For many years now on and off since college I have had the privilege of being a Sign Language interpreter. I have had the opportunity to interpret for the birth of a child, for job training, for funerals and for two years in the public schools.
There are slightly varying philosophies on exactly what an interpreter’s job is, and if you are interested in knowing the prevailing standards you can look them up at the RID website. But in plain English this is what I try to do when I interpret.
As a Sign Language interpreter I don’t transliterate. That means I don’t sign word for word. There is not a sign to correspond to every single English word. Of course, all words can be spelled, but simply spelling doesn’t always convey clearly the meaning. The idea of interpreting well means being able to sign as closely as possible the real meaning, not necessarily each word. And a good interpreter becomes personally invisible. She becomes the conduit of the message. Facial expression and body language are crucial to being a good interpreter so some of who an interpreter is personally is bound to come through. But when I evaluate myself after a job, if I think I was able to accurately convey the whole meaning of a conversation, and I personally was barely noticed, then I believe I did a good job. When I interpreted for the deaf father at the birth of his child I was extremely excited but I had to stay calm and objective to make sure I didn’t miss a bit of what the doctor or the nurses were saying.
This is also my understanding of how God wants us to “interpret” the Good News….His word. By being a conduit of His Spirit and message, by being invisible and letting His Spirit shine out the truth, always ready to give an account of His goodness, but being personally invisible as we do.
This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. —1 Corinthians 2:13