Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 – how accessible was it to Deaf people?

by Michael Richardson

This blog-post is based on an article to be published in the October 2016 edition of the British Deaf News, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

 

As I write, the final day of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe is drawing to a close.  During a three-and-a-half week period there will have been over 50,000 performances of more than 3,000 different shows:  it is easy to accept the claim that this is the largest arts festival in the world.  But how many of these performances are accessible to Deaf people?  The Fringe is committed to improving the accessibility of Edinburgh venues and its own box office, but as it takes no role in choosing any of the shows, it is left to each visiting company whether or not to make their performances accessible to Deaf spectators.

Deaf people’s involvement in theatre, whether watching or performing, is my own particular interest.  For almost ten years I have been exploring the use of BSL on stage, in both youth theatre and musical theatre.  A show I produced for Edinburgh Music Theatre which used integrated sign language interpreting was featured on the BBC’s See Hear as one of only a handful of performances providing accessibility for Deaf spectators in the 2011 Fringe.

I am now doing a PhD at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, researching Deaf people’s participation in theatre, so the 2016 Fringe seemed an excellent opportunity to review progress towards better access for Deaf people.  The timing was particularly appropriate as I have just completed a project interviewing a small group of Deaf people on the subject of theatrical interpreting.  So, debit card at the ready, I logged on to the Fringe website and began my search for sign language interpreted performances.

The first good news I can report is that the amount of interpreted theatre has increased since 2011.  The Fringe website’s own list of performances accessible to Deaf people featured 31 different shows, of which 11 were interpreted on 2 or more occasions.  In addition, in the Free Fringe the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble worked with Forest Fringe to present a whole day of BSL interpreted shows at the venue Out of the Blue.   Certainly there are more options to choose from for Deaf spectators than in earlier years.

Interpreted shows included a wide range of performance styles. Drama, physical theatre, circus, children’s shows and comedy were all represented, as well as traditional Scottish storytelling and music, a choir performing African song and dance, and a skit of the Eurovision Song Contest.  More choice was offered by the use overall of a relatively large pool of interpreters.  Still lacking, however, was a strong presence by Deaf actors.  The Fringe website listed only one bilingual (BSL/English) theatre show, which I will describe later; and a one off spoken word event performed by my colleagues, two Deaf and two hearing from Heriot Watt University (Jemina Napier, Gary Quinn, Stacey Webb and Mark McQueen).

Incidentally, although the accessibility pages of the Fringe website are not easy to find, once you have clicked through they are increasingly good at giving the kind of extra information that Deaf theatre goers asked for in my research project.  75% of the shows described as accessible had a named interpreter advertised, and over 30% either gave the position of the interpreter or offered the option for Deaf spectators to choose appropriate seats when they arrived at the venue.

This kind of pre-show communication is certainly starting to address the first requirement of accessibility:  that target audiences need to be fully aware in advance of all relevant details of the accessible event (although in 2016 no information was presented in BSL, a situation which may change following the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015).  However, I am particularly interested in the communication that occurs during the show, and the ways that it engages Deaf spectators.  My Deaf research participants had been clear that in interpreted theatre they expect a particular style of high impact interpreting that matches the performances of the actors and is presented within the same visual frame as the performance, so I set out to see if theatre companies and interpreters were meeting these expectations.

I was not disappointed.  At Forest Fringe I watched three shows where there had been rehearsal time put aside to integrate the interpreting into the show as much as possible.  In all three the interpreters were costumed effectively to match the actors, but the choices of shows had an impact on the degree of further integration.  Nic Green’s  Cock and Bull, interpreted by Catherine King, was an avant garde political satire that was highly visual and sexually provocative.  This accessible visual style was contrasted with a complex script in which sentences were broken into individual words and even parts of words, with actors overlapping different lines with songs and voice-over.  This combination of a very physical staging with a difficult spoken text unavoidably limited the fuller integration of the interpreter.

The other two Forest Fringe shows, both interpreted by Yvonne Strain, presented fewer challenges.  Greg Wohead’s Celebration Florida allowed her to be both costumed and fully integrated into the action, moving with the two actors and giving Deaf spectators an equivalent experience to hearing audiences of the show’s exploration of nostalgia for forgotten experiences, people and places.  A different approach was taken for Action Hero’s Watch Me Fall, a show which used home-made stunts to question our relationship with ideas of tough-guys and daredevils as celebrities.  Possibly for her own safety as much as for anything else, the interpreter took a fixed position on the side of the performance area.  Rather than being integrated into the show she performed as though a member of the standing audience, reacting as we did to the stunts, but also interpreting the announcements between the stunts and the few short sections of dialogue as they occurred.

