MutipleIntOur booking coordinators are trained to understand the nature of each request and the necessity for teaming is addressed on a case by case basis, however, it is standard practice for Deaf and Hear Alberta to assign a team of at least two interpreters for any assignment that 2 or more hours in length or involves special needs based on the guidelines of AVLIC ( and RID (

If the assignment is a recurring event, meeting, etc., it will be up to the interpreter and deaf client to decide if the assignment will continue to require two or more interpreters.

The Concept of Team Interpretation:

Team interpretation is not simply defined as two interpreters sharing an assignment. Interpreters work in conjunction with one another as support or “backup” when providing services to a consumer. While some interpretation settings are less technical in nature than others, team interpreters rely on each other to provide missed information, technical vocabulary, assistance in interpretation, as well as physical relief. In a team situation, both interpreters are “on” at all times.

There are several reasons that Deaf and Hear Alberta supports team interpreting, rather than sending individual interpreters to work in two-hour increments and replace each other:

Consistency for the Deaf Consumer:

Having several different interpreters over a period of time (for example four interpreters working two hours each for an eight hour day) is taxing both cognitively and physically for a person accessing information from a given source. Simply reading an interpreter for any length of time is tiring. Having a different interpreter every two hours compounds this fatigue, because the consumer has to adjust to interpreting style, interpreter familiarity with the content, and education of the interpreter as to specialized, negotiated vocabulary which has been previously established.

Availability of Interpreters:

If cost is an issue, sometimes service requesters suggest having interpreters work in two hour increments (i.e. for a four hour job), rather than paying a team of interpreters for two hours each. While this may save interpreters’ hourly fees, it increases the cost of coordination, because one assignment is split up into smaller assignments. If an assignment was eight hours in length, rather than finding the optimum team of two interpreters to work the entire day (a total billing of 16 hours), some requesters suggest four interpreters working two hours apiece (a total billing of 8 hours). This will require double the amount of interpreters, and the likelihood of finding available interpreters decreases.

Repetitive Motion Injury:

The incidence of repetitive motion injury (RMI), carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and tendinitis is high among sign language interpreters. Because of the constant motion involved, working constantly without periodic, scheduled breaks can injure service providers. Repeated injury can result in an inability to perform interpretation services, as well as other related physical problems in the neck, shoulders, and back. Working in shifts of 15 to 20 minutes allows a physical break, greatly improving the quality of the interpretation and ensures the consumer has the clearest communication access possible.


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