Deconstructing “common sense”: normative ethics and decision-making by sign language interpreters

Autor/a: CALLE ALBERDI, Lourdes
Año: 2015
Editorial: Humak University, 2015
Tipo de código: Copyright
Soporte: Digital


Traducción e Interpretación


Sign language interpreters must continuously make context-based decisions (Dean & Pollard, 2013). Those decisions need to articulate the normative material available in the profession, mainly the code of ethics and role metaphors, in view of the specific characteristics of a given assignment. In this regard, different studies have reported a gap between what Dean and Pollard have called “rhetoric versus de facto” practice (Dean & Pollard, 2005), meaning that what interpreters acknowledge as how the profession should conduct its work differs from what interpreters do in their current practice. In a previous study conducted with experienced Spanish Sign Language interpreters (Calle-Alberdi, 2015a) a pattern seemed to come up: some of the interpreters used the term “common sense” in their narratives when talking about a decision that did not fully comply to did not fully comply to these interpreters' understanding of the code of ethics. This study is an initial attempt to describe and analyse how Spanish Sign Language interpreters understand the profession’s normative messages. In this way, it examines the reasoning patterns that emerge when Spanish Sign Language interpreters use the term “common sense” as an explanation for their decisions.

In this study, a meta-ethical approach is adopted to explore and describe how Spanish Sign Language interpreters understand and talk about ethics. Ten sign language interpreters, all with at least ten years of experience in the field, participated in the study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and subsequently analysed using a thematic analysis methodology with an inductive-deductive approach. The data suggest, among other things, that Spanish practitioners use the term “common sense” to refer to and legitimise decisions that tend to be liberal, meaning they imply action (Dean & Pollard, 2005, 2013). These decisions usually contradict what interpreters understand the normative messages stipulate, especially the ideas conveyed by the “conduit” role metaphor that conveys the idea of the interpreter as a professional whose professional responsibility implies not going beyond the mere transfer of messages between event participants. However, the participants justify their decisions by calling for consideration of the factors present in a given situation, meaning making context-based decisions. This approach seems to contradict the deontological, or rule-based, approach to ethics present in most of the normative material available for Spanish interpreters.