Away from Forest Fringe I saw two shows interpreted by Yvonne Waddell, a PhD candidate at Heriot Watt University, in which she had worked independently with the companies to provide as much integration as possible.  Ronan O’Donnell’s Brazil is a one man show set in an imagined Scotland destroyed by the bombs of war and living in poverty and mistrust.  Yvonne provided a highly visual BSL interpretation to match the poetic language of the original, and was fully integrated into the show.  She was costumed, and performed from on the small stage close to the speaking actor.  At significant moments the two made eye contact, effectively suggesting that they represented two different sides of the same character.

A different style of integration was used in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Walrus, a play with two characters exploring their changing relationship in a world where they were only allowed to use 140 words per day.  Here Yvonne Waddell worked with Greg Colquhoun, a recent graduate of Heriot Watt University (MA British Sign Language (Translation, Interpreting and Applied Language Studies)).  The interpreters were less integrated into the action, standing on one side of the theatre-in-the-round stage, but each interpreter represented one character throughout, fully costumed, partly shadowing their actors and often using a word to sign literal translation to reflect the way that English words were used in the original.  The matching of the interpreters to the actors was particularly effective and is hopefully a sign of things to come in theatre interpreting.

I cannot finish this article without discussing further the work of the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble.  Individual interpreters are doing what they can to improve the experience of Deaf spectators, but this company bring a strategic approach that is shown in their partnership with Forest Fringe.  In addition, this year they performed their own show People of the Eye, featuring one Deaf and one hearing actor and using a mix of BSL, speech and creative captions to tell the story of a Deaf girl growing up in a hearing family.   The show puts across the combination of humour and anguish that is often a Deaf child’s experience through a mix of emotional dialogue and tightly choreographed physical and visual theatre.  The aim is to create accessible bilingual theatre that both engages and educates audiences, and the four and five star reviews it received demonstrate that this was achieved.

Unfortunately People of the Eye was (to my knowledge) the only theatre show to feature a Deaf actor at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, although there was also a bilingual BSL/English poetry event (that I was unable to attend).  For me (and others) this raises the question of why significant sums of money are put into theatrical interpreting rather than using at least some access funding to support Deaf actors and Deaf theatre:  a show like Deafinitely Theatre’s recent production of George Brant’s Grounded would be a perfect fit for the Fringe.  But for now we can be clear about one thing.  The use of BSL in performances at the Fringe is increasing, and interpreters and theatre producers are working hard to do it better, and to make interpreting more integrated.   As signed performances become more common place, hopefully an appetite will grow in theatre audiences to attend performances by Deaf actors using BSL, thus coming to appreciate Deaf language and culture and all they can offer to the creation of high quality physical and visual theatre.

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Heriot-Watt and University of North Florida Cultural and Linguistic Exchange

by Stacey Webb

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For a BSL version of this post, please click here

I have been working in collaboration with Dr. Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida (UNF) on a linguistic and cultural exchange opportunity between some of our respective interpreting students. The project was designed to provide an expansive experience in our field of interpreting as well as increasing cultural awareness while exploring Scotland.  Students had the opportunity to connect with leaders, community members and other sign language interpreting students. One of the major highlights of the trip was being able to participate in Critical Link 8, themed “a new generation” aimed at future proofing the profession.

I am personally grateful to all the people who helped make this week a success and I hope that it was a memorable experience for everyone. I first got to meet the American students from UNF the over the previous weekend, where they got to experience some Scottish sunshine..some Scottish rain and of course farmers markets, bagpipes and the castle!  Edinburgh is a beautiful city, and I loved seeing them take in the place I have made my home.  To wrap your head around of what this experience included here is a recap of the week:

Monday June 27:  Students both ASL and BSL had been eagerly awaiting the introduction of the buddies.  All students were put into pairs! Although we didn’t expect them to be “buddy/buddy” or think that friendships would form over night, we wanted to make sure they knew that they had at least one person to go to with questions, comments and concerns but also to engage in collaborative reflection with. We provided some thought provoking questions to ask each other as well as several activities throughout the day that we hoped would initiate conversations around sign languages and the interpreting profession in both American and Scottish contexts. Students from UNF and HW met for the first time at the Edinburgh Business School Cafe (EBS).  We figured coffee and bacon rolls can only make a day start a little brighter!  After a brief induction, the tutors left the students to find their way to their classes.  Students were then provided a brief introduction to the language of the other country.

