Power Position Effects on Educational Interpretation
As discussed in Outcomes of Power Positions in Sign Language Interpreting as well as in Medical and Business interpreting, we now consider the power position effects on educational interpretation. As a reminder, collaboration and partnerships should occur in all sign language interpretation.
Disclaimer: Examples are provided for reflection purposes only and may be “extreme” examples for that purpose. Examples are not real life scenarios, and any similarities to real persons or scenarios should not be inferred.
A Deaf Student in a College Classroom
Position 1: Sign Language Interpreter in the Power Position
The sign language interpreter arrives in the classroom early and decides where they will sit or stand. When the Deaf student arrives, the
interpreter tells the Deaf student where they need to sit if they intend to see the interpreter.
Once the class begins, the sign language interpreter sometimes responds to questions to which they know the answers. They exclude the Deaf student from socializing or answering on their own behalf.
During group work, the sign language interpreter socializes with students in a personal manner not enabling the Deaf student to interact. They do not interpret all small talk between themselves and the students.
At the end of the class the sign language interpreter leaves without acknowledging the Deaf student.
Position 2: Deaf Student in the Power Position
The sign language interpreter arrives in the classroom early and sets up a “temporary” position of where they will sit or stand. When the Deaf student arrives, they immediately direct the interpreter on where to sit or stand.
Once the class begins, the sign language interpreter does not acknowledge the Deaf student’s questions as quickly as the student would like. So the Deaf student takes time during class to train the sign language interpreter on how they should interpret.
During group work, the sign language interpreter makes friendly small talk with the other students and interprets what is said. The Deaf student does not wait for the interpretation but interrupts the small talk and requests that everything being said also be interpreted.
At the end of the class, the Deaf student leaves without acknowledging the sign language interpreter.
Position 3: Teacher in the Power Position
The sign language interpreter arrives in the classroom early, and the teacher informs them where they will sit or stand to interpret. The teacher also makes several demands as to when the interpreter should and should not interpret. When the Deaf student arrives, the teacher continues make their expectations known to the interpreter. They exclude the Deaf student from the conversation.
Class begins, and the teacher controls whose questions will be answered. They sometimes ignore the Deaf student’s raised hand, not always calling on them. The teacher may address the interpreter instead of the Deaf student.
During group work, the Deaf student is not put into a group because they cannot hear. The teacher also states that putting the sign language interpreter into the group would make the groups too large and would be disruptive.
Power position effects on educational interpretation are detrimental to the Deaf student’s learning process. Additionally, they may cause embarrassment when in a classroom setting with several participants. This teaches others that treating anyone this way is appropriate and “okay.”