Sommige collega’s hebben bijzondere hobby’s. Zo hebben twee vlotte dames uit Ierland, Ciara en Romy, een eigen podcast! In een interview vertellen ze alles over The Lean Podcast, dat gepaard gaat met een hoop gelach en soms niet bij te houden Iers.
Het interview is in het Engels afgenomen.
For a start, would you like to introduce yourselves to our readers, who may not know you yet?
Ciara: Hi, my name is Ciara and I am an Irish sign language interpreter. I’ve been interpreting now for almost four and a half years. I qualified in 2016, I studied in the Centre for Deaf Studies in Trinity College Dublin. Since then, I’ve worked in all sorts of situations, as we do as interpreters! I’m obsessed with interpreting... what else can I say really? In my spare time I like to look after my plants and... yeah, I think that’s me in a nutshell!
Romy: Hi, I’m Romy, I also went to Trinity, Ciara and I were in the same cohort, so I graduated in 2016 too. I had a bit of a career trajectory change and got an internship in the European Parliament with a deaf member, Helga Stevens. I worked for six months in Brussels. It was like, ‘’oh that’s cool, and now we’ll go home!’’ and then I got a job at the European Union of the Deaf and ended up staying in Brussels for like, two years and working and learning International Sign. And then, I came back and I was like, ‘’let’s try this freelance thing!’’, so I worked as an Irish sign language – IS – English freelance interpreter there for about 18, 19 months. And now I’m a staff interpreter with Overseas Interpreting. And in my spare time I also look after plants, inspired by Ciara’s amazing plant collection. Mine has grown throughout the pandemic massively. I’m a plant mama and I like to nest. They’re my things, my fond little side pieces.
C: If we talk too fast, just tell us to slow down, because we are the fastest talkers. We’re aware of it! We have to interpret ourselves and we hate ourselves, we’re the worst. I’m an interpreter and I’m the worst to interpret for. I’m like ‘’Ciara, you should know this, this is what you do’’, you know, but no.
Romy: No, and then we thought, we’ll do it in sign language and then we’ll be ‘slower’, because it’s our second language and then we’ll work into English, that’s the way to go … no. No.
We will definitely come back to this, because this was one of the first questions that popped into my head when I was listening and looking and I thought ‘’how does that work?’’, I need clarification on that. We’ll get back to that! I think that it’s good that we know a bit more about your backgrounds and what you do as interpreters, since it’s so different from what we know here in the Netherlands. It’s good for us to know that there are different ways of doing the interpreting. For example, the internship in Brussels, I don’t think we ever heard of something like that.
R: There aren’t very many is the honest truth. I remember it was professor Lorraine Leason who at the time was head of our department. She kind of forwarded all of the internship to us, because Helga Stevens, she was an MEP in the last European Parliament block, for the five years. She basically wanted to create a conference with all sign languages from Europe. So, she was looking for two interns to basically co-coordinate this massive event, like over a thousand participants. We had like 70+ interpreters.
That was the one in 2016, right?
R: Right, so that was what I was coordinating in the background. It was me, Tina Vrbanić and Annika Pabsch, who was our boss, an amazing human being who helped us make that real. It was intense! But that’s what I mean, it was very much a one-off situation, in terms of an internship at that level. But there are things that kind of pop up, where interpreters are. It’s worth keeping an eye on the Brussels bubble. Because things do pop up!
And don’t you think that there might be a preference for native English-speaking interpreters? Because I can imagine that it’s more difficult or not as fruitful to train someone who is a second language learner of English.
R: Well, Tina Vrbanić, who was my co-trainee, she is from Croatia. So English is her third or fourth language. And actually, one of your colleagues, Maya de Wit, English isn’t her native language, but she works with it.
I thought it was actually? Or isn’t it?
R: I’m a native English speaker, so I don’t know, but she’s a polylingual, she knows so many languages. But there’s like, Brigitte (Francois, red.), I can’t remember her second name, she is a native French speaker, LSFB user, like there’s loads of colleagues. Gerdinand (Wagenaar, red.) too, he’s native Dutch and then learned English. I don’t think it’s ever about investment in native English speakers. As a native English speaker, I can’t say this, but I think other interpreters may see a big difference, like ‘’oh, I’m not a native English speaker, so I shouldn’t apply for these things’’... I’m not any better because I’m a native English speaker. I have one spoken language that I work with, where my colleagues have like three or four. I am far behind because I’m a privileged English speaker... you know what I mean? I don’t think there’s any less of an investment working with someone who has more languages. I’m consistently blown away by interpreters who are working to and from their third and fourth languages. Like, it blows me away! I’m working with a first language nearly every day. It would be a better investment in someone with multiple languages, because they would be able to go to more events than I will, as someone who only speaks one language. Well, works with one spoken language.
Well, that’s a perspective I didn’t think of. It totally makes sense, somehow, I just thought that... with interpreting from English, that’s a service I don’t mind offering, because that is easier with using passive English, rather than active English.
R: Still, having the capacity to go passively from two languages is better than me, who can only work from one language. Maya is a great example, she can work from German, English, Dutch, that’s three languages. If you go to a European Commission event and you have three speakers from these languages, she doesn’t have to put on a headset. She can work directly from the languages, as opposed to me, who would have to work from a relay interpretation. There’s definitely a bonus in being multi-spoken-lingual as multi-sign-lingual.
I can’t get past your argument, that’s spot on.
R: It’s a confidence thing. I think we’re here to work with each other, like this, you’re doing this to write the interview to get the podcast out there. The podcast is something we worked on to build this community. To encourage things like this, these kinds of conversations to give people the confidence to go for something they wouldn’t have done before.
