Deaf juror research update

After a brief summer hiatus, LifeinLincs is back with plans afoot to rejuvenate the regularity of the blog posts….

In the meantime, I wanted to post an update about the deaf juror research that I am involved in with colleagues in Australia. I posted a previous blog about this topic in February this year, and have recently returned from Australia where we completed the data collection for the Australian Research Council funded project.

The data collection involved the organisation of a mock trial involving 11 hearing jurors, a deaf juror and two sign language interpreters. The trial involved other participants who were genuine legal practitioners: legal aid solicitors, advocates and a retired judge. Two actors were hired to play the role of defendant and witness, and the case was adapted from a real drugs case tried originally by one of the advocates. The whole 1.5 day mock trial and 2 hour jury deliberation was filmed and all participants were interviewed on completion of the trial. We are now in the process of analysing the data, to determine the nature and level of impact that the presence of a deaf juror and interpreters may have on the jury deliberation process.


The data collection went extremely well, due to the careful planning of the research team and the support from Legal Aid NSW in identifying a suitable case and legal personnel to participate, Deaf Australia to assist with recruiting a deaf juror, Sign Language Communications NSW and the NSW Deaf Society in providing the interpreters, the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) on advising on legal interpreting issues, and the NSW Department of Attorney General & Justice in securing us a courtroom to use at the Parramatta trial courts precinct.

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The research received a great amount of Australian and international media attention. I was recently interviewed by Radio National New Zealand about the research and the mock trial. For people who can hear, you can listen to the interview (19 minutes long) at:

In order to provide access to the Deaf community to the interview, I have had it transcribed (thanks to our HWU research associate, Robert Skinner). The transcript can be found below. Apologies for the length of this posting, but this is the only way I can make the transcript available.

This research has the potential to effect major international law reform, so is of interest to researchers and practitioners in legal, forensic linguistics, interpreting studies and deaf studies disciplines.

Interview between Presenter Bryan Crump, on Radio National NZ Nights program and Prof Jemina Napier, on Wednesday 20th August 2014

BC = Bryan Crump, JN = Jemina Napier

BC Justice is blind!

Well, in an ideal world it should be but it could cope with the deaf if it wanted to, at least that’s the
argument from Professor Jemina Napier from Heriot-Watt University, which is in Scotland, but her recent
work has been in Australia encouraging the court system in New South Wales to embrace deaf jurors.

Jemina is on the line now from Edinburgh, Scotland, cue to Jemina. Welcome to Nights.

JN Thanks very much for having me on.

BC What’s the situation with deaf jurors in most countries? I think it might be possible to be deaf and be on
a jury in New Zealand?

JN That’s right. There has only ever been one case in New Zealand, shortly after the New Zealand Sign Language
Act was put in to place. A deaf man was called and he asked for an interpreter, and they provided it. I
think that’s been the only case so far that I know of but at least it has happened in New Zealand. In the
United States deaf people can systematically serve as jurors throughout the country, but so far the
majority of other countries like Australia, the UK and Ireland that have a similar adversarial court
system, don’t actually allow deaf people to serve as jurors for various reasons. There are slightly
different interpretations of the law and why that’s the case, but essentially they regard it as not being
able to participate in the judicial process.

BC Given Edinburgh is on the other side of the world to Australia what’s been the catalyst for you to get
involved in the court system there?

JN I was actually in Australia for 15 years, I’m British originally…[…] I was actually at Macquarie University
in Sydney for a long time and the research that I’m involved in was initiated by the New South Wales Law
Reform Commission.

About 10 years ago they actually set up a reference group at the request of the New South Wales Attorney
General to look at whether deaf people could serve as jurors. So they asked me to do some initial research
and it’s been an ongoing research agenda from then. We’ve had various projects to explore this issue from
different angles if you like. Just to try and test the different questions about the feasibility of deaf
people serving and then I came over to Australia again recently, after moving back to Edinburgh, but I was
back in Australia to do the last piece of the puzzle really.

BC Just looking at Australia for a start, what is the reason for excluding deaf people from juries?

JN It actually varies from State to State, because Australia is a federated system…

BC Yeah, yeah, each State and Territory has its different court system.

JN Absolutely, so for example in Queensland where there is actually a case, a woman is suing for
discrimination. She was rejected from serving on a jury, a deaf woman, the reason given to her, it came
under the definition of “mental capacity”. Whether she had the capacity to serve as a juror…

BC That was the judge’s reasoning? Did a judge rule on this?

JN Apparently a court officer. Yeah that’s right, it was a court officer’s reasoning, yeah.

