This study is based on the description and analysis of а single, interpreted, videotaped meeting between а university professor and а graduate student accompanied by an interpreter. As the researcher, І held the camera and recorded the meeting with а hand-held VHS camcorder. Following is а brief discussion about videotaping such an event, а relatively new research development, the analysis, and how the analysis is interpreted. Videotaping Interaction Interactive discourse events are rarely recorded because they are often personal and private.
Consequently, to gain access to any private meeting, several factors play а role in allowing а researcher to tape such an event. For me, getting access to the meeting is directly attributable to my relationship with the primary participants. І was а doctoral student at Georgetown under the direction of the professor. The student and interpreter were both friends and colleagues, and all are introduced further in Chapter 6. All three knew of my research and the need to capture an interpreted event on videotape.
The student alerted me to the meeting and invited me to film it, knowing that all of us were acquainted and that it was а fairly routine meeting between а graduate student and а professor. All three agreed, generously, to the taping. Recording people as they interact changes the way they interact because of what Labov (1972) calls the “observer’s Paradox. ” Linguists want to observe how people speak with each other when they are not being observed or think that they are not being observed. It was assumed that people changed their way of speaking once а researcher asked а question, listened and recorded their speech.
However, sociolinguistic research has shown that when people are involved in face-to-face interaction, the demand for their attention is so great that they forget that they are being recorded (Schiffrin 1994; Tannen 1984). Results with videotaping are similar. Although initially people may be nervous or guard their speech and actions when videotaped, if they have truly come together to do something, to talk to each other for а purpose, then that interaction takes precedence and at some level, they “forget” that they are being videotaped.
А special note here because one of the languages involved is American Sign Language (ASL) which is visual. Deaf signer’s who are involved in programs where ASL is taught, where ASL research is conducted, where interpreting is taught, are frequently asked to being videotaped. When training interpreters, Deaf people telling stories or giving а talk is videotaped for students to practice interpreting. Interpreting students and practitioners themselves also are videotaped for evaluation and assessment. So both the student and the interpreter in this study are accustomed to being videotaped.
However, they are accustomed to being videotaped for the purpose of language study or assessment, not for the purpose of research on natural interaction. It was highly unusual to tape both as they engaged in this meeting. They had never experienced being videotaped while engaged in an authentic, conversational event. These participants gave me leave to videotape because the meeting was not overwhelmingly important, crucial, or personal. All three participants knew it was to be а short, simple meeting to discuss the student’s assignment.
Thus, none of the participants needed to be concerned about private or personal information becoming the subject of study and public scrutiny. As І mentioned earlier, although this kind of work is the bulk of interpreting work, most of it is very private, and most participants would be reluctant to have such а situation videotaped. To underscore the importance of access, another interpreter attempted many times to get permission from primary participants and we refused even though many of these meetings were seemingly inconsequential.
Such is the reluctance of many individuals to allow а stranger to videotape their actions and analyze their language behavior. The student, interpreter and І came together to the professor’s office. As soon as we entered, І began taping. In taping an interpreted event in which participants use American Sign Language, the best of all worlds would be to use two cameras, one that captures а front view of the interpreter who sits next to an English speaking participant, and another camera to capture the front view of the student who is using ASL.
In sign language interpreting, interpreters try to position themselves beside speakers who use English and across from speakers who use ASL. With only one camera and the interpreter as the crux of the communication, І stood behind and to one side of the Deaf student to film а frontal view of the interpreter, It meant capturing an over-the-shoulder view of the student. In this way, І filmed the student’s signing but not his face. For this study, it was more important to know exactly what the interpreter was saying and doing.