This is a perfect crossover to my second question: How and where did you come up with the idea to start a podcast?
C: Okay, we need to be clear here, unless you haven’t guessed already: myself and Romy…nerds. Massive nerds. True nerds. And obsessed with interpreting. Truly obsessed. Like, we can’t stop talking about it, right, Romy? It has always been. So, me and Romy’s lives would be filled with voice messages, especially when Romy would be travelling quite a bit for work. So, we’d be messaging back and forth. And we were like ‘’oh, Romy, you know, we talking about interpreting so much, but I just really want to put it into, like, words, or like create something that would be useful, for on the ground interpreters and their everyday life’’. Because articles are wonderful, truly. But sometimes you also kind of need practical things that you can put into use every single day. And we were like ‘’what could we create, what could we do?’’. So, we’re sending voice notes back and forth and these are extensive. Like, there’s a lot of voice notes going back and forth between us. And I’d be looking at my phone, thinking ‘’Imagine if we’d just joined up all of the voice notes in WhatsApp into one, big, long voice note…that’s what we should create!’’. And then I sent a message to Romy: ‘’Romy, should we start a podcast?’’ And I’m great with coming up with ideas, but sometimes the follow through, not always there, where Romy is like ‘’yes, we’re going to put it into action!’’. And that is what happened and we created a podcast.
R: We did. And it was really funny, because it kind of started out like a little joke. Like Ciara said in the beginning, we were like ‘’oh, we’d love to write an article together, we’d love to do research together’’, because we’d love to look into things more. But we were really conscious, if we ever went down that road, we wanted it to be accessible. Because there are some academic articles that are like ‘’o my god, I really need a thesaurus to be looking up things’’ while reading it, and we really wanted it to be accessible, like Robyn Dean and Robert Pollard’s ‘Demand Control Scheme’. Something very easy to read, we were thinking that. And then the voice notes happened and we were like, we can do research down the line!
This is definitely a more accessible way to talk about our work. We don’t all have the time or patience to dig through an academic article (after work), even when we’re interested in our jobs aside the work itself. I think a podcast is an addition to the field, since it’s so accessible, next to academic work.
R: We’ve been so lucky to have some incredible people on, who are either really academic, or practical. They’ve brought their perspective in a really cool way where it’s like not as formal as a university lecture. It’s more like ‘’let’s just chat about it!’’. It’s been really amazing to have those conversations.
It’s livelier in a dialogue than when you put it on paper. So, going back to you being massive nerds: In one episode it is revealed that you are not just colleagues (who prefer to work with each other), but friends as well. This is something I can hear in the podcasts too of course! :-) What came first, the friendship or your work relationship?
C: Well, we studied together. So, we were in the same little class – shout out to our class! – what a crew, what a group! We’re also obsessed with them, so much as interpreting. So, we studied together, we were a very small class, about five or six of us and we went through a lot together. And I don’t know about you and your interpreter training, but it’s truly quite an experience. And there are bonds that are created when you’re going through your training, that will never be broken. Truly, we were such good friends, from being such a tight-knit class. And then, it’s just a dream to work with your friends, not everybody gets to work with their friends when they start working. It was just a dream.
R: For sure, and post-university, we were there for each other anyway, because we have all gone on. You start your interpreter journey, you all go out in the world, you all start having different experiences, trying to figure things out. And you always come back to your original group like ‘’how does this work? What is happening?’’. Because it’s such a big jump from being in a classroom to being suddenly the interpreter in the room. There was a lot of support and a lot of back and forth… It was friendship first, and like Ciara said, it’s an experience you never forget, learning how to interpret. Particularly for sign language and in such a small cohort. We kind of grew and developed together. And then you work together and it just clicks, because you’ve done all the hard work together, that you know each other, what works and what doesn’t.
I can imagine forming friendships in such a tight group, but I’m curious, how does that relate to liking working with each other? During the training, everyone grows in different ways, everyone has different talents, which makes the interpreting different. That doesn’t always match. How did you get to the point where you realized that you match well professionally?
C: I think, from literally day one when we began training, we we’re just so lucky with the wonderful group that we had. We were very supportive of each other, so it was never like ‘’I’m going to do this or that’’, it was constantly about helping each other, supporting each other, building each other up, telling each other when maybe you need to do something slightly different, but in a really nice way. We were truly fully training to be team interpreters, if you like, so we were trained to work as a team, like really intensely. And when you do that from day one in your training and then you start to work, it’s part of you, it kind of comes naturally. It comes straight away. So, myself and Romy and the other interpreters we trained with, we knew exactly how we liked to work, because we learned that together. We learned from each other how each of us likes to work. You know each other so well personally, but also in the sense of how each of use likes to work.
R: I totally agree. And having different... I don’t think that has to be a bad thing, because as a team, a task pops up… Ciara and I have done really intense jobs together and it’s playing the strengths of your team as much as possible. And because you’ve training together and you know each other so well, you know the strengths of the team to be able to play that. And it’s never like, when you work with people that you’re not so familiar with and because they’ve got 10-15 years of experience, you’re like ‘’you have the lead, you make these decisions, that’s totally fine’’. But when it’s with Ciara and I, we are a team. There isn’t one lead; maybe someone is the representative and brings the information forward to the deaf and hearing client, but it is decisions made on very equal, open and honest level playing field, so that we know how to manage the situation.
Ciara mentioned that you learn how to team interpret in college, was this also part of your curriculum? Was this important in college?