Heriot-Watt’s Gary Quinn spent two hours with the American students teaching them some basic communication strategies in BSL, while Suzanne Erhlich, from UNF, and I taught the local HW students some American Sign Language.  These language introductions went over really well, and students were eager to begin practicing with their buddies.  After these initial classes, Yvonne Waddle, Heriot-Watt PhD student and local BSL/English Interpreter, volunteered her time to the students to teach Scottish words and phrases.  It was important to show the students just how different English speaking countries are- yes they may share a similar language, but there are so many words, phrases, and cultural rhetoric that is actually not shared across the ocean.  People often assume that when you move to an English speaking country it will be just like home- and from my own personal experience, I can assure them it is not! This class was a hit amongst the students, and I caught a few of them using their new Scottish words and phrases throughout the rest of the week!

Fanny Chouc, from the French section, assisted us by running a mini conference that focused on the pros and cons of technology.  Mavis Lasne, PhD student participated in the conference and gave a speech in Chinese, where MSC student volunteers ,interpreted her speech into English, and our students then interpreted it into ASL and BSL.  Interventions were also provided in BSL, ASL and English.

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Yes, it was a jam packed and we are not even close to being done yet! After the mini conference,  students were sent off for some reflection time- clear set time to be without teaching and without their tutors. They could meet with their buddies and use the time to “soak it all in”, make mental notes of what they learned from the day, and ultimately get to know each other. Heriot-Watt has a beautiful grounds and I am sure many of their paths have been a source of inspiration amongst many of our students and staff.

Later that evening, students headed to the city centre, where we embarked on a private tour city  tour with Sandemans New Edinburgh Tours .  We invited friends from the Deaf Community, some local and some from abroad abroad.  A local interpreter, Katy Smilie, volunteered her time to interpret the tour into BSL, and I worked into ASL.  We learned stories of Deacan Broadie, Maggie Dixon, and Greyfriars Bobby- a true Edinburgh experience!  Thanks to Brian Marshall, he was also able to share with us (and the guide) the location of the first Deaf Club, and even pointed out the grave site of Walter Giekie, a famous Edinburgh Artist and former star pupil of the Braidwood school. It was fantastic to have Deaf locals on our tour.

We then headed to the Grassmarket for dinner.  All 30 of us made it to the Beehive Inn and I have to take a moment to thank the staff, as they were all fantastic! I am personally grateful to them as I know it can be difficult to manage such a large group.

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Tuesday 28 June:  You thought Monday was packed….  On Tuesday morning, we embarked on a tour with Rabbies on a all day excursion of Scotland.  With two busses full,  the students and invited members from the Deaf Community made there way to Dunkleld, Hermitage waterfalls, Pitlochry, the Queen’s View, Loch Tay/Kenmore and ended at The Famous Grouse Distillery.

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We owe a big thank you to the UNF students for making this tour possible. Ultimately the 6 students on this trip funded the opportunity for all of the HW students and Deaf Community members attend without cost of their own.  This is great example of reciprocity, a value that we hope remains with each one of our students as they continue to navigate their futures as professional sign language interpreters.

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This trip was also special for me on a personal level; my first interpreter educator was also on board, Melissa Smith, from San Diego, California.  She has inspired me as both an interpreter and an educator.  To  be able to introduce her to my own students was was incredibly meaningful.

The tour took us to some really beautiful places. Katy Smilie again, volunteered to interpret, but also the students tried their best interpreting from time to time to keep communication accessible.  It was truly a lovely day; and has Robbie Burns once said, “Wherever I wander, where ever I rove, the hills of the Highlands for ever I love.”

 

Wednesday 28 June-  Friday 1 July:  Critical Link!!! One of the main reasons this week was selected for this linguistic and cultural exchange was that Critical LInk 8 was being held in the James Watt Centre at Heriot-Watt University. I have heard nothing but amazing things about this conference, so the students were not only the ones excited to go.  Personally, I feel it is really important for students to go ahead and attend professional conferences, especially international ones, to truly jump start their professional journeys. It is in these contexts, students are engaged in true experiential learning- where they see that all of the “stuff” their tutors are trying so hard to teach them is real and meaningful to the professionals and not simply “stuff” you learn for the sake of being a student.

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The Conference provided interpreting in British Sign Language and International Sign Language, additionally, there were other sign languages in use (e.g. American Sign Language and Norwegian Sign Language), which provided students even more insight to how different sign languages are from country to country. They were also starstruck- the names they have only read in books, journal articles and seen/heard about in lectures came to life.

Me:  “Did you know you were just sitting by Debra Russell?”

Student: “I was?! Stacey, I feel like I am at Disneyland!”

