Navigating a situation between two folks in conflict is a delicate practice, as nobody wants the conflict to escalate further. When one party is especially upset, this can be an extremely difficult ask.
Redditor AITA-ASL-Brother found himself in a situation where he was forced to mediate between his mute sister and a bully.
Facing blowback from his sister, he sought the validation of impartial strangers by going to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA.”
“AITA for ‘tactfully’ translating something my sister said?”
Our original poster, or OP, talked about the relationship between he and his sister.
“I’m 15M[ale] and have a fraternal twin sister, 15F[emale]. My sister is completely mute due to a childhood medical disorder, and uses ASL to ‘talk’ to other people.”
“To clarify: She is not deaf and does not have any developmental disorders, so you can talk to her like you would most people and she’ll understand you, it’s just that her vocal cords literally do not work.”
“I’ve spent my life learning ASL as well, and effectively serve as her translator to other students in our school and whatnot.”
“Some of her closer friends have learned it for her so I don’t always have to be her ‘middle man,’ which she definitely appreciates since sometimes she wants to chat about ‘girl stuff’ and doesn’t want to make me uncomfortable.”
OP and his sister have no trouble navigating their social lives normally, but one other student really tested his sister.
“Well, there’s this kid in our grade who, let’s put it nicely, is kind of a jerk. And my sis isn’t someone who really takes anything sitting down.”
“So he was trying to mess with her one day last week by shouting in her ears to see if she’d react (she did, again, she’s not deaf and this kid knows that).”
“She stood up, got right up in his grill and began signing a bunch of curse words. I hadn’t gotten involved, I know my sister can defend herself, but the classmate asked me to translate what she said.”
“So instead of repeating her swear-filled rant, I told him that she just asked him to stop, and that I would like him to as well.”
His “tactful” translation earned him a bit of ire from his sister, who very much wanted to curse this bully out.
“The teacher walked in after that and class began, but when we left to go home that day, my sister asked me why I didn’t just translate what she had actually said to him.”
“First off, I didn’t really want to curse when I knew a teacher would be walking in the door any second.”
“Secondly, considering he backed off once she got in his face, I felt like repeating what she said verbatim would just set him off again.”
“It had already been a scene and I didn’t want to make it worse again.”
“AITA for more ‘tactfully’ translating what my sister said?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors think that OP did okay by not getting he or his sister in trouble.
“NAH. Translators are supposed to be impartial and translate exactly (as best is possible), otherwise they lose trust.”
“It’s not perfect, but it’s a goal. I get that you aren’t a professional translator, but the trust issue applies, so I understand why she’s mad.”
“But you aren’t a professional translator, so you could get in trouble – either from the aggressive dude or the teachers – and that’s not ok for her to put you in that situation. I think you did the right thing.”
“I hope she comes around.”~FishScrumptious
“I’d say what makes it NAH (except for the bully who is obviously an AH) is that OP likely doesn’t know this yet and that is not his fault.”
“It’s not like he’s been trained in translation or the issues of agency for non-speaking folks.”
“He should absolutely take it on board and talk to his sister about it, but he’s not an AH for not knowing better yet, and likewise the sister isn’t an AH for not considering all the complexities.”
“It’s something they both are in the process of learning in terms of how to handle their situation together. They both deserve support to get it right at this point.”~elsehwere
“I agree that it is not ok to substitute OP words for hers. On the other hand she shouldn’t assume he is ok with cursing every time she is.”
“OP could have a chat with sister about boundaries and say that if she wants him to translate she needs to know he will summarize the cursing rather than repeat it directly, because she is making him say things he doesn’t want to say.”
“Also, she needs to leave him some room to try to keep himself and her safe if he thinks things are getting out of hand.”
“If on the other hand OP is just using his role to misrepresent his sister, that is not ok. she Didn’t ask you to edit her words and it’s not a habit you should get into.”~Justpoppedby
“NAH (obviously the other kid is, but not you or your sister).”
“Translators are supposed to translate word for word, and I can understand your sister’s frustration in not being able to get her point across.”
“But you aren’t an official translator. Translating could have gotten both you and your sister in trouble.”
“If a speaking person started screaming curses at someone in the cafeteria, there’d be consequences, no matter how much the guy deserved it.”
“And, unfortunately, if you translated word for word, you could also possibly get in trouble because you are the one ‘saying’ the words.”
“I definitely think you and your sister should report his behavior, though. Screaming in someone’s ear can cause hearing damage.”~Usrname52
While Reddit agrees their judgment would have been different if OP was a professional translator—he’s a teenager with no such obligations.
“If he’s willing to be that much of an AH in the first place, he could have made it a bigger deal or assaulted either one of them.”