C: Yes, it was part of our curriculum as well as we asked for it. We were very lucky to study in the Centre for Deaf Studies, a wonderful place! I suppose it wasn’t just a formal part of our curriculum, but it was when we’d be given tasks for something to interpret. We would naturally work together as a team. We’d naturally consult each other and work together. It was those informal skills that we built that really helped us when we came out in the world and actually went working as an interpreter and worked with other team interpreters. There was a formal and an informal element of how we collaborated and worked together as a group.
R: Absolutely. And I know that we were a very lucky group, because there were six of us when we started out. That was quite a big cohort, on average they have two to three a year. So having six was like quite nice to pair off and we could work in many different possible combinations of teams within that six. And when we were going through the curriculum, there was definitely that formal part and they did talk about strategies to work together as a team. And there was a time when they asked ‘’is there anything you want to focus on just that bit more?’’ and we as a group were like, we’d really like to do more on teaming. And we did focus on that for quite a few weeks, where we would just be focusing on how to support each other and how to work together. It’s a four-year program, but it’s the last two years interpreting. It’s a bachelor in Deaf Studies and when I first came in, I didn’t have any sign language, Ciara didn’t either, nothing. You go in like, you’ve finished school and this is what you’ve chosen to do and the first two years are really a broad spectrum, with Deaf Studies, linguistics, language acquisition… very broad. And you’d have nine hours of sign language classes. That’s the first two years. In your second year, you pick your specialization for the final two years. The options are sign language teaching, interpreting or further Deaf Studies and research. To get into the interpreting module, you have to have high marks in sign language, you have to do a module on translation and interpretation and you have a project where you need to have high marks. They want you to come in with a very good foundation, so that you can keep going, because it’s so intense for these two years. It’s a rollercoaster.
So, it’s two different things basically?
R: You get a foundation in Deaf Studies and a run through ISL, Irish Sign Language, and by the time you are at the end of the second year, you can have a basic conversation, you’re not high up fluent yet, you’re still figuring it out and learning. And the third and fourth year for the interpreting program, you’re thrown into it. You’re in the deep end, you’re suddenly working with languages in a way you’ve never worked before and you’re working with a sign language that you’re still learning as well. I know now, we’re at four years, we’re definitely still learning a lot about the language, but at that time it was a much steeper learning curve. Because there was still a lot of nuances that we weren’t familiar with. And I always remember there were times like when we were working into English and our lecturer would be like ‘’why didn’t you see that?’’ and we’d be like ‘’we didn’t know it was a thing in the sign language! This is all new…’’. Yeah, it was a steep learning curve.
It’s so interesting to hear that for you a big group means six people. I started in a class with 25 interpreters. I’m therefore amazed to hear you say you had a big cohort! Also, the fact that you could give input on what you wanted to learn in your curriculum, with the team interpreting, that’s not a thing here. Everyone goes through their own studies, we have some assignments such as papers we write together, but there’s no such thing as learning how to team. Teaming can be unknown territory and therefore scary, but you don’t have that, because you already know how to work together. That’s beautiful.
R: Within our team, for sure, and with similar minded interpreters, that’s definitely the case. There are so many interpreters who are willing and want to work as a team, but there are those who are fearful of working as a team, there are those who are hesitant. We’re still professionalizing and figuring stuff out, you know. It’s always just a thing of trying to learn and move together as a group.
It’s great that you got to discover that during your training and got the opportunity to work with friends.
Back to the podcast, tell me a bit about how planning and preparing a podcast episode works. How do you decide which guests to invite for example?
C: First, we did a series and then we did a miniseries. In our series, we had a big long list of different topics that we’d like to discuss. From the outset, we were always like ‘’look, we’re not experts in any shape or form, whatsoever’’, so these are really just what we think they might be. I think we really wanted someone who kind of knows what these things are to come on and give us a deeper insight and a deeper understanding. What we did first was, we made a list of topics and we said, we pick about six. And then we thought, who could we ask, that we know who would be willing to do this? It’s very new, and it’s kind of scary, because it’s always scary to put yourself out there in public, particularly when no one had done it, like this kind of thing before, especially here in Ireland. We were like, who will we ask? So, we had our list, we had topics like teamwork, preparation, soft skills, deaf interpreting, self-care. So, we had these topics, great, who will we ask? We were very lucky that the interpreting community in Ireland were very open to us and were willing to join us. We had – speaking of our class again – two of our classmates join us, and we had some really experienced interpreters, so willing to give up their time and their knowledge. Once we had gotten our guests on board, we thought, we’re going to need a structure for our podcast. We decided to use a similar structure for every podcast: we have myself and Romy come on, we have our chats, we think about what we think the topic is and then we introduce our guest and ask them four questions. We ask them a bit about themselves, what they think the topic is, to give us a specific example that sticks out in their mind and finally we ask them for a little top tip or a part of wisdom to throw into the world, about anything. We’ve had some really interesting top tips on the podcast. So that’s the basis of how we structure it, but it’s very loose, they’re very open questions, we didn’t want to be fixed in any way. We wanted to be very chatty, easy going, very much conversation based. Nothing is scripted, everything is based on the conversation, what comes up in it.
R: For the first half, we tend to go over the topic and make bullet points, so there isn’t dead air, like ‘’uuuuh’’, sometimes you just need that little bit of ‘’okay, this has come to a natural conclusion’’, we’re staring at each other, we look at notes and okay, the conversation is back on track. But like Ciara said, we try to keep it as chatty as possible.
