Applied Interpreting Series 2016: AA Meetings

Presented by Joe Sapienza
Featuring Robin Henry

September 24th, 2016
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
25 East Frisco Avenue, Webster Groves, MO 63119
.7 RID and Missouri CEUs

This workshop is open to interpreters of all levels
and students who have begun establishing interpreting skills.

Interpreting for an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting is a challenging assignment regardless of one’s skill level or experience.  Due to the anonymous nature of these assignments, there are some misconceptions and mystique on what to expect and what will happen.  For a variety of reasons, interpreters have shied away from working in this setting.  Some examples are:

  • Lack of understanding of the language and culture of AA and its members
  • Interpreter’s preconceived notions of “drinking” and “alcoholics”
  • Lack of knowledge of the meaning (and therefore the misinterpretation) of the 12 Steps, the 12 Principles, etc.
  • Exposure to strong emotions and situations
  • Confusion about “spiritual awakening” and “a higher power”
  • The “raw” nature of dialogue/discourse that may occur during meetings
  • The realization your work may save or loose a life.

Each meeting type and setup is a dynamically different experience on its own without adding the factor of an interpreter.  Due to all the above reasons and more, care must be taken by the interpreter to consider whether one should or should not accept this type of assignment.  The real concern of vicarious trauma is also a factor to consider.

During the course of this workshop, participants will learn about, discuss, and practice interpreting in this setting.  This is a hands-on workshop.  A real (live) AA meeting will be held on-site within the time frame of the workshop.  All participants of this workshop MUST adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct’s tenet of Confidentiality.  With respect to the learning goals set up for this workshop, this event is presented in English only.

The workshop will include (1) presentations by Joe and Robin,    (2) audience to presenter discussions, (3) input from and discussions with Deaf and hearing AA members, (4) hands-on “interpreting” and (5) question and answer sessions.


Joe’s presentation will include:

  • Interpreting insight for this challenging setting.
  • Problems D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people face with regards to meetings – logistics
  • Problems D/deaf and Hard of Hearing people face with regards to meetings – language
  • How to prepare for AA meetings
  • Some things to expect at AA meetings
  • Working solo through the meeting
  • Interpreter logistics
  • Problems interpreters face with regards to meetings – language
  • Frozen Text?
  • The Big Book
  • Working with a sponsor
  • Recognizing interpreter vulnerability to Vicarious Trauma
  • Questions and answers

Robin’s presentation will include:

  • Types of AA Meetings
  • Open vs Closed Meetings
  • Misconceptions of “anonymous”
  • Alcoholics Anonymous Central Services
  • The 12 Steps
  • The 12 Principles
  • The Preamble
  • Terms and phrases
  • Group Conscience
  • Questions and answers


Throughout the workshop, time will be allotted to audience questions, thoughts, concerns and problems.  This is a workshop devoted to learning and enrichment.  Joe and Robin seek to create a safe environment for practice, fine-tuning and improvement of your interpreting skills.

(3) Input from and discussions with Deaf and hearing AA members:

Participants from the live AA meeting will share their insight on having D/deaf and Hard of Hearing meeting participants, having interpreters, being a sponsor to D/deaf and Hard of Hearing members, etc.
Deaf AA members will share insight on AA meetings, experiences, frustrations, being a D/deaf sponsor, interpreter expectations, etc.


This is also a hands-on workshop.  A one hour (approximate) open meeting will be conducted within the workshop which participants will quietly observe.  After a question and answer period all workshop participants will “interpret” the same meeting.  NOTE:  In an effort to provide everyone with a great measure of “safe practicing”, participants will interpret the meeting all at the same time.  Everyone must bring an electronic device capable of making video recordings, such as an Android or Apple smart phone/tablet, a digital camera, a video camera, or laptop, etc.  Everyone will be supplied with a mini tripod needed to hold phones and tablets and cameras.  You will record yourself interpreting the AA meeting held on-site for self-evaluation and critique.  No one will be watching you interpret, and you will be interpreting to your recording device.   Goals of this portion of the workshop:

  • Experience!
  • Allaying one’s trepidation that others might be watching us as we interpret— rarely discussed as a workshop topic— will be addressed
  • Experience!
  • Coping with visual and auditory distractions of other workshop participants “moving” (i.e. interpreting) while you work will give you valuable experience!  Distractions on the job often occur!  Developing/discussing strategies within this opportunity will help you on ANY of your future assignments!
  • Experience!

Having all workshop participants engaging in the mock interpreting and self-video critiques are integral portions of this activity and are required to complete the workshop.


Throughout the workshop, time will be devoted to questions and answers.  This will be conducted in a safe and anonymous manner.

Optionally, you can submit one of your recordings for a private mentor critique of your work at no additional charge.

DO NOT sign up for this workshop if you don’t plan to engage in all the above mentioned activities.
DO NOT sign up for this workshop if you cannot adhere to Confidentiality.
DO NOT sign up for this workshop if you are offended by foul language or coarse depictions.