BC Really? Because…

JN Yeah.

BC Ok, I’m going to give some judges credit here, because mental capacity has been applied to a deaf person,
surely a judge wouldn’t be that stupid? No. This is a bad call.

JN Which is why she took it to court, for discrimination. Because she says she does have the mental capacity
but she couldn’t access the proceedings because she needed to sign language and she asked for an
interpreter and they refused to provide that accommodation for her. She actually lost the trial initially
but she has gone to appeal and she is planning on taking it to the United Nations under the Convention for
the Rights of people with Disabilities if she doesn’t get through.

BC What’s been the response to the Queensland legal system to that? Has there been a debate in Queensland
about this?
JN There’s definitely been some media coverage. I think the interesting thing is that the appeal Gaye Lyons is
taking forward is because the judge had considered she wasn’t treated unreasonably and that she wasn’t
discriminated against. The judge felt that the judicial officer who made the decision had made a reasonable
decision at that time with the information that was presented to them at that time. It’s an interesting
debate around disability rights, civil rights but also what’s called “reasonable accommodation”. So
normally under disability discrimination law you have to demonstrate if you have been discriminated
against. If someone can’t reasonably accommodate for your needs, and so the argument really is against what
is considered to be reasonable or not.

BC Now this is possibly where your work comes in, because you have been involved in setting up an experimental
trial. A ‘trial’ trial in Sydney is it? Using at least one deaf juror?

JN That’s right, the reason I was back in Australia recently, like I said for the last piece of the puzzle,
running a mock trial.

Ultimately all of the different research that we’ve done has shown there doesn’t seem to be any impediment
for deaf people serving as jurors. We know this happens in the United States.

The argument is there is a Common law, if you like, that there can only be 12 people in a jury room, in a
jury deliberation room. So if you had a deaf person in there with a sign language interpreters that then
means there is 13,, potentially 14 people, in there because of the working conditions they often need to
work in twos. But no one has been able to test what the impact of that would be in a deliberation room
because no one can go into a deliberation room. So what we did was set up this mock trial. We ran a trial
for a day and a half, which was based on a real case, a drugs case. We had a deaf juror and 11 hearing
jurors who went in to the deliberation room with two sign language interpreters working, and we filmed
everything, and we also interviewed all of the participants. Now we’re in the analysis phase to analyse
what actually happened in the deliberation room. How did the deaf person participate as a juror with the
interpreters there? Did there seem to be any negative impact on that deliberation process. That will
hopefully be the final piece of evidence that might demonstrate that convince the judicial system that deaf
people can in face serve as jurors.

BC What were you testing? What questions were you asking?

JN That’s a good question. What we were looking at in particular is the process, the flow of the talk in the
deliberation room. The concerns that have been raised by the judiciary have been that the deliberation
process is suppose to be a natural sort of flowing conversation, where people can debate issues, and they h
have concerns if you have interpreters there it might stifle that communication, it might have a negative
impact on that flow of talk. So what we’re looking at is ok well… let’s look at that situation, let’s look
at that deliberation and how the communication happens. Whether there seems to be any miscommunications
happening and to what extent. Then we can have a better body of evidence, because so far this discussion
has been based on conjecture. No one knows what happens in a deliberation room with an interpreter because
you can’t get in there to observe it. So try creating this mock trial to replicate a case as closely as
possible, a real life case as closely as possible, means we’ve actually got some evidence then we can
analyse and present.

BC This mock trial was based on a real case. So did you know what happened in the real case? And how long it

JN We did, yes. The real case took slightly longer. We had to adapt, we adapted it slightly so that we
reduced, for example the amount of evidence and witnesses that were used, because we needed to be able to
control how long the trial ran for to then estimate how long the deliberations might take. Obviously you
can imagine running a mock trial with a film crew filming everything and for research purposes we couldn’t
let it go on ad infinitum.

BC Did you find the process was slowed in any way using an interpreter, meaning in conversation? Regardless of
the content of that conversation and it’s usefulness? Did it take longer?

JN That is an interesting question that people often ask, and I think if you going to be very matter of fact
about it then yes the conversation will always take slightly longer because you’ve got that extra layer in
the conversation going through an interpreter. One of the advantages if you like for sign language
interpreters and working with deaf people is that we work simultaneously. One of our languages is silent,
so for example Bryan when you speak if there was a deaf person here present I could be interpreting
simultaneously while you’re speaking and signing to that deaf person. Where as a spoken language
interpreter, working between two spoken languages unless they have got special equipment they have to work
what we call ‘consecutively’. So you would have to pause, allow the interpreter to relay the information
and then the person responds and then you pause because you can’t talk over the top of one another. So that
takes a lot longer than sign language interpreting does.