Do you record everything in one take?
R: When we do it the first time around, whether it’s in English or in sign language, when it’s the natural conversation, we always do it in one take. Quite a few guests have come in with an idea of exactly what they want to say, and then when they start, sometimes they say ‘’wait, stop, can we go back?’’. And we’re like, totally, and we clip that out.
So now you have mad editing skills then?
R: Ciara and I have always been like, we’re going to be a homemade podcast, you know, it’s going to be a little rough around the edges, the icing will never be perfect, but it’ll taste good! That’s always what we’ve gone for, so I’ve definitely gone back through episodes and been like, ‘’no, you just ruined this editing job’’, but sure, I did it.
Your podcast is fully accessible: you post videos on YouTube in ISL, with English captions. How does that work? Which language is the ‘original’? How do you interpret yourselves? And how does it work when you have a deaf guest, who’s interpreted by one of your colleagues, does that mean you interpret yourselves to English, with your colleague there? It seems complicated!
C: It’s the question we probably get asked the most, to be honest. It actually depends on the guests. We’ve had some guests who preferred to record in English first, and we’ve had some that preferred to record in ISL first. Not just our deaf guests, we’ve had our hearing guests as well, who wanted to do it in sign language first, because they feel that what they want to express, they are better able to put it in sign first and then interpret it back later. So, whichever we choose to do, now, I suppose we should say, we had pre-covid days and now we have post-covid, or well, covid-days. We originally began this pre-2020. We used to all meet in one place, in Romy’s house, right there, where she is right now. We would invite our guests to Romy’s for tea and we would either set up our microphone or the camera and we would record through. We’d ask our questions, do the whole conversation. And then after we recorded that, we’d get our recordings ready and we would translate it into whatever the other language we were going into. When we were in person, we would do it directly afterwards. So, it was quite a take! That’s how we would do it. And then in one of our episodes where we had Teresa Lynch, our deaf interpreter, come on to chat with us, we were very lucky to have Tracey Daly – who was also one of our guests – interpret it for us. So, Tracey was also there during the whole episode. And once we hit into remotely doing our podcasts, things changed a little bit. So, we did a little miniseries, we were very lucky to be sponsored and do it in collaboration with the Sign Language Interpreting Service, here in Ireland. That meant that we were able to actually get an interpreter to interpret the pieces. Sorry, I should have mentioned, let’s just go back a sec, when we’d be translating ourselves, we translate ourselves, if that makes sense. So, I translate me, Romy translates her, and then our guest translates themselves or the interpreter translates the guest. That’s how we would do it. When we did our little miniseries, the same thing happened, it’s just that everything was recorded remotely. Normally we would do the original recording first, and then a little while later, we got the interpreter – the lovely Aisling Dragoi, shout out! – to interpret the episode then. So, it really depends on the guest, whether they want to do it in English or in ISL first.
R: Since we’ve gone for international guests, we have tended to do them in English first, because we’ve had American Sign Language interpreters, British Sign Language interpreters, I’m missing someone… Canadian Sign Language interpreters. Those we do in English. I know a colleague of mine who lives in Belgium, she’s a native French speaker, and she asked me if it was okay if they could translate it into French and I’m like, go for it! But it’s a massive task. We’ve had to do it from a spoken language to a sign language, to written form. We want it to be accessible, but it does take time to do these kinds of things. So, when she said, it won’t be ready this week or next week, I was like, I totally understand, it does take time. But it’s worth it! When we set this up, we didn’t want it to be a tokenistic thing of like, talking about sign language interpreting, particularly when there are deaf interpreters. We can’t talk about interpreting without considering our deaf interpreting colleagues.
C: Or the deaf community, because we wouldn’t be interpreters without the deaf community, so we have to make sure it’s accessible.
R: And I think it’s worked, it has worked, from what we’ve got from feedback, and people have been interested and deaf community members have been like ‘’oh, never thought of the interpreter perspective before, it’s been nice to see that side of things as well’’. So yeah, it’s been interesting. It’s been a lot of fun trying to figure it out and get it out there in the best way possible. But again, homemade project!
So that means that every episode has a different original language? When I listen to them, I don’t hear any difference in the English, it has the same bubbliness and enthusiasm, even though the original is ISL.
R: That’s been a challenge in itself, because we did want to give the best product in all formats it was going to come out in. So, Ciara and I were saying, we would do it in English first and we’d translate it into sign language and we’d be really pissed with ourselves. While in English it might be a single take, in sign language it’s definitely not! Because we’re like ‘’go back there, Romy’s gone too far ahead, too quick, we need to go back’’, you know. So, there are definitely more takes to get that right. I mean, it’s been a challenge to interpret ourselves, but it’s been a fun challenge and we tried as much as possible to get the vibe in all aspects of it.
C: And I think that’s a perk of interpreting yourself, as we said, we’re the worst to interpret for, but also, you always know what it was that you wanted to say and what was the intent of what you were trying to say! So, you’ve got a little background knowledge, that you don’t always get when you interpret for someone else maybe, so that’s truly insider info that we have.
R: It’s a different form, I remember in college we would do self-analysis, but it’s a very different thing when you’re watching yourself produce something naturally and to interpret that back. And there have been times when Ciara and I had recorded let’s say, one part in ISL... we kind of had a checklist of what we needed to do and it takes six, seven months to get a series out, and we would be like ‘’ oooh, this was done five months ago, what did we say...’’. And we had to listen to it again. But there’s a lot of leeway, because it’s you, so you can have a little bit more fun with it. We represent people when we interpret and we always try to do the best to represent them as we understand them to be. But when you get to represent yourself, it’s so much more fun!
