ASTM International Standard for Interpreting – OHCIA presentation

Presentation given at the Oregon Healthcare Interpreters Association conference on October 17, 2015Closing presentation at OHCIA conference

Interpreting: A Framework of Teamwork
An ASTM Perspective
Helen Eby, owner of Gaucha TI, President of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters
ASTM Technical Contact for Translation Subcommittee F43.03

OSTI will host a meeting to present the Translation and Interpreting standards to stakeholders in a more in-depth presentation in January. Please check the OSTI events calendar.

This blog post is a text version of the PowerPoint presented at the OHCIA. Some information from the slides is not presented because it is in the link to the ASTM chart at the end of the blog post. This chart has been disseminated by members of the ASTM Interpreting Subcommittee. It is being distributed widely.

This is a brief preview of the ASTM Standard. Please click here to purchase the full Standard.

ASTM Technical committees are balanced so no excess influence is exercised by any interest group. Producers (interpreters, interpreter companies) are not to exceed users and general interest voters, so that producers listen to the needs of the users when writing the Standard.

ASTM Standards are:
 Referenced by government agencies in codes, certifications, regulations and laws. The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1996 requires that the Federal Government use technical standards developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies if compliance would not be inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impracticable.

 Cited in contracts
 Used globally by tens of thousands of individuals, companies and agencies

How are ASTM Standards approved?
 First step: Subcommittee balloting: 60% member participation, 80% approval. All negative votes must receive a thoughtful response from the Technical Contact, and the next version of the
Standard that goes to a vote must incorporate the changes.
 Main committee balloting: 60% member participation, 80% approval
 All negative votes must be addressed. To declare a negative vote non-persuasive, 90% of the Subcommittee must vote in agreement. It is a consensus standard!
 Producers must not hold more than 50% of votes
 One vote per organization.

Stakeholders involved in developing the Interpreting standard:
 Representatives in the F43.01 Drafting Group represented a wide area of interests:
 Court Interpreters (both federal and state)
 International conference interpreters (AIIC)
 Sign language interpreters
 U.S. Government agencies
 Interpreter unions
 Language Service companies
 CCHI (Medical interpreting)

Definitions from ASTM F2089-15:
Interpreting—the process of first fully understanding, analyzing, and processing a spoken or signed message and then faithfully rendering it into another spoken or signed language.

Modes of interpreting:
 Simultaneous
 Consecutive
 Sight translation

 Simultaneous Interpreting—the rendering of a speaker’s or signer’s message into another language while the speaker or signer continues to speak or sign.
 Consecutive Interpreting—the rendering of a speaker’s or signer’s message into another language when the speaker or signer pauses to allow interpreting.
 Sight Translation—the rendering of a written document directly into a spoken or signed language, not for purposes of producing a written document.
Note from the speaker: When a sight translation is performed so someone can transcribe it, it is no longer a sight translation!

Delivery modalities:
› On-site
› Remote (video or phone)

Clients should choose their delivery modalities considering the cost/benefit issues, and interpreters should be aware of the tradeoffs involved as well. At times, remote interpreting is the only reasonable option, such as when a non-English speaking family drives up to a funeral home. In that case, video interpreting would be an excellent solution for the first appointment. Follow up appointments should be scheduled with an in-person interpreter if at all possible. However, the first appointment is generally not scheduled.

According to AIIC studies, interpreters lose their accuracy in half the time when compared to on-site interpreting. Click here to see the study.

According to a study published in PubMed, encounters with limited English proficient patient have been shown to take the following amounts of time in the Emergency Room with different types of language access services:
In-person interpreters 116 minutes
Remote interpreting 141 minutes
Bilingual providers 153 minutes

What skills are involved in interpreting?
 Concentration
 Knowledge of subject matter
 Research skills
 Comprehension
 Analytical skills
 Short term auditory and visual memory
 Consecutive note taking
 Cultural awareness
 Clear delivery and signing
 Interpersonal skills
 Flexibility

Some indications of competency or qualifications:
 Post-secondary education
 Interpreter training by post-secondary institution
 Certification by a professional organization
 […] performance examination or experience or both.

These qualifications and competency levels were determined based on the list of skills that need to be performed simultaneously above. Interpreting is a very complex skill that demands much more than simply being bilingual. Therefore, a high level of bilingual skills is essential to be able to negotiate the many interpreting skills involved.

Sometimes more than one interpreter is required.

 Why?
 To reduce the risk of error resulting from fatigue, during lengthy assignments interpreters should work in teams and alternate at regular predetermined intervals. Interpreting is extremely mentally taxing because the interpreter is under pressure to preserve the form and full content of the source language message.
Consecutive Interpreting: It is recommended that two interpreters be hired for meetings longer than 2 hours or dealing with complex, technical and/or specialized subjects.
Simultaneous Interpreting: Two Interpreters shall be assigned per language for any event lasting over one hour. Interpreters should alternate every 15 to 30 minutes.

This level of service is not often provided, and some of the speakers at the OHCIA conference mentioned their desire to see this happen. When interpreters perform interpreting beyond these guidelines, their quality suffers no matter how good they are as professionals. As a result, the reputation of the profession suffers. The service the listeners receive is not the desired quality.

At the end of an appointment, all people remember is the level of the quality at the end of the appointment. If we persisted past the point of reasonable endurance, the predictable level of quality is poor. It reflects poorly on our profession and on our personal reputation. Can we afford this personally? Can a growing profession afford this? Can the person receiving the service afford this?

Code of Professional Conduct
 Impartiality
 Conflicts of interest
 Confidentiality
 Competency
 Accuracy
 Professional development
 Professional demeanor
 Not listed: advocacy – Not allowed in Washington State or in court interpreting.

What does Professional Demeanor mean?
› Be prepared
› Be punctual
› Be polite, respectful and tactful to all parties
› Be dressed appropriately
› Avoid attracting undue attention to him/herself

To work through these issues and others presented in the ASTM Standard, Helen Eby has developed a worksheet. It is freely available for use at this link.

When all parties work with this worksheet, starting with the person who answers the phone call from the requester who asks for an interpreter, it is easy to answer the interpreter’s questions about resources, what the appointment is about, etc.

When Helen Eby has used this process, her clients have appreciated this and have said, “Wow! You are a professional!” Clarifying expectations ahead of time sets things up so interpreters are able to prepare for appointments, not perform beyond their capabilities, etc. This process supports professional performance.

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