes involved in discourse. She gave some examples and then offered some practical exercises which highlighted the differences between describing, explaining, instructing, and recounting. The activities involved looking at structures and features such as temporal sequences, connectives, eye gaze, classifiers, spatial references, NMS. The participants found these exercises very valuable, and expressed regret that Darlene was unable to present for the whole three days as planned.


The last part of the day was more of a discussion between all the participants about Deaf interpreting in general; what has been achieved in NZ so far, what are the next steps, and a vision for the future. There was a lively discussion about a new term that had arisen during the recent Mental Health and Deafness Conference: ‘intermediaries’. According to Dr Brendan Monteiro, Deaf intermediaries are often used in Court in the UK, especially where a Deaf person has a level of dysfluent language. This could be a further role for Deaf interpreters in the future. Rachel Coppage will contact Dr Monteiro to clarify the role and to identify training and educational requirements. All agreed that this was a valuable brainstorming session which allowed participants to envision a positive future for Deaf interpreters in NZ.


The first part of Saturday involved some icebreakers and some fun activities around the concept of cultural misunderstandings and collaboration.

First presentation

Josje Lelijveld from Christchurch agreed to step into the breach and deliver a fabulous presentation on Deafblind interpreting. This was a wonderfully practical session; participants were able to experience tactile signing and the alphabet, and were challenged to both deliver and receive information in group work, with an observer giving feedback.

Josje also talked about her own experiences as a Deafblind interpreter. While we have had a number of presentations by hearing interpreters working with Deafblind, it was refreshing to learn about this important work from a Deaf person. Josje has had many years of experience working for different organisations, and offered some valuable insights into considerations such as: different types of blindness; distance between the blind person and the interpreter; the need to explain and describe the environment; seating arrangements; signing space; signing speed. Later, Josje also covered aspects of Deafblind interpreting such as how to convey Yes/No questions, role shift, NMS, negations. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Josje’s presentation.

Second presentation: ‘Lost in Translation’

Catherine Greenwood also valiantly stepped up at the eleventh hour and delivered a thought-provoking and informative session on translation. Catherine has had a wealth of experience translating for Seeflow, New Zealand’s only Deaf led, professional NZSL translation service: see

Catherine clarified the difference between interpreting and translating – with interpreting being live or ‘on the spot’ transfer of messages, whereas translation involves working with messages that are written or ‘frozen’. She described some positives of translation; for example, finished translations can easily be reviewed for self-feedback and future improvement, and the process allows time to achieve a good translation through peer review and checks with a client.

Some challenges, however, can include over-analysing the translation, and the lack of a live audience for immediate feedback. Other challenges, which also arise during interpreting, include working with English idioms, literal translations versus translations of meaning, adjusting register to match the intended audience.

Deaf and hearing participants engaged in activities and discussions translating short texts, while thinking about some of the above mentioned challenges. All agreed that it was again brilliant for hearing and Deaf to have the opportunity to collaborate in these discussions and activities.

Final presentation: ‘Small Talk’

Dan Hanks gave a presentation on the art and professional purpose of ‘small talk’; those moments before, during, or after an interpreting job when interpreters have interactions with clients, Deaf and hearing. Dan outlined why this is an important issue for interpreters to be consciously aware of and to manage for the benefit of clients. Such interactions can assist in developing trust, gaining clarity about the interpreted interaction to come, and helping all parties understand each other more clearly prior to beginning the interpreted interaction, among many other things. It can also have a negative impact on many of those aspects if not handled carefully, purposefully and consciously, mindful of the subtle dynamics and assessments taking place between client and interpreter in many situations. The presentation suggested some topics to avoid, tips to remember and how to remain focused on the assignment, as well as what to do if the conversation becomes dangerous or otherwise role-threatening!

The bottom line is clearly that interpreters are present when communication needs to be facilitated, usually when the rights of clients are at stake. Therefore all interactions, whether actively interpreting, or actively engaged in interactions outside of that particular role, need to be managed purposefully for the benefit of the assignment and client at hand. While chatting in the hospital waiting room may not be our primary role, we need to remember that whenever we are in the presence of clients it is important to be already working to make the interpreted interaction as effective as possible, and this is not always as simple as it may seem.

Some Feedback from participants

“I’ve already talked to a few other Deaf people about why I went to the Workshop. I asked a Deaf person what they thought about this new group, DINZ. They thought it was vital that we have DIs here in NZ.” 

