12. Sign Language interpreters and role conflict in the workplace

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The issue of role conflict and role confusion is one of the primary difficulties facing sign language interpreters (SLIs) working in employment settings. The source of this conflict is complex, multi-layered and has its origins deeply rooted in traditional models of interpreting. SLIs are struggling with their roles and responsibilities in relation to their client groups, with all the implications of power and oppression that are grounded in the history of relations between Deaf and hearing communities (Ladd 2003; Cokely 2005). They are also faced with a daily battle, conducted both internally and externally, with the ways in which their role is perceived. The more recent concept of the interpreter as an active, highly visible third participant in interpreted interaction (Wadensjö 1998; Roy 2000) is continually coming up against the unexamined, unreconstructed models which tend to be assumed by default.With SLIs frequently expected to switch between confidant, co-worker, interpreter, assistant and advocate within a single interpreted interaction, it is no wonder that this unpredictability results in confusion and inconsistency, with SLIs reporting feelings of guilt, anxiety and frustration.<br />Drawing upon ongoing research into the role of SLIs in the workplace setting, including highly revealing practitioner journals, this chapter will examine the difficulties and challenges that SLIs face in the very specific public service sector of workplace interpreting, and will address practical and theoretical implications for the field.


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