And just to clear it up for myself, you mentioned that you do an episode in English when you have international guests. How does that work with the sign language interpreting part, because then they would use their own sign language, or would it be interpreted by someone else?
C: For the ones we’ve had so far, we’ve had an interpret in. So that meant we could have an international guest. Romy is great on the International Sign, I am not quite as skilled on IS, so that’s not really an option. But we had an interpreter, so they interpreted the guest and we interpreted ourselves. We wanted to make it look as natural a conversation as we could.
R: We keep saying, we’re an English-Irish Sign Language podcast. I know, there was definitely one person on Twitter who said, you should do it in International Sign. But it then becomes really, very political. We kind of made the decision in the beginning that if we would do it, we would do it in a national sign language and a national spoken language, with the view that if anyone wanted it, they could take it and translate it in their sign language, in their spoken language. Because we wanted to be… IS is a good tool, but it’s not accessible to everyone. If there’s someone in France, who wants to listen to this, if they watch IS, are they going to get the same enjoyment from it? We’re not so sure, so we really wanted to do it in a national sign language and spoken language, so people could take it and translate it as much as they wanted, rather than trying to do IS and getting political. It is what we can do and sometimes it is also a jigsaw puzzle for us, how to make it work.
Ciara mentions her original quote quite a few times: Teamwork is dreamwork. What does your teamwork look like while doing the podcast? How do you divide the workload? Who is responsible for what?
R: The way we divide the labour between us is that I do the voice recordings and I edit the voice, that’s my remise. For Ciara, it tends to be her computer or her phone that does the visuals and then she does the video editing. That’s what we did with our first series. The second series, we hired someone and Lord, a lot of the help was great. It was so easy to hand it off, ‘’here you go!’’. So, you have to listen to the entire audio and we try to keep it not too long, we don’t want it to be more than 50 minutes where possible. We have dreams of it being 30 minutes, but it never works out that way. It’s always interesting and chatty. So, you have to listen to this hour and 20-minute piece and then you have to make decisions about what we’re taking out. And then we have to go to the video and we have to align it… There are probably easier ways to do it, but we don’t know how to do them! It has just been our way and at times I’m like, I’m really sorry Ciara, because I always think of it as a podcast that you put in your ears. That’s always how I envision it and then I give it to Ciara, and Ciara is like, it’s 40 minutes shorter than the video… did you write down where you cut it? And I’m like, nope… The fact that we’re still doing this is like baffling to me!
The thing similar to team interpreting, we’re super chill with each other. There’s never any pressure or stress, and the one thing we keep saying to each other is: if it brings us any stress, we can put it on pause. This is something we are doing as a side project; this is something we want to enjoy. We don’t want it to become a labour. When we first set it up for the first series, we were like ‘’one a week!’’, we’re going to be that podcast! And then, no, this is too hard... And we were stressing, and I think it was Ciara in one of her voice notes saying: ‘’Romy, this shouldn’t be the case, this should be something we enjoy doing’’. So, if it’s really sporadic and they just kind of go out when they go out, so be it. That’s kind of the way we’ve taken it since.
It’s important to keep having fun with it, otherwise you’ll stop, and you have to keep going with this!
You mentioned earlier that someone had reacted to your podcast on Twitter. What kind of responses have you received so far and from what kind of people?
C: You know, we’re kind of surprised, we can see where people are, that are listening to our podcast. I don’t know if we have access to that on YouTube and see who’s watching, but on the listening platforms, we’re able to see where people are in the world. We’ve had quite a reach around the world! Way further than we’d ever expected. So that’s been quite exciting really. We’ve had people from America, Australia, New-Zealand, The Netherlands…
R: We have had regular listeners there in The Netherlands, we can see the trends. :-)
C: It’s really cool to see. It’s definitely gone further than we ever thought it would, but I guess that’s the magic of the internet. You can reach people that you never would have been able to reach in person. And from that, we’ve been lucky that we’ve mostly had very positive responses, we’ve had some lovely messages of people that have found us, who are listening or watching. Yeah, for the most part we’ve been very lucky. Maybe there’s negative responses that we just haven’t seen or haven’t been sent to us, but from what we can see it looks pretty positive.
R: Yes, it has been a great response and it always comes at random times when you don’t expect it. Like when going to a meeting, or when you go into a job and they’re like ‘’oh, I watched your podcast’’ and then I’m like, right, it’s out there for the world to see. You do it, you put it out and you kind of forget about it. Like, when we launch, you just click a button and it goes and we don’t really think about it, because it’s been six to seven months of a project that we’ve been working on and it’s just out there now. And then people actually watch it and you’re like wow… We always said, if there’s just one person that we don’t know, who watched it and enjoyed it, we’re a success in our own eyes. I think we’ve definitely done the best, we’ve received sponsorship, which was such an incredible opportunity. We’ve made like mini goals for ourselves, that have happened, and it’s been really lovely.
C: Everyone has just been really kind, especially when we started, here in Ireland, they’ve been kind and really open to it.
And did you reach your targeted audience, or did you even have an audience in mind, when you started out?
C: Anyone who would watch or listen to it, really, that was the audience! Yeah, we’ve had people like interpreters, the deaf community, as I mentioned, all sorts of people from all the corners of the world tuning in. It’s been really nice.
R: We said in the beginning, we always wanted to be that casual conversation about interpreting and bringing in other perspectives. And I think, with that in mind, we just wanted it to be out there for interpreters, deaf community, people in general, just to listen to. That’s our target audience and I think we’ve done it!
