Demand Control Schema

Demand-Control Schema is a model for effective interpretation widely being used in the field of sign language interpretation.  It is being adapted from the field of spoken language interpretation by Robyn Dean and Dr. Robert Pollard.  

Demands are there, regardless of the interpreter. Demands are what is needed: knowledge, capability, characteristics, traits, working conditions.  Controls are interpersonal related and will change.  At first, controls are resources and options rather than “controlling” the situation.  See demands as part of the job regardless of who the interpreter is.  Get past obvious demands to significant ones, especially when doing observation.  The framework may be new, but the concepts are not. 

Control isn’t a one-to-one match with demands.  There are multiple points of reference where we need to look for being part of the whole setting.  We can reference by pointing; crowdedness and noise; paralinguistics – barking orders versus telling story.  It is difficult to process this information quickly.

Do an observation at work or in your family and talk about what you noticed that would not be about signing the power dynamics, expression, or body language.  Compare family interaction with non-family or stranger interactions. Or maybe do this analysis of actual news broadcasts.  

What is meant by demands placed on the interpreter is not what people are requiring of the interpreter, but rather consists of four tracks of information.: 1) Environmental, 2) Interpersonal 3) Paralinguistic, and 4) Intrapersonal

1)      Environmental = Physical surroundings, Personnel and Clientele, Terminology (linguistic challenges), and special situations.  After identification of those environmental demands, the interpreter must answer a range of questions, including: what do I do with the demands?  How do I handle them? 

2)      Interpersonal = The relationship between people.  In order to understand the true message, we would need to understand the, “thought world” of deaf person, of interpreter, and others. We must include in our analysis the expectations of deaf person, of interpreter, and others. For example: “There is an audience looking at me;” “Where does the deaf person need to focus to get the message from me?;”What are the language modalities of the deaf person?”
“There are the non-working interpreters making critiques of the working interpreter and whispering to each other;” The speakers have a specific time limit therefore it will impact the paralinguistics analysis plus time.”


3)      Paralinguistic= Paralinguistics is the study of “paralanguage”- the non-verbal parts in communication that portray or change meaning and emotions. The paralanguage could include how words are spoken – pitch, volume, intonation, speed etc.  Some of these may be conscious or unconscious in the communication process. Paralanguage communication includes how people express themselves orally with their specific mannerisms.  For example, there might be an accent in a person’s speech, or a slight stutter, a slight defect in pronunciation of a specific sound. Paralinguistic differences can be responsible for stereotypes or confusion, when one is speaking.  For example, Americans are perceived as “talking too loud” which people in European countries see as aggressive behavior. Paralinguistics can also include the speed of talking- east coast versus west coast in the U.S. Another part of paralinguistics can be the amount of silence in conversation.  Many people in the United States cannot perceive of silences in conversations, whereas in Japan, silence is considered an important aspect of the conversation.  We encounter paralinguistic difficulties in conversation,  not in the verbal "text" of the conversation but rather, as characteristics of speech that "surround" the text, such as hesitations, lowering of pitch, use of words to fill pauses, such as “uhm”, “ah,” etc.

Bibliography used:;

4.  Intrapersonal= Intrapersonal communication means our  use of language to ourselves.  It requires an active internal involvement of our own individual self in the processing of messages. We need to have intrapersonal communication before we can actually communicate with others. We send and receive “messages” to ourselves in the form of feedback or internal processes inside our own head.  An example of intrapersonal thoughts might be:  “Should I say something or not?” In the field of interpreting, we call it “having a committee” in our heads.  One of the experts in the field of intrapersonal communication says that we communicate with ourselves over 50,000 times daily!

Intrapersonal communication can include: day dreaming, dreaming at night (nocturnal), talking to yourself out-loud, and repeating what someone is saying, writing notes to ourselves, making gestures while thinking, mentally sorting out non-verbal behavior of another person, or “listening” to parts of our body “tell us something” (e.g. my stomach is telling me it’s dinner time.) Intrapersonal communication allows us to have some control over what happens in our lives because we can figure out our wants, needs, and steps necessary for achieving those wants and needs.

There are other names for intrapersonal communication; self-dialogue, self-talk, inner monologue, internal dialogue, or internal speech.   Why is intrapersonal communication important in the interpreting process?  The starting place for intrapersonal communication is in our thoughts, leading to feeling and then to actions.  There is a huge difference between positive and negative intrapersonal communications.  Positive actions are the result of positive emotions, which are a direct result of positive thoughts.  The opposite, negative intrapersonal communication leads to negative self-feelings, and the result will be negative actions or performance. People who have positive thoughts about their capabilities, strengths and good qualities perform better than those who have negative self-talk.

