June 2010 cover SCAN"St. Catherine University St. Catherine University
February 2011
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Four Hands Are Better Than Two

Teamwork is the trend for ASL interpreters

St. Kate's alumnae and professional American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters
Julie Olson Rand '08 and Tracy Koesel '04 both wore plain, dark clothing to a recent appointment to chat about the evolving field of ASL interpreting.

It wasn't just to underscore the theme of teamwork that ran through the conversation. The simple clothing, they explained, won't fight for attention with their hands as they sign. Koesel and Rand are proud graduates of St. Kate's ASL program, one of only seven accredited programs in the country.

What is a primary trend you see in the ASL field?

Tracy: Typically in the past, if interpreters worked in teams, they worked strictly 20/20 but didn't necessarily work together.

Julie: 20/20 means, for example, that she'll interpret for 20 minutes, and then we'll switch spots. Then I'll interpret for 20 minutes while she rests.

Tracy: Now our field is leaning more to an inclusive team process. It allows us to be more open and realize that we do affect a situation. We are, in fact, in the room together, and we can use each other to make sure that we're getting the job done, instead of being like, "You're on. I'm going to do a crossword puzzle."

Julie: Yeah, such as when someone has a strong accent, Tracy might be interpreting in front of a class while I'm off to the side, but I might be watching the speaker to see if I can understand the accent better. Instead of "off interpreter," I'm the support interpreter. I'm not sitting back. I'm still engaged. So I'm giving Tracy as much as I can understand. That way, we've got two brains working at the same time, so we make sure we get the best message.

Tracy: If I don't understand something, I'll look to her. Once I was in a class and I heard the words cow forest. And I immediately looked to my team and was like, "I know that's not right, but I swear I heard cow forest." So then my teammate quickly fed to me what she heard, which made more sense, which is what the teacher actually said.

Julie: What was it?

Tracy: It was cloud forest. I swear I heard cow. That's why we have a team.

Julie: Sometimes in day-to-day life you hear people's words wrong and you just ignore it. But when you're responsible for passing the message on to another person, you say, "Oh, my gosh. Did I just say that right?" If you have a team, you're more confident. — Kayla Schaefer

The Conversation

Julie Olson Rand '08 Julie Olson Rand '08
ASL Interpreter, University of Minnesota

Tracy Koesel '04 Tracy Koesel '04
ASL Interpreter, University of Minnesota