And you might have listeners who are not that involved in this subject, and in that sense, I really like that you always explain certain things about how stuff works, so for someone who is not an interpreter, who doesn’t know anything about it, they can still follow along.
R: It’s accessibility on all levels. We say, we just put it out there and literally anyone could listen. We have to remember, we are representing a profession that’s developing, we’re representing a community. We don’t take that lightly. So, we try to make it the most accessible, the best it can be for like, anyone to listen to.
On that note, you have an audience, not just in Ireland: how do you decide what subjects you can and can’t discuss on the podcast, given your code of conduct and oath of secrecy, since your audience could be largely consisting of people in your own field?
C: Yeah, so I suppose confidentiality is the most important thing as an interpreter, and as an interpreter who has a podcast, that is genuinely the most important thing! From the outset, we were very conscious that nothing specific was going to be mentioned. If there was even a hint that someone might be able to connect something, no, it doesn’t go in the podcast. We’re really aware of it and we listen to everything to make sure that there’s nothing that we couldn’t mention, because that’s the most important thing to us. But it’s a very general podcast, even if we ask people for examples, they’re not drilled in detail, they’re quite open in general. And I suppose in general it’s a lot of people’s thoughts, opinions, more so than actual, kind of, secrets.
I was wondering especially, because sometimes - to give an example - you have to talk about your own experiences, you need more details to explain it. Does that pose a problem when you’re trying to explain something?
R: Like we say, we try to keep it as broad as possible, because we want to talk about subjects generally for the community, and about the community and about our work. Rather than honing in on the details of like a particular, ethical issue, that you would need very specific context for. It’s not where we wanted to go with it. It’s more like, imagine you’re all in a café as interpreters, as you are like at efsli and you’re sitting outside and you’re having a coffee, and you just talk about ‘’so how does it work in your job, in your country?’’ It’s more that concept than interpreting ethics, crises 101.
Somehow you still have that depth, even though you don’t go into specific examples and you don’t talk about heavy subjects. It’s important to say, that keeps me listening, it’s not just bubbly chit-chat, but it has meaning and depth that it offers. Which brings me to my next question:
What was the most difficult subject to discuss so far?
R: Ciara and I were talking about it this morning and we were like, there isn’t one. Just because we haven’t... like you say, we go in depth, but we’ve never gone into something that was so sensitive, because we don’t want to risk confidentiality, or anything like that. So, we talk more about more general interpreting things in depth. Like, how can someone prepare, there are a million different ways that people can prepare and that isn’t difficult, that’s just talking about work, in a fun, light setting.
C: And I think for a lot of interpreters, they’re freelance, they work for themselves. Particularly now, you know, a lot of interpreters are working remotely, so they’re not meeting interpreters face to face, so they may not be having those conversations that they would be having before. So, I suppose, when you start to talk about interpreting and even just really basic things, like, what do I do before I sit down and start to interpret something? That automatically connects with someone, because someone might be watching and listening and be like ‘’oh, I do that as well, but I do something different, but that’s actually good to know, maybe I could do that in the future’’ you know, those really little things, that are maybe small but could make a huge difference when you actually interpret. We try to focus more on almost what you feel, as an interpreter, if that makes sense, and the kind of things that you go through, that someone who’s listening, who might not know anything about it might think ‘’that’s a tiny thing’’, but it could be a big thing to an interpreter who works, most days, by themselves, that they know that somebody else is going through that as well, or something that comes up for them in their everyday work.
R: With that in mind, there’s been no topic that we’ve had to dance around or find difficult, because it’s about the interpreter experience, as a whole.
There are many times that I can so relate to what you’re saying in your episodes. Sometimes you feel so alone in what you do, even if you work with colleagues, sometimes you can’t imagine that there are so many people out there who have to same experiences every day. We don’t see each other or talk to each other. But with you in my ear, I feel like you understand!
C: It’s just nice, our aim was always to have that kind of space, where you could have those conversations and to start those conversations happening. Even if it’s not with us, even if it’s some other interpreter going ‘’did you think about this and that, because I think this’’. It’s just a nice way to open up the conversation. I think it can be very easy in our profession to sometimes feel like maybe we are a little alone or a bit disconnected, just because of the nature of it. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How has the podcast affected your daily work? While interpreting or when in contact with people from the community?
R: It’s more just like the little surprise when someone says ‘’oh, The Lean Podcast’’ and you’re like, oh that’s us! It’s something that we’ve spent so much time on and we send it out and that’s it. We don’t know who listens, we have a vague idea, but we don’t. So, when it comes up, we’re messaging each other like ‘’it was said today here!’’, do you know what I mean? It doesn’t affect our work so much, because we’re a small community and everyone knows each other. Even abroad, we’re a small community. So, it doesn’t affect the day to day running of things, except that you’re managing work as a freelancer or an interpreter in general, plus you’re doing your podcast on the side, and you have to manage the time it takes to set that up. But apart from that, it’s just that little spark of joy when someone says they’ve listened to and enjoyed the podcast.
C: And I think we’re always... like before, when we we’re interpreting or in situations and you’re like ‘’oh, that’s really interesting that that happened’’, but now it’s like gone up a level, because now it’s like ‘’oh that’s interesting, do you think we could talk about that? Romy, I’m going to add that to the list of topics!’’. And it has happened: we were at a training, it was a great training, and they were talking about something, and Romy was on the opposite side of the room and I get a message from her like ‘’we’re going to talk about this next and we need guests’’, so I was scanning the room, who could be our guest? So, I said ‘’we could ask so and so to be our guest’’, so I guess we’re just more aware of it than we were before, because we have an outlet where we can put all this energy and all this enthusiasm.