BC What if some of the evidence, I don’t know if you’ve looked at this, is taped?

JN That was actually another issue that came up about oral evidence and we tried to include some oral
evidence in the mock trial but we weren’t able to in the end. But we did interview the various participants
and we asked them if they had felt that there’d been some kind of oral evidence like a wire tap or
something like that, would the sign language interpreters have been able to convey that? The interesting
things is the interpreters said “yes” they felt they could convey that information. What you would do is
reflect the tone of voice grammatically in a different way in sign language. So you’d use facial expression
and other components of sign language to present that information visually, if you like, so it can be
conveyed. But I think that’s something the legal profession still needs to be convinced of.

BC Well here’s a slightly a side issue here, but is it possible for a deaf lawyer to work in an Australian
court? A New South Wales court? Because we’re dealing with just New South Wales here.

JN Actually, at the moment as far as know there are no qualified practicing lawyers working in court in New
South Wales. There are people who are qualified in law but they don’t practice. There’s one, there is one
lawyer I know in Queensland actually Kathryn O’Brien who does practice in court and she uses sign language
interpreters in court. She was the first deaf person that I know of in Australia to be in that position.

BC I mean another thing that could come up is even if it’s not oral or recorded evidence, something that’s
played on a tape, a deaf person can’t hear the way somebody speaks but then I thought a deaf person can
watch the way somebody speaks. And therefore see how they are responding to a question, which can be just
as revealing if we’re looking for the credibility of a witness.

JN Absolutely, one of my co-investigators on this project is Professor Sandra Hale, who is at University of
New South Wales. She has got a lot of experience doing legal interpreting research, Spanish is the language
that she focuses on. We’re working together because of our expertise in these areas, we’ve both worked on
another project which looks at witness credibility and how jurors perceive witnesses if they present their
evidence through an interpreter. The interesting thing is that judges will invariably, when they’re giving
instructions to a jury, they will advise the jury to observe the witnesses, to watch not just listen to
what they’re saying, to watch them because often when you’re reading someone’s body language then you can
actually make an assessment of whether you think their evidence is credible or whether they’re telling the
truth. You’re right deaf people have an even more perceptive skill I think in that sense, because they
always regard the world visually. They’re always reading people’s body language anyway.

BC Nights with Bryan Crump Radio National New Zealand on air here. Talking to Professor Jemina Napier from
Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh […] Anyway, we’re talking about Australia actually and a trial, a
‘trial’ trial! Jemina was involved in New South Wales. To see if the court system there can accommodate
deaf jurors. Are you still examining the results? Any conclusions yet that you can talk about?

JN I can’t really speak about any conclusion because the video footage is still being edited together for us.
All I can comment on are my observations of what happened and some of the thoughts that were shared with us
from the participants in the interviews that we did.

BC What did the other jurors make of what was going on? The ones that can hear?

JN Yeah, all the hearing jurors were interviewed in a focus group together. All of them actually were quite
surprised by how well everything had gone. They commented that they felt the deaf juror was very erudite,
contributed lots to the discussion, and they actually felt there was an added value actually in having a
deaf juror there and the interpreters there. They felt it helped the communication to flow because they
were conscious of making sure they were speaking clearly, so the interpreters could interpret for the deaf
juror. If anything rather than be an impediment they found it enhanced the communication process.

BC How did the deaf juror feel about the situation and the process?

JN He loved it. He was so excited to be involved. I think because up until now its never been possible for a
deaf people to serve as jurors in Australia, just to be involved, even though it was a mock trial, he said
it felt very real. He did comment that it did feel tiring, you know watching an interpreter and trying to
process everything, it’s quiet tiring on the eyes. The hearing jurors said they found it tiring too…

BC Anybody who has been on a jury and has tried, and has to deal with the difficult [information], and they’re
almost always difficult, finds it tiring. It’s not an easy thing to do.

JN Absolutely. You’re having to take on board a lot of new information. You’re having to determine what you
think about that, interpret what the outcome might be. It’s a very complex process. The deaf person said
that he felt because he had two qualified interpreters who have experience in the legal setting he felt he
had access to all the information. He didn’t feel disadvantaged in any way. He said, and we asked him, if
this ever became a reality would you be willing to serve as a juror for real? He said absolutely, 100% he
would. Yeah.