“Thank you so much for the terrific Workshop, even though it was only one day for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was very informative, and very well presented.”

“Thank you for organising a fantastic Workshop. I had a great time and I learnt lots of interesting things.”

“I am really looking forward to the next one!”

Discussion kicked off with an exploration of the ambiguous role/identity a well-integrated interpreter needs to manage within the Deaf Community. Most participants had come to the inevitable realization that regardless of how personally or politically dedicated they were to the community – perhaps more passionately than some Deaf – they would invariably be seen first and foremost professionally as an ‘Interpreter’. For some, this realization had been difficult to internally reconcile: although hearing, there are interpreters who feel their identity is more closely aligned with Deaf. Having internalized Sign Language, Deaf cultural values, behavioural norms, goals and aspirations to such a deeply personal extent, to be ultimately labelled an interpreter can feel unfairly limiting. Despite the community’s appreciation that much of what makes a person capital D Deaf is not essentially bound to hearing loss, there is an invisible line interpreters will find themselves unable to cross, even if they want to. Being hearing, the Deaf community will not necessarily relate as closely to an interpreter as an interpreter may with them. This appears to hold true even for CODAs, parents of Deaf children and partners of Deaf. The line may be a brute audiological fact or it may be attitudinal and therefore subject to change over time. In order to broaden community spirit, alongside ‘Deaf’ Mark Berry recently suggested introducing a more inclusive sign/word encompassing the idea of someone who felt most comfortable using Sign Language, as they do in Sweden. We discussed whether an integration of this concept may potentially change the way in which Interpreters are viewed within the community, but agreed that for now the line remains.

Following on, it was acknowledged that an Interpreter is therefore never seen to be ‘out-of-role’ even when they may feel so – perhaps socializing ainterpreter hatmong Deaf friends, for example. Some important ramifications were raised with regards to this.  As comfortably off-the-clock as you might feel, being seen first and foremost as an Interpreter necessarily requires constant management of your professional reputation. Drinking was discussed and inebriation in a Deaf setting was agreed most unwise. One interpreter admitted a strict two drink policy they hadn’t breached in over a decade, despite heavy socializing with Deaf in an alcoholic setting. Another mentioned having two separate Facebook accounts so their Deaf friends wouldn’t see pictures of them drinking in case this compromised their professional image.

Other possible risks were explored and the Community’s predilection for gossip came up. Given that information is a valuable currency among Deaf, engaging in gossip is considered culturally friendly and it is both easy and tempting for interpreters to form connections in such a way. However bonding or titillating this may prove, a trade off was noted: this may give rise to suspicions of your confidentiality ethic where the Deaf person may walk away wondering if you would also gossip about information gleaned on the job, and how would they know the difference? We questioned how much damage this seed of doubt could inflict and whether it was worth the risk before deciding that nipping the conversation in the bud would be safest, or else occasionally indulging with a strictly neutral attitude.

This segued onto the topic of interpreters gossiping about other interpreters, either among themselves or with Deaf. A number of interpreters had caught wind of unflattering things being said behind their backs and had felt both personally hurt and professionally undermined. It was agreed that badmouthing other interpreters weakened solidarity and the profession as a whole. Engaging with Deaf people criticizing other interpreters was also deemed inappropriate and counterproductive. A culture of collegiality with open, honest feedback freely given and received would be more constructive for all involved. This tied back to the community where Connect has actively encouraged Deaf people to report directly back to them with any complaints they may have regarding certain interpreters. Providing such an outlet works well as a damage controlling mechanism where there is less chance the client will vent through gossip and more chance the interpreter will have an opportunity to resolve the issue, amend their reputation and better manage their professional relationships based on the feedback.

Connect would like to commend the large number of people who turned out for this month’s PD – clearly these are topics that interpreters were keen to reflect upon and discuss. The first part, ‘Small Talk’, was so engaging that after two hours of discussions a decision was made to postpone ‘Managing Relationships’ until a later date.

Discussions began with a question: “Why is this important?”