R: And it’s not just excited voice notes back and forth anymore, it’s out there!
So, you stopped sending the voice notes all together then?
R: No, no, that’s still going!
I’m glad to hear that it’s a positive effect, that it’s still fun to do and doesn’t feel like a burden. I could imagine that, after it took half a year to prepare a whole season... you posted that in one go, right?
R: Season one, it was definitely about seven months and I think we were still recording and editing when we started dropping episodes. We were overly ambitious in the beginning, thinking we could drop one a week and then we were like STRESS! And if you actually look at the release dates of season one, it makes me laugh, because initially it was like, week two in February, week four in February, nothing… and then last week of April. And with the miniseries, because it was sponsored, we had a bit more structure attached to it, so that one, there was quite a lot of production going on in the background. We were working on from May, all through the summer, through extreme lockdown, trying to get guests, through summer vacation. All the way up until we actually launched the episodes in the end of September, beginning of October. And we were still doing production in the background as well. Which is why, when we were doing the miniseries, we thought, this is great, but it’s getting to a point where were a bit… there’s was a lot of season one, then we had maybe a month’s break and then it was, oh, we’ve received sponsorship, this is phenomenal! Let’s do it. And we went with it. But now we’re like, we need a break.
Is this something you could do in the long run, next to your regular interpreting work? If it’s paid for, like the sponsorship?
R: That was just for the miniseries, it was a one-off, because they wanted to think about remote interpreting and they were like, how can we do something remote about remote interpreting? And then they approached us and they asked if we could do one episode. Ciara and I were like, this is so cool, so exciting, we had a phone call, many voice notes and we came back to them with a miniseries instead. So that was sponsored, we were able to work on that, and it did make things a bit easier. We didn’t do the transcription, we paid an external service to do that, which saved hours of life. We paid for interpretation and editing and stuff, so it was really helpful. But the next season it’s back, just on us. So, it will again be back to not being paid and we will have to do things ourselves, so rather than putting too much pressure on ourselves… I’m starting a Masters in January and Ciara is working quite a lot at the moment, so we have to recalibrate and see how we’ll look at season two, considering all that.
C: And with the sponsorship, we still weren’t paid. It was just the costs, that we were able to cover the interpreting, for other interpreters to come in and for editing costs. So, we are still giving all our time voluntarily, so it still takes a lot to balance all your interpreting work with that.
R: And we’re on the Committee of Sign Language Interpreters in Ireland as well. As many interpreters who are enthusiastic, we go all in! But that’s not to say that there won’t be another season, there absolutely will, we’ve informally got it structured in our head, it’s just that, we’re going to take a bit more time to do it, we’ll be a bit kinder to ourselves and not be putting ourselves under so much pressure.
C: And we’re learning all the time. We’re learning what works better and what’s easier, to be more manageable in things that we do. So, there’ll definitely be more, it just might take a little bit of time.
There are colleagues in for example the USA who’ve made podcasts like yours, which received some critical responses (from other interpreters). Have you experienced something similar? How do you consider your role as an interpreter in association with being a podcast host?
C: Yeah, we were definitely worried, when you put something out so public, particularly not a huge number of interpreters have done something like this, so we were very nervous before we actually put out our first ones, because we weren’t sure how people were going to react. We weren’t sure, if people would say ‘’oh, look at those two, thinking they know everything and they put it out’’, you know, you never know what the reaction is going to be. Luckily, the responses we’ve received have been really positive. We’ve had a lot of support. I don’t know what that’s down to, if it’s down to how we structure our podcast or how we produce it or the fact that we make it as accessible as we can. I don’t know about the other podcast(s), we actually don’t know what ones they are, so we won’t be able to say on those, but so far, we’ve been quite lucky in the responses we’ve got.
R: And we’ve always been open to feedback. Like people, like my boss has messaged me like ‘’oh, maybe next time just be aware of this and this’’. We’ve always been open to whether it’s production feedback or like, how we structure things. We haven’t received much to be honest and that’s not to say that we’re doing a perfect job. I think it’s just like people we know would come to us, rather than people who don’t know us, maybe they wouldn’t be as comfortable giving feedback. But, having said that, there has been one or two people who were on Facebook like ‘’you said this in the podcast and you didn’t actually add it’’ and we’d be like ‘’you’re totally right’’ and we’d add it in, or ‘’the audio is not so great’’, so we’d take it down and put it back up right. We’re not trying to be anything that we’re not with this. We’re just, like Ciara said earlier, we’re not experts, by any shape or form and we’re open to any feedback any time.
I think that also shows. I can hear in your podcast that you’re doing this for you, for fun, from your personal interest, rather than trying to be something you’re not. I don’t think showing off is a good word… the things I read about the other podcast is that people feel like it’s trying to be the only truth or show the world that ‘this is how it’s supposed to be done’. I think that’s what is authentic about you, you always start with ‘what we think … is’. Personally, I really like that, because that shows you only speak from your own experiences and that you actually ask guests to share their own. That resonated with me, because it’s genuine. I think that’s why people react so positively. I found the other podcast on Twitter, which we know can be a negative source, then I got curious and I checked it out. I can’t say anything about this person, how they interpret, but the podcast was on their personal website, they were doing it alone… it gave a different vibe than you do. I don’t know how to put it, you’re open, genuine and authentic. And it’s comfortable to listen to! Okay, I’ll stop now.