BC However, the sticking point it seems to me is the possibility of having another person in the juror’s room,
where there’s 12 people, just 12 people, are suppose to deliberate, isolated from the rest of the world not
prejudiced by anything going on outside, could be influenced by one or two interpreters. It might be too
soon for you to ne able to answer the question on whether you think that was the case.

JN Again, that’s a good question and another concern that has been raised. Interpreters do follow a code of
ethics. One really important tenet of the code of ethics is that we are to remain impartial. An interpreter
can facilitate communication but should never impose their own opinions or bring any of their own thoughts
into any conversation, regardless of if it’s in a legal context or any contexts. They’re just there to
facilitate the communication between the people who need to directly address each other.

Interpreters are trained to be impartial, to not impose themselves on a communication. You’re right we
haven’t analysed the evidence yet, so I can’t say for sure the extent to which the interpreters might have
influenced the interaction. Just by being there, I mean other research has demonstrated that just by
physically being present, of course you can’t pretend that the interpreter is invisible. They are there, so
by being there they do influence the interaction. They shouldn’t change the interaction in any way though
if you know what I mean?

BC Did the mock trial reach the same verdict as the real case?

JN That’s a good question, actually no they didn’t.

BC Now you see that I’m afraid the establishment might struggle with that, mightn’t they? They might say “well
hang on… if all things being equal they should reach the same, with the same evidence, they should reach
the same [conclusion]”, although we know juries don’t do that in real life! There’s always surprise
verdicts in all sorts of cases. Has Gaye Lyons the Queenslander, the deaf Queenslander, whose taking on the
court establishment there, taken an interest in what you’re doing?

JN Oh absolutely. She actually really wanted to be involved in the mock trial, but we felt that she has got
too much of a vested interest.

BC Yeah that’s a bit too prejudicial I think.

JN Yeah, but we are going to be doing follow up focus groups because once we’ve done the analysis we’d like to
put forward some recommendations. So once we have our preliminary recommendations we’re going to take them
to key stakeholders, so members of the deaf community, interpreters, the legal profession, the judiciary
and so on. Just to say “ok this is what we’re going to recommend, what do you think? Is it feasible?”, and
so on. Get feedback and then finalise those recommendations for the Australian Research Council who funded
the project, and also for Governments – we’re hoping it might have wider ramifications outside of
Australia, for other countries, like here in the UK where they’re also waiting to see the outcome of the

We’re hoping that maybe Gaye can be involved in a focus group at a later date?

BC You must be fluent in sign [language] yourself Jemina?

JN I am yes, I use British Sign Language and also Australian Sign Language and I actually use a tiny bit of
New Zealand Sign Language as well!

BC Really we have dialects in sign?

JN We have different sign languages in every country, yes.

BC Different accents?

JN Kind of, yeah. It’s interesting in the same way that you know American, Australian, New Zealand British
English are mutually intelligible but there’s different vocabulary, so sign languages also have language
families if you like. So British, Australian and New Zealand Sign languages are related. They are more
mutually intelligible, for example than American Sign Language, which is completely different. Other sign
languages form other countries are completely different.

BC When do you get your final results through?

JN Well we’re aiming to have the final analysis ready by March…

BC March of next year?

JN Yeah. Then final recommendations by the end of 2015.

BC Jemina thanks very much for joining us, I don’t know if you can hear me but you’ve suddenly broken up.
We’ve gotta move on anyway, thanks very much Jemina.

JN You’re welcome.

BC That is Jemina Napier from Heriot University, in Scotland although she’s been working on a ‘trial’ trial in
Australia, to see whether deaf jurors in New South Wales can be incorporated into a jury system there
because at the moment they’re not allowed.

Posted in Interpreting, Research, Sign Language | Leave a comment

LifeinLINCS up for Three International Awards

Authors: Bernadette O’Rourke, Jemina Napier, Graham Turner, Jonathan Downie

It is great to see that, despite a recent hiatus, readers of LifeinLINCS really appreciate the blog. In fact, it seems like you appreciate the blog so much, you think it should receive awards. Thank you so much for nominating LifeinLINCS for three Community Choice awards.


Both the nominations and votes for these awards come from members of, the world’s largest community of professional translators and interpreters. While the site is not without its controversies, it still brings together over 700,000 translators and interpreters from across the globe.


It is therefore an incredible honour for LifeinLINCS to be nominated for the award for best blog in the “Interpretation-Related” section. This puts us up against such staples as The Interpreter Diaries, Unprofessional Translation and blogs from big associations like AIIC and NAJIT.