Other students came up to me and told me how many people they had met.  Talking to them you would think they were actually in Hollywood! It truly was special, because if you are going to have any celebrity idols- I think the ones in our profession are pretty great!

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To celebrate the success of our week, we headed for one last dinner together.  Toasts of thanks, laughter and even a few tears the students were delighted with the week.  To top the evening off, Franz Pöchhacker joined us at Checkpoint in Edinburgh!

The week was perfect blend of sign language, interpreting, deaf community and other  professionals within the field of interpreting/translation (spoken and signed).  Friendships were formed and memories were made.  One of the students from UNF shared with me that the experience was in fact  “life changing”– and that is why we teach, right? Yes, that is why we go above and beyond to create meaningful learning experiences for our students. I am so thankful to everyone who helped make this week great, your efforts are much appreciated and please know they made a direct impact on the 13 students who participated in this exchange!

In closing..

So as you can see the Heriot-Watt BSL section has been busy!

Over the past several months staff, students and the local Deaf community have been meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of the Month for a meal.  We have been going to Entwine, however, recently it has closed down.  I am working on finding a new place and I think we will be meeting at CheckPoint, but will keep you all posted via Facebook.

As always, remember it takes a village to raise a sign language and in staying with the critical link 8 theme, we humbly invite you to join us in future proofing the next generation of interpreters.

 

LINCS BSL team rock at Critical Link 8

by Stacey Webb

Over the past year, Christine Wilson and the rest of the organising committee have been planning Critical Link 8 (CL8), which was hosted at Heriot-Watt University 29-June – 1 July, with pre-conference activities on 27-28 June.

Therefore, the Monday after the SML graduation, Heriot-Watt staff and student volunteers were busy ensuring the success of this conference.  For those who are unsure what Critical Link is, it is an organization that exists to:

  • Promote the establishment of standards which guide the practice of community interpreters
  • Encourage and sharing research in the field of community interpretation
  • Add to the discussion about the educational and training requirements for community interpreters
  • Advocate for the provision of professional community interpreting services by social, legal and health care institutions
  • Raise awareness about community interpreting as a profession            (Critical Link, 2016)

The theme of this year’s conference was the “next generation”- which we see very fitting with our recent graduates!

The conference was a huge event. Read the news story on the main HW website here.

Our BSL team was nicely represented with posters, presentations and the provision of interpreting services:

Posters

Brett Best, EUMASLI Graduate, How Signed Language Interpreters Perceive Facebook is Used by the Interpreting Community

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Heather Mole, 2nd year PhD Student, Do sign language interpreters think about their power and privilege as members of the majority hearing group?

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Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017) in conjunction with Rosemary Oram and Alys Young from University of Manchester, Social Research with Deaf people Group, Critical links between Deaf culture, well being and interpreting: Translating the Deaf Self

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Stacey Webb, 3rd year PhD Student, Job Demands Job Resources: Exploration of sign language interpreter educators’ experiences

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Papers

Robyn Dean, 2016 PhD Graduate,  An Idol of the Mind: Barriers to justice reasoning in sign language interpreters

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Emmy Kauling, EUMASLI Graduate and PhD Student (September 2017), Tomorrow’s interpreter in higher education: a critical link between omissions and content knowledge

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Professor Jemina Napier, Head of LINCS/ Robert Skinner, Research Assistant and PhD Student (September 2017), and Professor Graham Turner, in conjunction with external colleagues  Loraine Leeson,Theresa Lynch, Tobias Haug, Heidi Salaets, Myriam Vermeerbergen & Haaris Sheikh Justisigns: Future proofing access to justice for deaf sign language users

Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor in Sign Language Studies & Suzanne Ehrlich from the University of North Florida,  Reflective Practice as a Pedagogical Strategy for Interpreter Educators

Yvonne Waddell, 3rd year PhD student,  Exploring the language and communication strategies of a mental health working with an interpreter in mental health interactions with Deaf patients.

