Sign Language Interpreters are Only Human

~ Authored by Christine Phelps

I have a confession to make.  I make mistakes.  So do you, and as such we are flawed.  And I mean ALL of us.  We make mistakes because we sign language interpreters are only human.  So what?  Can’t we just put them in the past and move forward like nothing ever happened?  The answer is no.  Not that you cannot try, but it is going to be impossible.  Professional blunders can either have a positive or negative impact on our careers and daily energy.  How do we spin the inevitable to benefit our work?

My Own Worst Enemysign language interpreters are only human - Christine Phelps

If you’re anything like me, you ARE your toughest critic.  Striving for perfection, you are acutely aware of every single mistake in your work and struggle to find peace.  Ignoring the mistake doesn’t bring satisfaction but only creates more stress within yourself as you adapt your professional persona to bear the weight of this source of unresolved conflict.  Don’t let this be you.  Please read this message and take it to heart.  Repeat it to yourself aloud several times until it feels convincing: It is OKAY to make mistakes.  We ALL do.  Mistakes are a part of life, and this includes life for interpreters.

Perfection is Impossible

Remember that perfection is impossible.  We can strive every day to not miss a single finger-spelled word.  It’s never going to happen.  As long as you are trying your best, that’s all you can ask of yourself and that is good enough because remember, sign language interpreters ARE ONLY HUMAN.

Own Your Faults

Mistakes are opportunities for growth, and be sure to take full advantage of them instead of wasting your energy fretting over something you cannot got back and change.  Owning your faults and showing you’ve grown because of them is the number one way to earn the trust of your colleagues and Deaf and Hearing clientele.  Ownership, honesty, and growth reflect your dedication to the sign language interpreting profession and the Deaf Community.

Finally, your mistakes do not need to define the kind of interpreter you are.  Don’t let them.  Recognize them as a natural part of life.  If it gets rough, just stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you are stronger than your mistake.  Remind yourself that you will overcome.  And rely on your qualifications, education, and mentor advice.

Be Kind and Grow

So please, be kind to yourself because sign language interpreters are only human.  Accept mistakes as an inevitable part of life and view them as opportunities for growth.  You’ll be happier, healthier, and a more skilled professional because of it.  In the words of Adrian Monk, “Trust me. You’ll thank me later.”


Additional Resources:

Sign Language Interpreters Often Clarify Details – MT&A

Using Consistent Sign Language Interpreters – MT&A

Reducing Stress as Sign Language Interpreters – MT&A

The Freedom to Make Mistakes – VCI

Perfect Interpreters Need Not Apply – VCI


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