Two LifeinLINCS posts are also up for awards. Why Language Learning Will Not Reduce Interpreting Costs is up for best Interpretation-Related article and Inventions for Freelancers part 2 is up for Best Interpretation-Related blog post. In both cases, there is real competition from professionals and academics, which goes to show that high quality content on interpreting is never far away.


As if that wasn’t enough, Jemina Napier, one of the editors of LifeinLINCS is up for Best interpreting Conference Speaker and Jonathan Downie, one of our regular contributors, has received a nomination for Best Translation-related Training Course for his Webinar: Getting the Most out of Research in Translation and Interpreting.


We would like to thank everyone that nominated us and remind our readers that details of voting can be found on the relevant page on Voting closes September 22nd.

Posted in About LifeinLINCS, Events and News | Leave a comment

Is it still “B”SL if Scotland votes ‘Yes’?

Author: Graham H. Turner

Fewer than 100 days remain until Scotland makes a weighty decision – to remain ‘United’ with the rest of the Kingdom’, or to strike out as an independent nation

In the background of the democratic process lurk many questions about language. Scots, Americans, Australians and others routinely experience the dissonance of hearing their language called ‘English’. The same problem would start to apply to users of sign language in an independent Scotland – because their language is currently known as ‘British Sign Language’.

So, when we gaze into our crystal ball, what can be foreseen in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote on September 18th? Odd as it may seem, scholars take the view that languages are not defined by their linguistic content, but by their socio-political status: “A language is a dialect with an army and a navy,” as Max Weinreich pithily declared.

So if Scottish signers chose to exert their political muscles, they could start using the term ‘Scottish Sign Language’ tomorrow, if they wanted to, referring to the eloquent and powerful signing they already produce every day – and the language itself wouldn’t need to change one iota.

Strictly in terms of linguistic structures, signing throughout these islands post-referendum is likely to remain more-or-less as united as it has previously been, no matter what the result of the vote. Languages change pretty slowly, after all. And as can be seen in the British Sign Language [BSL] Corpus (for which Heriot-Watt University was the Scottish partner), there is already significant regional variation in signing, including what are considered distinctly Scottish signs. That kind of variation comfortably exists within many languages – including English – without people feeling the need to change their view that ‘it’s all still one language really’.

But politically, things may be different for communities in an independent Scotland. A lot will depend on social attitudes on both sides of the border. It’s possible that linguistic divisions may harden over time – but we’d be talking generations, not months.

The other thing that is crucial is how key aspects of government policy in London and Edinburgh develop after the referendum. I published a paper in 2003 – “On Policies and Prospects for British Sign Language” – saying that one of the problems with making progress in improving BSL’s status is that the UK has always lacked any specific LANGUAGE policy about BSL.

We have policies in health, social care, justice, education etc, all of which have implications for BSL – but nowhere do we take the language itself, and the signing community, as the focus for policy development. The result is the kind of incoherence and inconsistency we see in the Westminster government’s approach to BSL at present. Is that how things will continue if Scotland becomes independent?

Some of the messages are discouraging. Scotland already has autonomy over its education policy (as part of the ‘devolved’ parliamentary arrangements) – but it cannot be said to have transformed the lives of Scottish Deaf young people as a result, as a recent report shows. So we can’t be complacent.

On the other hand, the Scottish Funding Council provides ring-fenced resources which have allowed Heriot-Watt University to create a unique, full-time, 4-year degree course in BSL/English interpreting and to keep recruiting new students every year for the foreseeable future.

So there are encouraging indications. And thanks to Mark Griffin MSP, the Scottish Parliament is due to consider a BSL Bill during 2014 – for once, putting the policy focus squarely on the language. That should be an encouraging signal that Scotland is moving towards seeing its sign language – whatever we call it – as part of its own cultural heritage, like Gaelic and Scots, to be treasured and protected.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment




2nd International Symposium



ISCH EU COST Action IS1306
Bernadette O’Rourke, Network Chair, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
Joan Pujolar, Network Vice-Chair, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
20‒22 November 2014 Barcelona

Global social changes are transforming the linguistic ecologies of contemporary societies. They change our linguistic landscapes, our linguistic repertoires and the ways we use languages in everyday life. In fact, what we used to understand by “languages” is also changing, along with the concepts and theories traditionally employed to analyse language use. The “New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe” network invites linguists, social scientists, language activists and language planners to take part in the analysis and debate of these sociolinguistic transformations.


