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I Have A Built-In Interpreter • Mommy Gone Tropical

I Have A Built-In Interpreter

built-in interpreter

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Sometimes, people will say, “Hey, you have a built-in interpreter,” when they find out I have a hearing child. I laugh and joke about it.

I created an interpreter and she is going to interpret for free!


built-in interpreter

On a serious note, that is not my plan for her. She is NOT a built-in interpreter. She is not going to speak or interpret for me.

Often, people expect deaf parents’ hearing children to interpret even in those extremely inappropriate situations. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because it is convenient. Maybe because they are lazy and want to take the simple way out. Maybe because they assume it is the reasonable thing to do.

Of course, it may seem harmless to you… However, imagine the burden on the hearing child. Imagine asking a hearing child to interpret a legal issue conversation. Imagine how often people do that to the hearing child. That is a tremendous responsibility on a hearing child to make sure he/she is interpreting accurately.

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Statistics show that about 90% of deaf parents have hearing children. How many of those hearing children become a built-in interpreter for their deaf parents? How many of those hearing children resent their deaf parents for giving them no choice, but to interpret adult conversations. This creates a role-reversal responsibility, the hearing child taking care of his/her parents instead.

A typical child with hearing parents would not be required to do that. That child is left to just be a regular child. Why can’t that be the same for hearing children with deaf parents?

built-in interpreterSo, if a person attempts to use my daughter as an interpreter, I will ignore his/her request. I will tell that person to write it down. The same thing with not using my daughter to interpret what is being said between several people, since I want to eavesdrop.

Sometimes, the hearing child will get tired of interpreting and decide to make up stories just for funsies. So, relying on a child to interpret is clearly not reliable.


I will not use my daughter to order food for me. I will not use my daughter to say something to a person when I am in a hurry. I will not have her relay what my doctor says. I will not have her interpret the parent-teacher conference. I will not have her to interpret a saving account conversation between the banker and I.

She shouldn’t responsible for taking care of her deaf parents. She shouldn’t have to grow up quickly. She shouldn’t be involved in adult conversations. I don’t want her to resent me in the future for not giving her a say in this. Her only job as a hearing child is enjoying her childhood without adult responsibilities just like all other typical children.


Any comments or thoughts about this?

built-in interpreter

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10 Discussion to this post

  1. Rebecca says:

    Agree with this 100%! It’s tough enough when we’re adults to have role reversal and take care of our parents when they need us. Children should not have that responsibility. There’s stressed out enough in today’s world. And childhood is way too short, they should enjoy it as much as possible.

  2. Lora says:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective! The point about role-reversal is so important and can play out in many situations and it’s not fair to children.
    Lora recently posted…5 Tips to Create a Cozy HomeMy Profile

  3. This is awesome. Thank you for letting your kid be a kid and sharing why the arrangement (of intepretation) may not be in the best interest for the child. 🙂 You are so thoughtful!

  4. Jenny says:

    This is a very great approach. I can only imagine how hard it would be to put your child in that situation and cause them to grow up quicker than necessary. Great post.

    xoxo, Jenny

  5. Channing says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show switched at birth, but it’s one of my favorite shows. They incorporated a lot more ASL into their show and it really got me interested in learning it. I’m still working on it and only know the bare minimum like thank you. I think it’s really disrespectful for someone to not try to engage in conversation with someone just because they’re deaf or hearing impaired. All it does is show their ignorance. I also think that ASL should be as much a part of the school curriculum as a regular English class. I remember when we learned sign language when I was in early grade school. They taught like maybe a half semester of it and then that was it. Most people in that class forgot the majority of it. Kudos to you for standing your ground and not letting people take the easy way out! 🙂

  6. zan says:

    Well, I can relate! My husband’s parents are deaf but all three kids are hearing. There were times when people expected him to interpret but he just did not want to. All he wanted to do was to sit back and enjoy something like everyone else.
    zan recently posted…Main Bathroom Makeover – The RevealMy Profile

  7. I’m not a parent but I have seen this happen in different situations. You are right about letting your child enjoy her childhood. There’s plenty of time for her to grow up and decide how she wants to participate in the conversation but never in an official capacity (medical, legal, etc…).

    I just came across your blog today and wanted to say hello. I added your site to my RSS feed and looking forward to understanding your world better. I’m jealous you are in Flordia right now but I’ll be moving down there this year so I can enjoy the warm weather as well.

    I’m looking forward to reading your posts.

  8. MEGS says:

    I so agree. I often run into this situation where people would say this to me “Oh you’re lucky! They are hearing” “They are able to interpret for you!” I’m like umm…. NOT. Yes, both of my daughters are hearing but it does not mean their job is to interpret for me.

    That ANNOYS me. Bad.

    xo MEGS

  9. So great you shared your thoughts with us! Thank you!

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