Role Performance in an Interpreted
From the previous chapter it is clear that an interpreter's role is more than that of passing messages back and forth; it is also a role that manages the communication process of exchanging those messages. In this chapter, I begin with a discussion of how the role has been and, in many ways, still is conceived. To investigate further the performance of that role and its implications for norms in interpreting, I analyze four examples of interpreter performance.
Practicing interpreters are aware of the public and professional expectations of and demands on their practice, most of which are concerned with confidentiality, neutrality, accuracy, and faithfulness to the message. Interpreters often describe their role "as the person in the middle" by using a metaphor which conveys the image or impression that they serve as a bridge or channel through which communication happens. This channel is supposed to relay a message from one speaker to another faithfully, accurately, and without personal or emotional bias. The performance of this role has been compared to a machine, a window, a bridge, and a telephone line--among others--when trying to compress the complexity of the role into a simple, singular analogy or metaphor.
This perspective developed, in part, from practitioners, educators, and researchers who have devoted the bulk of their attention to interpreters working within public and monologic contexts. In these public forums interpreters usually are interpreting for speakers who speak one at a time to typically nonresponsive audiences. In these events, an interpreter's role appears conduit like, passive, and noninvolved.