The concept of “new speakers” provides one angle from which to investigate the new multilingual realities of contemporary Europe; we propose to explore multilingualism from the perspective of the social actors and their experience of using different languages in their daily lives. We focus especially on the experience of people as they socialize in languages that are not their “native” or “first” language, both synchronically and diachronically (e.g. in different periods of their lives). The concept shifts our focus away from the “native speaker”, a notion which has traditionally dominated linguistic analysis and institutional language policies. In this first phase of this EU COST project, we examine three new speaker profiles:


-New speakers of regional minority languages
-New speakers in the context of immigration
-New speakers who adopt new languages for specific work purposes
Deadline for submission of abstracts 30 June 2014
More information at
Posted in New Speakers, Research | Leave a comment

Research on, for and with translators

Author: Graham H. Turner

There are many topics one may be well advised to avoid in polite company – and here we are in polite company, so don’t ask me to name them. You know.

But in this age of social media free-for-all, if people are discussing their lives in the blogosphere, is that material openly available to be treated as data by researchers?

A recent paper ( by Professor Helle Vrønning Dam, from the Department of Business Communication at Aarhus University in Denmark, has stirred up a degree of controversy among professional translators.

Professor Dam’s ( work (2013) describes an ongoing project analysing translators’ self-presentation in their weblogs. Some 21 freelance practitioners are said to “use their weblogs to enhance their own and their profession’s status and, ultimately, seek empowerment”.

The paper is characterised by the author as an illustration of ‘the translator approach’, “a new research perspective in translation studies that posits translators, rather than for example translations or translating, as the primary and explicit focus of research”.

I’d be the last to knock any researcher who wants to keep real human beings squarely in focus. There are more than enough analysts out there who appear content to reduce the soul to a desiccated set of metrics (

But if this is ‘new’ to translation studies, it really shouldn’t be. And there are models available that would help enormously to overcome the disconnect between researcher and researched that seems to have caused friction ( among some readers of Dam’s study.

Back in the days when I still had hair on my head (no, I did, really), one the books that made the strongest impression on me was Cameron, D., E. Frazer, P. Harvey, M.B.H. Rampton, and K. Richardson. 1992. Researching language: issues of power and method. New York: Routledge. (Astonishingly, it’s not available from the publisher, it appears, but can be bought from as little as £0.01 from certain online outlets.)

As a young academic, I was captivated by the clarity and social solidarity of the authors’ approach. Long before ‘public engagement’, ‘knowledge exchange’ and the need for ‘impact’ became familiar to most academics, Professor Deborah Cameron ( and colleagues set out three simple ‘programmatic precepts':

  • “People are not objects and should not be treated as objects.
  • Subjects have their own agendas and research should try to address them.
  • If knowledge is worth having, it is worth sharing.”

Elegant and brilliant. I am convinced that, taken in a serious and considered manner, these principles really work. They have for me for over 20 years. The beauty of them in the human sciences is that, at a stroke, they enhance both aspects of the equation – our humanity and our science.

Have they been applied in our field? Well over a decade ago, I led on a paper called ‘Issues of Power and Method in Interpreting Research’ (see for details) which wears its debt to Cameron et al quite explicitly. The work of Heriot-Watt’s Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland ( has underscored this approach in many ways. ‘Empowering’ methods are highlighted in our Summer Schools ( and publications (eg

So empowerment of practitioners by practitioners, as Dam discusses, is one significant step. But it is also eminently possible for researchers and practitioners to combine forces for mutual benefit. And the ultimate target is, of course, a ‘cycle of empowerment’ (as described here which advances the interests of both groups, plus – most importantly of all – the service users in whose interests interpreters, translators and researchers are all ultimately operating.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Inventions for Freelancers part 2

Author: Jonathan Downie

Part 2: Interpreters

Last week, we offered a list of 4 inventions that every translator needs. This week, it is the time of interpreters to benefit from the march of technology. True, some of these would be more useful to the friends and families of interpreters than the interpreters themselves but nevertheless, all of them would bring a positive benefit to the world.

1)    Auto-mute

Hang around an interpreter for a while and you will realise that there is a reason they are paid to talk – they are very good at it! This is all well and good but their constant need to show that the can talk and listen at the same time can mean that they wear down those nearest to them. With auto-mute, this problem would be alleviated. All friends or family members would need to do is select the level of conversation they require ranging from “fewer words than a translator at a party” to “louder than a hyper-active toddler”. Anything over the level selected would be automatically screened out and/or stored for later.

2)    Joke Predictor

Ever struggled to interpret a speaker’s poor attempt at humour? Joke predictor would make this easier by spotting this horrible situation in advance and offering you a list of equally unfunny versions in your target language of choice. For a small extra fee, it could be adjusted to see in advance when the speaker is going to make an awful pun and then spend the entire speech dragging every last milligram of humour out of it.