Negative self talk and the consequential low self-esteem can also influence the ability to express thoughts or feelings.  When we have self-talk, such as “They don’t like me,” or “What will they think?” there is a “negative influence field” around us and stops our effective communication. So, our intra-personal communication has a positive or negative impact on communication with others.


"Intrapersonal Communication." EzineArticles 25 January 2005 in



When we keep ourselves in the dark, we keep the power for the situation in the dark.  Demand-control schema (D/C-S) gives us the power to analyze and apply the power we do bring to the situation.  When we recognize “our baggage” we bring to work and recognize its influence, we are able to do the work.  The use of D/C-S separates one’s “person” from the work. To be a professional practice, we must consider relationships- fundamental relationship between the client and the practitioner. As interpreters, we work with people; therefore, the interactions  are not always predictable as they would be if we worked with machines (technical).  In technical work, there is language, but the complexities of relationships within the work, play, public life, private life, job, grief, etc. are not part of the job.  The misunderstanding of our profession is that we are seen as technical but we end up in relationships.

Consequences – what are your options?  Write as if you were interpreters, not just students.  Write not as “you,” but as “I.”     Use DC-S as framework for your journals, publishing what you have seen in your observations.  What was seen, what you did, and what you didn’t do but could have. Bring in 5 scenarios you have done Demand listings for.  Ideas for observation of locales include elementary school, junior high school, high school, different school districts, speaker series, athletic event, theatrical production, musical production, etc.  What else did you experience?  What did it feel like?  What did you notice?  How did you respond to it? 

Rewards/Benefits of using D/C-S

a.       Beyond vocabulary

b.       Identify range of possible controls

c.       Identify controls that are lacking

d.       Recognize all decisions have consequences

e.       Recognize that even advanced interpreters deal with demands, especially interpersonal demands.

f.        Goes beyond equivalent message; interactions are equivalent, not just vocabulary equivalent.  More objective perceptions of what was done at the job, but ability at that very moment, with controls that I had at that time, I did okay.

Concern from administration in schools is that educational interpreters do not function as part of team; attitudes of interpreters to the deaf person and deaf person’s perception of competent comprehension and presentation is also concern. Competent autonomy versus default autonomy is of concern.  By that, what is meant is that in the field of interpreting there is no real “formal induction” or continued supervision. We really are not empowered to work alone, so the absence of a mentor or even the hope of mentor makes field of educational interpreting hard.  Competency means having significant self awareness and network to connect with others.  It is our duty because in the field, we must be ready and competent but the actual work environment prohibits that.  If we compare the field of interpreting to the medical field where before doctors actually do a surgery, etc, you seek consultation.  Just the fact that we don’t do so, makes us a technician versus professional orientation; distinct roles and responsibilities are visible in other fields.

Common practice versus best practice – Best practice represents collective consciousness.  Take the time in the moment now or you will end up doing it when you are beating yourself in bed.  Use observation and supervision to expand your knowledge about how the systems work, not about the interpreter but the systems. 

Assignment – what school, age, class, are you interested in?  Go and do an interview- one day observation to get specific questions answered.  Develop questions to be asked.  Do this in three settings- not just school.  We can use DC-S as dialogue for the work analysis, continuum of decision making and introduction to observation-supervision.  Discuss the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects by putting yourself in role of deaf person, of interpreter.  Wellness is important.  That includes the four: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  What are the demands in each of these areas?  How can you take care of yourself in all areas?  How do people behave?  How did the people relate?  What language was used?  What was the environment?  How do I express my need?  How do I make my way known?

Create a personal list- ways to be kind to myself; ways to prepare; ways to grow. and  and

Notes from RID Conference, San Francisco.  August 3, 2007



Guided observation cards –


What was the room set up and how would it impact the potential interpreting situation?



Who are the personnel and who are the clientele? Who’s in power?  Did power change during course of situation?



Identify controls that are lacking




How do people behave?  How did the people relate?


What language was used and what specific words might have caused problems?




Identify range of possible controls



What special Situations occurred?


What are some of the terminology to be considered?



Identify changes in the environment that would impact the demands of that environment.


What kinds of interpersonal relationships are there?


What situations occurred that would influence the intrapersonal communication of the personnel?


Identify and influences on the paralinguistics of the environment.