There were some thoughtful responses. For example: to build rapport; to respect social and cultural norms; to gain background information and to help give context to the assignment; to make sure everyone is comfortable with the process and communication styles. Risks inherent in these conversations were also raised, such as: the risk of inappropriate disclosures, or the perception of ‘gossiping’ or ‘being nosey’. Some topics could be ‘triggers’ for a client, which may affect the later interactions during an assignment. However it must be remembered that interpreters are there for a purpose; when interwaiting roompreters are in professional mode – and this includes pre-assignment – we should remember that all our interactions should be for the benefit of the client(s), and to facilitate the optimum outcome of the assignment. This will help guide the interpreter in choices of conversation. A question was raised about what to do if a comment is made (by the Deaf or hearing client), that an interpreter doesn’t agree with. For example, it could be a racist comment, or a political or a religious view that differs from our own. There was a discussion about possible responses: we could object, or we could avoid making a response at all, or we could passively agree. How interpreters respond will have consequences during the actual assignment, so it is vital to think carefully about the options (that is, ‘controls’ in Demand-Control Schema) and possible consequences for each option. And each option needs to be matched to that particular client, at that time, and in that particular job. However this can be quite challenging, requiring interpreters to think quickly about how to respond, especially for the ‘unexpected’ comments or questions.

How do interpreters prepare for this ‘small talk’?

Some suggested strategies: Be familiar with the news (both national and international); find out about news in the Deaf community, such as Deaf events; talk about hobbies, school, pets (if appropriate). Try not to ask too many questions, otherwise it will seem like an interrogation. Be prepared to share some information about yourself, so that it is a give and take exchange. Good topics to avoid are: politics; religion; sexual preference; other interpreters; other Deaf people. It can be helpful to lead the conversation to a certain extent, in order to avoid the pitfalls of sensitive or controversial subjects.

There were also some role-plays, with a ‘Deaf client’ and ‘interpreter’. For the role of the ‘Deaf client’, the aim was to make it difficult for the interpreter. For the role of the ‘interpreter’, the aim was to try not to say anything offensive or controversial. These were fun and illustrated how difficult the ‘small talk’ can be! Some other strategies that were identified from the role plays include: taking advantage of natural breaks in the conversation, to ‘get some fresh air’; ask the client about their preferences, for example “would you prefer to talk or to read?”. It could be useful to keep a magazine or two in the ‘interpreter ‘kit’! The trick is, to read the individual client and try to ascertain what is culturally appropriate conversation, without wearing out either yourself or the client.

The session concluded with a reminder: our interpreter ‘hat’ is always on to some extent, both in these pre-assignment roles and in social situations, not only during the assignment itself.

Report: Connect Spring Workshop 2014: Medical, Mental Health and Deaf Interpreting

 Facilitator and Presenter: Nicholas Padden-Duncan (Interpreter, Company Director, Presenter; UK)

We would like to thank the Deaf Development Trust and the Sign Language Interpreter Association of New Zealand (SLIANZ) for their generous support for the 2014 Connect Spring Workshop. As well as supporting a number of Deaf people to attend, these funds also helped to provide catering throughout the three days.

The first day of the three day workshop was a Deaf-only day. Twenty-one Deaf participants from Christchurch, Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Hamilton and Auckland engaged in lively discussions and activities, with Nicholas defining and clarifying the concept of Deaf interpreting. The presentation included a brief history of the Deaf Interpreting profession, as well as an exploration of diversity in the Deaf community and what that might mean for Deaf interpreting. One activity involved a debate, with one team arguing in support of Deaf Interpreters, and the other team arguing against. Nicholas explained that this would help to prepare the participants for any challenges that may arise from the wider community regarding Deaf interpreting, and would better equip people with good arguments in support of the concept. Nicholas posed some challenging questions regarding ethics and boundaries, and linked these discussions to interpreting theory and practice. This involved some activities and discussions around cultural mediation and awareness.

There were some fun and interesting role plays, involving Deaf people working together from some video clips of British Sign Language (BSL) and which offered a taste of how Deaf interpreters might work in teams. While the day covered a wide range of topics and activities, Nicholas was at pains to point out that this workshop was only a tiny fraction of the learning that would be necessary to become qualified as a Deaf Interpreter. The last part of the day was a discussion about the next steps involved in the possibility of a qualification for NZ Deaf Interpreters. George Major, the Programme Leader of NZSL-English Interpreting and Deaf Studies at AUT, kindly attended the workshop in the afternoon to listen to the discussion and to try and answer any questions. She promised to take any questions that remained unanswered back to AUT and to explore possible avenues for a Deaf Interpreter qualification. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for a working group of Deaf people, with the support of hearing interpreters, to pursue this goal. Connect is happy to support such a group and will continue communication with those participants who indicated they would be willing to be involved.