3)    Silent Air-Con

Sweaty booth or loud deep freeze, which do you prefer? Silent Air-Con would make uncomfortable booths a thing of the past by actually keeping the temperature at a reasonable level. Say goodbye to unsightly sweat marks for ever!

4)     Rambler Swatter

No, this wouldn’t hit people who wander through the countryside. Instead, it would detect people whose talks are going to go on for ages without a point or worse, people who say they want to ask a question and proceed to start gibbering from a thick wad of tightly written notes without a question mark in sight. The answer: a swift whack.

It’s one invention that all interpreters, from the courtroom to the board room will love to use. Warning: using this invention may curtail your career.

5)    Accu-Brief

Are you tired of being told a meeting “won’t be technical” only to be confronted with a bunch of white-coated scientists discussing the finer points of bacteriology? What about suddenly realising that it wasn’t a good idea to wear a suit to that mud analysis job? With Accu-Brief, you can wave all of that goodbye. Now, you can be sure that the briefs you get for each job will tell you all the things you need to know and none of the things you don’t. Plus, for the first time, you will receive agendas that won’t change at the last minute!

Once again, over to you.

Posted in Humour, Interpreting | 2 Comments

IPCITI Deadline Extension

Author: IPCITI Organising Team

The dealine for call for papers for the 10th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting is extended until the 30th of May. For more information, please visit the IPCITI webpage.

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Not just about Languages

Author: Katerina Strani

The Intercultural Research Centre (IRC), established within LINCS, proves that we are not just about Languages. Led by Prof. Máiréad Nic Craith, the IRC makes original contributions to the study of interculturality with particular reference to dimensions of living culture in European societies. “Culture” is defined broadly in anthropological terms.

Among the numerous activities of the Centre, IRC members also participate in the International Doctoral Training Workshop “Transformations in European Societies” – a joint project of cultural studies and social anthropology departments at the universities of Basel, Heriot-Watt, Graz, Copenhagen, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Murcia and Tel Aviv.

The first working meeting was hosted by Heriot-Watt and took place in Edinburgh in October-November 2013. A 1-minute summary of the workshop can be found here.

The second working meeting took place on 20-22 March 2014 in Basel, Switzerland. PhD students from participating universities presented their work in progress on topics such as constructing national identity, multi-sited biographies, cultural protest and urban mythography. There were also workshops on fieldwork and how to write a conference panel proposal.

The workshop on Fieldwork was of particular interest to those not entirely familiar with ethnographic methods. During this workshop, Professors and PhD students worked together in teams, analysing field notes and discussing relevant theories before presenting findings to the entire group. We got the chance to see how anthropologists actually work with field notes, as well as the theoretical frameworks that may underpin seemingly unimportant field notes and remarks.

The workshop on How to Write a Conference Panel Proposal used panel proposals from workshop participants as examples and included “live” editing with the participation of the entire group.

A walking tour of Basel through the eyes of urban anthropologists as well as a tour of the new Ethnographic Museum of Cultures also contributed to the understanding of anthropology as a multi-faceted discipline.

The next meeting is in Tel Aviv in September 2014. For more information on the International Doctoral Programme, please visit:


Posted in Culture, Research | Leave a comment

Inventions For Freelancers pt. 1

Part 1: Translators

With CAT tools, terminology software and corpus-building, one could think that translators had all the productivity enhancements they needed. One would be wrong! In this post, we will sketch out some of the inventions that are most needed in the sector. We take no responsibility for the outcome of anyone actually manufacturing any of these!

1)    Dayjamas

Almost every translator has had the embarrassment of answering the door to the postman while still dressed in flannel or a cotton onesie. Dayjamas would be the solution to this. Made to look exactly like day clothes, Dayjamas would give people the impression that we aren’t the kind of people who shower only once the job is off to the PM. All we would have to do know is explain to the neighbours why there was still light coming from the living room at 3am last night.

2)    Desktop Tanning Lamp

While it is absolutely not true that translators melt in contact with sunlight, long hours in front of the computer can impart that pasty look. With desktop tanning lamps, fitted snugly on top of your monitor, you could get achieve a perfect tan while chipping away at that 10,000 word job on egg packing machinery. All we would need then would be one that can tan the rest of the body through clothes.

