Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Interpreter From Hell

It was a regular appointment. Well, regular to me. I'd been seeing this doctor on a regular basis since 2001 and he'd always been very good at making sure there was an interpreter present. Or maybe I should say that his nurse had been good about that.

Anyway, I went into the appointment without knowing who would be interpreting. This happens often in the Deaf world. As I entered the room, I saw an older woman sitting in a chair and she smiled and signed, "I'm Candy." (a pseudonym) I responded and we sat and waited for the doctor to arrive.

As we sat, we started chatting and I noticed that she looked quite confused when I tried to interact with her. I asked if she was OK and she nodded yes, so I didn't really worry about it.

When the doctor finally came in with his nurse, they both proceeded to ask me questions and my interpreter stumbled. She continuously asked them to repeat or slow down. And when I say "continuously," I don't mean five times. I mean almost every sentence! What's worse is when I signed back to them, she couldn't understand me. I watched her lips and, from what I could tell, they were not flapping in the right direction, if you know what I mean. I got so bad that, finally, we had to resort to actually writing back and forth with the interpreter just sitting there! I was so upset! I couldn't believe that this woman not only was certified, but that she, a QA 1, was sent to this kind of appointment to begin with!

Oh, my gosh! It was truly hell. And as we closed the appointment, I was quick to write the nurse to make sure to tell the interpreting agency to never schedule that woman to interpret for me again! Awful! Awful, awful, awful! I'm still traumatized by this and may never heal. I am victim of bad interpreting. And anyone who knows anything about the Deaf community, knows that this could very well end in years and years of laying on my back on a couch, talking about my childhood to a man who sits in a chair, smoking a pipe. My life has now been drastically changed and I will forever live in it's doom. Melodramatic? Maybe. But doesn't it make the story that much more interesting?


  1. So sorry to hear this tragic experience you had with awful, awful interpreter at your doctor appointment. Yea, I think it is best to notify your interpreter agency to use your qualification/selected interperters skills for your health and/or legal consultants in the future appointments. I had went thru before and yet I can not believe that the lowest level skilled interpreter who wants to take a big job despite of poor skills of translating..Sigh.. hope it will be your first and last one.

  2. Well, you rest assured that will soon be changing. I am from Michigan too, and as you probably know, the QA test is changing.

    They are raising the minimum requirements to even get a QA I. Also, there will be three seperate tests, a QA I test, a QA II test, and a QA III test. You must start with the QA I test, wait six months, then take the QA II test, wait six months, then take the QA III test.

    No more of this QA I that we have now that can only successfully interpret 65% of the information.

    Sheryl Emery, the director of DODHH is working hard to make sure the deaf community has equal access through quality interpreting services. The new test should be implemented in the fall.

    Sorry to hear about your terrible doctor's appointment. I can't believe the terp didn't understand you! I looked at your vlog on your website, and you are very clear!

    Have a great day!

  3. The new QA testing sounds awesome! There's a chance I might play a role in it, but I won't say anything else until I know more. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Yeah, QA1 usually means "can't sign their way out of a paper bag", pretty much.... I won't take anyone under level 3, and even that sometimes is a bit iffy....

  5. Yeah, I think we should just raise the bar to certified only.

    Seriously, why do we need this QA stuff?