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The next two days were equally stimulating and thought-provoking. The Deaf participants were joined by 18 hearing interpreters for the rest of the weekend. Nicholas was an excellent facilitator and presenter, combining information with activities and role plays which kept the participants focussed and interested. Saturday morning began with a review of the previous day’s discussions of Deaf interpreting, to refresh the memory and to inform the newcomers, with Nicholas giving examples of Deaf interpreting. This was followed by almost two hours of discussions and practical exercises, with an emphasis on mental health. Participants considered the qualities needed by interpreters in this field and discussed reasons for the higher incidence of mental health issues in the Deaf community, and brainstormed some definitions and translation of terminology.

Saturday afternoon consisted of a comparison between Mental Health services for Deaf in England, and services here in NZ. There were also more role plays, this time involving a team of Deaf and hearing interpreters working together to provide the best possible access for the Deaf client. The afternoon finished with exercises, using BSL videos as a resource for interpreting practice in mental health settings.

Sunday focussed on interpreting in medical settings, starting with a broader discussion of healthy communities, and what factors influence this. Participants explored a comparison between English and NZSL in the context of conveying emotional intent, with Nicholas emphasising the need for interpreters to adapt to a Deaf person’s idiosyncratic and heterogenous language and educational background. A fun session on interpreting some English idioms kept everyone alert. The last session involved participants signing different body parts, and discussing the merits of using classifiers and space to convey the meaning of various afflictions. As with the rest of the workshop, these activities were via small group work as well as demonstrations to the wider audience. A final practice of Deaf and hearing team interpreting showed an improvement in cohesion and clarity compared to an earlier role play. Nicholas wound up the workshop with a reminder to use technology for interpreters’ own learning.

As with all workshops, some people were challenged by certain aspects while others found these aspects familiar, and vice versa. However all participants (apart from one or two who had spent time in the UK) found Nicholas’ BSL a great learning experience. Almost everyone mentioned that having equal numbers of Deaf and hearing participants in a collaborative environment was a very positive development, and there was much enthusiasm for more workshops along these lines. Several people talked about the benefit of a three day intensive programme, which complements the SLIANZ annual conference. Various people said that the workshop had been a lot of fun and that they had appreciated the opportunity to learn and laugh at the same time.

A feedback form has been sent to all participants via Survey Monkey. There are options for feedback in written form or in NZSL. One of the questions asks for suggestions for future workshops; Connect is committed to providing ongoing professional development and will take any suggestions into consideration for the Connect Spring Workshop 2015.


Before returning to Auckland in October 2013 I had lived and worked for the previous 7 years as an interpreter in London. We had just added a new member to the family and so we started making plans to head back to New Zealand to be nearer to our families.

DarrelFrom London I made contact with Daniel Hanks from Connect. Dan had been my teacher on the AUT interpreting course while I studied there and, being among the rarity of ‘male’ interpreters and with an interest in mental health interpreting, we had found some common ground. From that contact I came to really appreciate Dan’s remarkable experience  and Connect’s commitment to the development, improvement and enhancing of the interpreting profession, and what is able to be offered to the Deaf community, wider society and interpreters themselves. In particular for me Dan’s constant work towards improving the services and provision in the area of Deaf mental health has been an inspiration. I was privileged to be offered a contract to work with Connect and this past year has been a rich and rewarding experience. Besides providing the bread and butter of high quality interpreting, Connect’s professional development, peer supervision and training sessions are amazing opportunities for development and insight.

As a contract interpreter I was entrusted with additional responsibilities in areas such as mentoring, developing training and being involved with more behind-the-scenes aspects of provision I had not had the opportunity to explore before. My timing was perfect because luckily for me, as part of Connect’s drive to develop and improve, this year they launched their online booking system, which has been an incredible success. It’s well-designed functionality making life easier for client and interpreter alike.

It has again been a family decision – now we have added another family member – to move back to London. And so it is with sadness that I will finish my work with Connect and their wonderful clients but I will take the exceptional experiences and inspirations I have had with me. Dan, Lynx, Shiz and all of the interpreters and clients I worked with have been amazingly supportive and I will miss you all hugely, and even though I wish them only the very best for the future I know they will continue to do incredible- and enviable- things!

Best wishes and big thanks to you all!