3)    Online coffee

One of the rare reasons to leave a computer during a job is to fill up our three gallon coffee or tea mugs. This loses precious time that could easily be used in terminology work or shouting at your crashing CAT software. Online coffee would sort this out. Simply submit your favourite drink onto a website and configure your delivery as you wish. Even better, buy a cup with an integral sensor so that coffee miraculously appears at your door just as you are downing the last drop. Sure, all that might cause us to get the caffeine shakes but the extra work would be so worth it!

4)    360 degree networking headset

Going to networking events is wonderful. It does, however, mean going through the tedious process of picking clothes, ironing them, hunting down business cards and using public transport. With the 360 degree networking headset, we could go to events without leaving our rooms. Better yet, they would allow us to create avatars that look any way we wish. As far as anyone else knows, there is no reason why we don’t all look like like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. Why shatter the illusion?

So, what do you think of these? What do you think we need to invent?

Posted in Humour, Translation | 4 Comments

ARTWORK COMPETITION! Sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community

<<Click here to see this information in BSL>>

Do you have deaf parents that use sign language?

Have you had experience of helping your parents to communicate with hearing people or translating information for your parents?

Even if you are deaf or hearing – it means you have done what is called ‘language brokering’

Language brokering is something that children do to help their parents with communication, for example, if the family has migrated from another country and the parents don’t speak the language. Children can learn new languages more quickly than their parents, which is why they will help their parents to communicate in different situations.

Research has shown that children in the UK who speak a different language at home with their parents, like Chinese or Polish, often broker for their parents in different situations, like at the bank, the shop, at school or at the doctor. They can also broker by telling their parents what letters say, or information brochures, or help them fill in forms. This research has also shown that children who broker for their parents have different feelings about it – some feel good about it, some feel not so good about it.

We know that hearing and deaf kids who have deaf parents that use sign language also do this ‘language brokering’. But we don’t really know much about where it happens or why, and how the kids feel about it. We also know that even when people are grown up, they still broker for their deaf parents.

So this is a new project to find out about sign language brokering in the Deaf community in the UK. We want people to tell us about their experiences.

The project has different stages – we have already done a survey of 240 deaf and hearing Codas from 14 different countries and found that many of them began brokering as early as 4 or 5 years old. They also said that they broker in different situations, like other kids with spoken languages. We have also interviewed 11 people in Australia, ranging from 13 years old to over 50 years old, who have talked to us about their language brokering experience.

For the next stage of the research we are holding an artwork competition – so you can draw a picture, take a photo or make a short 5-minute movie to show us how you feel about your sign language brokering experience. We want deaf and hearing kids and adults to submit your artwork.

All the submissions will be judged by a panel of deaf and hearing people that have deaf parents or are involved in the Deaf community.

There will be 9 prizes of a £50 gift voucher for one person in each age and submission category. Winners will be emailed with a voucher.

Each piece of artwork will be analysed to get an understanding of how people feel about their sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community.

So that children, deaf parents and other members of the Deaf community, hearing professionals that work with deaf people, and interpreters can benefit from this information, we would like to share this artwork with different audiences in different ways: like on a website or at an artwork exhibition. We will only show your artwork with your permission.

Competition rules:

1. This competition is only open to UK residents.

2. There are three age categories: Under 13, 13-18, Over 18

3. There are three artwork categories: (1) Draw/ paint a picture, (2) Take a photo, (3) Make a short movie.

4. Movie submissions should be no longer than 5 minutes long and should ideally be provided through a link to a YouTube or Vimeo clip. If USB sticks or DVDs are posted, they cannot be returned.

5. Deadline for competition entries is MONDAY 30th JUNE 2014.

6. Entries can be posted or sent by email

7. All entries must include a submission form. If no form is included it will not be entered into the competition.


<<Click here to download the artwork competition submission form>>

<<Click here to download the Artwork competition poster>>

This project is being managed by Jemina Napier, who is a sign language interpreter and researcher and also teaches interpreters. Jemina is hearing and grew up in a large deaf family in London, so has used British Sign Language all her life.

<<Click here for more information about Jemina in English>>

<<Click here for more information about Jemina in BSL>>

This project is also being carried out with support from key organisations who represent the Deaf, sign language interpreting and Coda communities, including: CODA UK & Ireland, the Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI), the Scottish Council on Deafness (SCOD), Deaf Parenting UK and the British Deaf Association (BDA). It is vital to carry out this project in collaboration with the Deaf community, deaf parents and sign language interpreters in order to ensure that the communities can directly benefit from the research findings.

To see more information about the project in English and International Sign: << Click here>> 

If you have any questions please contact the project manager Jemina Napier by email – and she can answer your questions by email or arrange a skype conversation if you would prefer to talk in BSL.

Author: Jemina Napier


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