“De-escalating situations is better than escalating them, even at the cost of feelings. NTA/NAH.”~evansdeagles
“Thing is, according to the OP, it was the classmate who asked for the translation, not the sister. OP doesn’t owe the assaulting-with-sound classmate anything.”
“The sister didn’t object to the inaccurate translation until later.”
“So while I think OP needs to clarify his sister’s expectations and what he’s willing to do with respect to translations, eg.”
“If there are some words he’s not comfortable with in certain situations, in this case he’s clearly NTA.”~calling_water
“NAH. Ultimately it was a good idea to just deescalate and you could’ve gotten yourself in trouble if the teacher heard you swearing at the boy.”
“That being said, I can imagine it’s incredibly frustrating to be in your sister’s shoes. Maybe she should start just giving the kid the finger, that doesn’t need any translation.”~popebologna
“NAH because you’re 15 and you’re still learning how to navigate an extremely tricky dynamic that’s hard for adults, but she’s in the right here and you’re in the wrong.”
“It’s reasonable to draw some boundaries if there are situations where you’re not willing to interpret or where a non-family member interpreter should be provided.
“But if you are acting as an interpreter you can never never just change her words. It’s a huge betrayal of trust.”
“That said you’re being put in a rather untenable position here, either the school should be providing an interpreter or your parents need to sit down with the school and work out that under no circumstances will you be punished for interpreting for her.”
“You shouldn’t need to worry about whether you’ll be punished for her words.”
“You also probably should start thinking about drawing some boundaries in terms of there being some situations where she has a professional interpreter so that you can concentrate on being a family member.”~nsnyder
Plus OP shouldn’t have to get in trouble with the teacher just to communicate his sister’s disdain more effectively.
“NAH but if you ever interpret for someone professionally you are obligated to do it fully (but then you couldn’t et in trouble with the teacher for swearing).”
“This is a really good time for you to have a conversation with your sister about it though.”
“Let her know that although you’re cool interpreting for her most of the time, you’re not comfortable participating in an escalating situation that would end badly.”~AnnaJamieK
“NAH (between you and your sister), but I understand why she’s mad that you didn’t translate word for word, only because she can’t say it to him herself and you’re her voice.”
“I’m not saying you were wrong though, just that I can understand her feelings.”~Sweet_Caterpillar150
“NAH. My grandmother’s preferred language was Welsh.”
“She grew up in a small Welsh town where Welsh was the lingua franca, and so she didn’t use English all that much, and what she did know of English was very broken, limited, and not always correct.”
“She and my grandfather moved to England, and my grandfather, as a speaker of both Welsh and English, would often have to translate for her.”
“Various members of my family who also spoke Welsh would also have to translate.”
“When we translated, if we altered her words beyond basic structure/grammar, she would become upset, because it is incredibly frustrating when you have a short list of people who you trust to communicate your words effectively, and they choose to censor you.”
“Particularly if you feel very strongly about what you are saying and they choose to water it down to make it more palatable for the person it’s aimed at. With this in mind, her upset is more than fair.”
“However, if you had said what she was saying, you likely would have landed yourself in a world of trouble, and made yourself the target rather than your sister, so I can’t call you TA either.”
“For future, though, my grandmother could cuss up a storm that would make a sailor blush.”
“When someone needed to translate something very strong, if they felt translating it would land them in trouble, they would say something like ‘you don’t want to know’ or ‘if I told you what she was saying, even she would be offended.'”~throwRAkidsreciept
“NAH. It sounds like you’ve been put in the position of translator for so long you may not even realize that it’s not your choice.”
“If you choose to be her translator, it’s ethical and right to translate exactly what she says, unless the two of you agree otherwise.”
“However, like I said, it sounds like this is a position you didn’t choose, and your sister getting into a fight with an AH isn’t necessarily something you’d want to get involved with in that way.”
“So I don’t think either of you is in the wrong. But I do think both of you are old enough now for you two to sit down and negotiate some boundaries.”
“She shouldn’t expect you to get in trouble for her, or to translate in absolutely every situation she gets herself into.”
“You, on the other hand, need to take charge of your own actions and choose when, where, and how you will be her translator and communicate these boundaries clearly so she knows what to expect.”
“I also recommend you ask your parents to look into technology your sister can use to speak for herself, like touch screen communicators.”~usernaym44
All things told, the kid who screamed in OP’s sister’s ear most definitely deserved to be hit with a storm of curse words, but it was not OP’s job to bestow those upon him.
And OP could have gotten into serious trouble—so hopefully, OP’s sister can understand why he chose to back off the gas pedal.