R: You know, because we do this in isolation, right, same as we interpret. When you get positive feedback from deaf or hearing clients, it’s nice to hear and it’s the same with the podcast. It’s been people we know who’ve been positive about it, more so, because they can come up and chat with us. But this is a different level, sure we’ve met, but we’ve had maybe a lunch together, at efsli, meeting a 110 other colleagues and learning… but having someone listening to the podcasts and asking these kinds of questions, it’s just really appreciative.
I can imagine that it’s personal. When I brought up the idea to interview you, and then to ask these personal questions, I thought, it can be tough. But on the other hand, because of your podcasts, I kind of feel like I got to know you. You share so many things, not just about your interpreting work, but I can tell by listening to you what you’re both like. You make it feel like you’re among friends. That is something that makes it very inclusive.
R: And that’s basically what we wanted. I don’t think you can ever receive higher praise than knowing your aim worked out. That’s really lovely to hear, thank you.
What do you like most about doing this podcast?
I think you already kind of answered this, the fact that you’ve accomplished your mission by doing it, if I can answer that for you?
R: Absolutely, we get to nerd out and talk about all things interpreting, all the things we like to talk about really!
You talked earlier about having thought about writing an article together. How do you think a podcast like yours can contribute to our field, next to other sources such as articles?
C: Well, I think it’s really nice that it’s, I suppose, a chattier version of what an article may be. We’ve had all sorts of guests, we’ve had interpreters, newer and more experienced ones, interpreters who are experts in other fields, who’ve brought in their perspective and how that can affect interpreting. The ‘self-care’ episode for example is with someone who was an interpreter, but is now a physiotherapist, who brings a whole different perspective. So, I think it’s very interesting; articles are so useful, but sometimes it’s actually nice to actually chat about those articles. We’ve had a few very, really clever academics on our podcast, which was wonderful to have them on. It’s so nice when you can talk to the person behind the article. You can actually see who’s behind those words and the research, which is really lovely. You get an even deeper wisdom from them, that you might not have got the same, I don’t know, human connection if it was just on paper. So, I supposed, we’re the human bridge to the articles.
R: Loving that, the human bridge.
I think that’s going to be one of the highlighted quotes that we always put in. ‘’The human bridge’’, I’ll stick with that in English, not even translate it.
R: That and the ‘’two massive nerds’’.
C: In capital letters.
I think I’ll make that the title then!
To conclude this interview, I’m curious, which exciting subjects do you have in mind for the next season?
R: And this is where I’m going to let Ciara take over, because she has a beautiful spiel ready for this. Go on, take it away.
C: What I’ll say is, we have a long list. We’ve got a list, we need to shortlist, and from that we need to hope that guests agree to come on and talk to us! Now, look, I know that’s very vague, so what I will say is, we do have one episode that we have already recorded, that just needs to be kind of produced and edited and completed. It is a subject that will blow your mind. Because it blew our minds! Didn’t it, Romy? It blew our minds.
You’re making me too curious! Are you going to keep it a secret?
C: What I’ll say is…
R: I’m happy to say it, because to be fair, we were meant to launch it in September, but then the miniseries kind of took over.
C: Well, let me tell you. We recorded with Terry Janzen, and he was one of the books that we would have studied in college, we all had a copy. He came on to talk to us about intersubjectivity. And that’s probably one of the most difficult things we did actually. We gave the floor to Terry and he just took it away.
R: Yeah, so the first half of that episode is ‘what we think intersubjectivity is’. He gave us an article, it’s probably one of our more academic ones. And he gave us an article and we read it and I felt like we were back in seminars in college. We were kind of trying to piece it together. And then Terry came on and it was just… he’s so easy to listen to. He paints a really beautiful picture of what it is. It’s his and Barbara Schaffer's, they’ve been working on this topic for like, ten years, they’ve done a paper here and there. They’re now working on a book on intersubjectivity. And it’s really amazing, as a topic, it sounds so intimidating, but then you start to listen to it and you’re like, oh that’s a whole new perspective!
Just for my understanding, I thought I knew what we were talking about, but then I thought, I’m thinking of intersectionality, which is something different, right?
R: Yeah, so intersectionality is if you’re a woman and disabled and of colour, that’s intersectionality and we all have that. Intersubjectivity, with regards to interpreting, is about when you have a hearing person and a deaf person. Let’s say for example that they have met many times before and they know each other. And they have an idea of each other’s world thoughts. They know where the other is coming from.
That’s also from the Demand Control Schema, right?
R: Right, that’s the world thoughts, it’s building further on that. You try to understand the world thoughts as much as humanly possible, but when an interpreter comes into play, we know that neutrality is a myth, from 1999, neutrality is not possible. But, when it comes to intersubjectivity, it questions it even further, because if we don’t fully understand the world thoughts, we’re trying to interpret what’s coming to us, bringing it into our own understanding and then reproducing it, based on our own understanding. So, everyone is subjective, but this is how our respective subjective opinions kind of amalgamate in an interpretive situation and kind of come into this ball that we hope is correct and then they take their own interpretations of what we have interpreted. Right? Complex, he does it way better than I did. That was a two-minute synopsis and it’s like, whew.
C: We did a great job, because we can now say those things, which we could not before. A wonderful teacher.
Well, if it’s working on you, it will probably work on me too, as well as the other listeners. You’ve made me very curious. When is this coming out?
R: Good question. We have to figure out in the new year, what our plan is for 2021.
C: There will be another series and that’s the main thing!