These roles have mirroring expectations (the actions others can insist we perform) and obligations (the actions we can insist others perform) (Goffman 1967: 126). For example, the obligations of the student roleto read, to take exams, to attend classesare expectations of the teacher role. The expectations of the student roleto receive information, to be given fair exams, to be graded on the basis of meritare the obligations of the professor role. Thus these roles become interdependent; the expectations and obligations are complementary and in service to each other.
In their interviews, both the Professor and the Student focus on the expectations and obligations of their respective roles as teacher and student, They both articulated the role of the Student as checking on an assignment (getting information) and making sure the Student had Ð° clear understanding of the Professors expectations (giving information). The Professor: My view of the meeting was that Ð† was there to answer [the Students] questions, not that Ð† was there to tell him anything. Ð† think thats why Ð† started the meeting by looking expectantly at him.
The Student explained his purpose: My purpose was to make sure Ð† understood the assignment correctly and was going in the right direction. The paper was supposed to be handed in during class, and Ð† held it back because Ð† wanted her to check it first. If she approved, then fine, Ð† would hand it in. Ð† knew the ASL would be hard to understand, so Ð† wanted to ask if Ð† should go ahead with the ASL story or follow the English interpretation. When asked if they thought the meeting was successful, that expectations and obligations were met, both responded affirmatively. They explain in their own words.
The Professor: The meeting was successful. Nobody yelled at anybody. [The Student] came to get information and he got it. The laughter, Ð† think the laughter is my signal that everything is going well. Ð† felt [the Student] knew what he was supposed to do. The Student: She read my story and seemed satisfied with it. Ð† knew she wanted me to improve it and bring it back with thirty copies. Yes, the meeting was successful. Although the Professor comments on the interactional success, nobody yelled at anybody as well, both speakers are attentive to the primary purpose, and their ensuing obligations, of Ð° teacher-student meeting.
As the next chapter demonstrates, many of the Professors and the Students motivations for speaking or taking Ð° turn center on their expectations or obligations of their social roles, their roles define their purpose for meeting and constitute how they will interact and how their meanings are represented in talk. The Interpreters role is to interpret. In general, the role of an interpreter is to make possible communication between people who do not speak the same language. The Interpreter defined his role, what he says it always is, as working to have effective communication, for people to communicate.
However, when asked if he thought the meeting went well, he offered Ð° perspective that was not centered on whether or not the participants had effective communication: Yes, because Ð† think [the Students] goals were achieved, in getting some ideas across and talking about some issues. That he understood where she was coming from and she understood where he was coming from Although this response is vague and unfortunately not further clarified; there are some indications as to what the Interpreter is referring.
When the Interpreter mentions [the Students] goals were achieved, it appears that the Interpreter assumes goals other than getting an assignment reviewed. He continues by adding getting ideas across and talking about some issues, but the only issue mentioned previously by the Interpreter is connected to people communicating. The Interpreter never mentioned checking the assignment or the Student getting information on how to analyze the narrative, nor did he mention the Professors obligations she might have for meeting with students.
Because both primary participants are involved with the study of language and because the study of ASL as Ð° natural language was still Ð° relatively new idea, many conversations with linguists who study spoken languages come around to the topic of the differences between Ð° signed language and Ð° spoken language. At the time, the status of ASL as Ð° language in the larger world community was not firmly established, nor was the status of Deaf persons as members of Ð° linguistic and ethnic minority.
That these issues particularly affect interpreters can be demonstrated by reading newsletters and journals published at the time in the interpreting field, as well as by attendance at meetings and conferences. These debates and discussions are often referred to with phrases such as getting ideas across and talking about issues, so Ð† can suggest the possibility that the interpreter is referring to these potentially explosive arguments about the acceptance of American Sign Language as Ð° natural language.
Fortunately, this is not an issue with the Professor, as the Interpreter acknowledges: Shes obviously educated [about Deaf people] in that shes familiar with deafness and Deaf people because she explained the outgoing message on the answering machine, things that are very hearing culture and so Ð† think that in some regards she took care of all that. Although he acknowledges that the Professor is familiar with deafness and Deaf people, it is also his focus on her adaptations to the Student that remain primary in his reflection on the interpreted event.
The answering machine was Ð° few seconds of small talk before the more important discussion of the Students narrative and transcript. The Interpreters focus on getting ideas across and taking care of cultural differences reflects what is Ð° central concern of interpreters in their role, the notions of equality and justice. It seems that the Interpreter feels that it is incumbent on him in his role to create an understanding and Ð° balance between these speakers moreover, the Interpreter never commented on the discussion around the assignment for either participant.
To see how far the Interpreters thinking was from the thinking of the primary participants, here is what the Professor said about the answering machine talk: [Ð† was] trying to be polite and make everyone comfortable, telling him about the answering machine and the knocking at the door and then Ð† realized [there was] no reason to tell him. The Interpreter has attributed the meaning of the talk to the Professors awareness of Deaf people when, in fact, she was focused on the nature of starting to talk and the often necessary small talk that is Ð° prelude to official business.
Because interpreters are primarily concerned with communication, of language and also of cultural nuances, much of an interpreters concern is for differences in language and culture. But speakers themselves are typically concerned with the central task of the meeting, carrying out their obligations and responsibilities necessary to accomplish their goals.
We will see in the next chapter that an interpreters role is more than to just translate or just interpret. What the role is and how to manifest that role to others, while appearing neutral or impartial, is not an easy task. If an interpreters role expectations and obligations were as easily defined as the teacher or student role, then there would not be the problems, concerns, and issues that arise around the discussions about an interpreters role.