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Interpreting Provision

Marion Fletcher, BSL Interpreter Coordinator at Heriot-Watt, did an excellent job coordinating the interpreting services for the conference. The team was made up of some fabulous interpreters and a few of them are also members of the Heriot-Watt  BSL team.  So a special shout out to our own-  Professor Jemina Napier, Yvonne Waddell, Robert Skinner, and Marion Fletcher. Thank you for not only providing excellent interpreting services, but also for being an excellent example of skill and professionalism to  the next generation of sign language interpreters.  I wish I had a picture of the team all together, but here are some shots of them in action:

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Critical Link 8 keynote speakers and pre-conference events

This year’s Critical Link 8 Conference, which will be hosted in LINCS by CTISS, is going to be big. We are delighted to announce the Keynote Speakers:

  • The Rt Hon Lord Carloway, Lord President and Lord Justice General, the most senior judge in Scotland and Head of the Scottish Judiciary
  • Professor Laura Gavioli, Professor of English Language and Translation at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Volk, Professor of Computational Linguistics at the University of Zurich

If the intensive Critical Link 8 Conference Programme is  not enough and you are looking for even more things to do in Edinburgh next month, we have an exciting list of pre-conference events:

PRE-CONFERENCE WORKSHOPS (summary)

CL8 delegates and external participants

 Monday, 27 June  Tuesday, 28 June
 Beginners’ CAT Tools – Trados
Working in the Booth: Simultaneous Interpreting Taster 
Changing Societies, Changing Terminologies: Challenges  for Public Service Interpreters
Is There an App for that? Getting the Most out of Tablets in Community Interpreting
 Speak the Unspeakable: Interpreting for Victim Services
 Mission not Impossible: Teaching Interpreter Skills in Short Course Settings
“Shh…!” Confidentiality Issues for Freelance Translators and Interpreters 
 Ramon Inglada
 LINCS Staff
 Katerina Strani
Alexander Drescel & Joshua Goldsmith
 Marjory Bancroft
Katherine Allen
 Sue Leschen
 One-day
One-day
 Half-day: afternoon
One-day
 Half-day: morning
 Half-day: afternoon
 Half-day: afternoon

For more information & to register, click here

 

PRE-CONFERENCE VISITS (summary)

CL8 delegates and partners/friends only

Tuesday, 28 June
Visit to the Scottish Parliament 17.15-18.30 (tbc) Leaving Heriot-Watt 16.00-16.30 OR Meeting as Scottish Parliament at 17.00
Walking Tour of the Royal Mile Starting 18.30 Meeting in City Centre
Guided Tour of Mary King’s Close 20.00-21.00 Meeting in City Centre

For more information, click here

To register, click here

Looking forward to meeting you all in June!

 

EIRSS 2016 programme updated!

This year’s Edinburgh Interpreting Research Summer School (EIRSS) is taking place on 04 – 08 July 2016, right after Critical Link 8.

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We are delighted to have Daniel Gile as our guest speaker again this year. Professor Gile was also our guest speaker in the inaugural EIRSS in 2013.

The EIRSS is designed to offer intensive research training for existing and future scholars in any field of interpreting. Relevant to researchers interested in Conference Interpreting (CI) and Public Service Interpreting (PSI) alike, for both spoken and signed languages, EIRSS includes lectures on the state of the art in CI and PSI research, seminars on methodology  and research design and a round-table discussion. Suggested reading lists and other materials for personal study are also provided. EIRSS 2016 fits in nicely with this year’s CL8 theme, so if you are attending both, you pay a reduced fee for EIRSS.

The five-day programme includes guest lectures from world-leading figures in interpreting research as well as seminars by Heriot-Watt academics, librarians and research managers. Participants also have the opportunity to network with world-renowned researchers in the field of Interpreting as well as the chance to showcase their own projects and receive feedback from the expert staff in LINCS.

The updated programme can be found here

For more information about the EIRSS, please click here

To register, please click here – EARLY BIRD ENDS ON MAY 13th !!

Looking forward to meeting you and talking about research in Interpreting Studies!

eirss@hw.ac.uk

#EIRSS2016

InDialog in Berlin

By Stacey Webb

19-21 November 2015 if you were looking for Ursula Böser, Jemina Napier, Stacey Webb, Eloisa Monteoliva Garcia or Yvonne Waddell you wouldn’t have found them around Heriot-Watt campus or anywhere in Edinburgh, as this lot was deep ‘in dialogue’ in Berlin Germany! The InDialog conference, “Community Interpreting In Dialogue With Technology” was the second InDialog conference held at Russisches Haus für Wissenschaft und Kultura. This conference is dedicated entirely to the many facets of community interpreting. Themes included, Technology & Practice; Legal Settings; Quality and Best Practice; Highly Sensitive Settings, Training for Practice; Research Methodology; Community Issues; National Perspectives; and Healthcare Settings.

Heriot-Watt staff and students are truly doing some interesting research and I am proud to work amongst them. Below is a brief description of the papers presented by LINCS colleagues.

Ursula Böser, Professor of Intercultural Studies and Languages, presented a paper aiming to contribute to the formulation of best practice in the mediated co-construction of evidence, which involves child speakers of foreign languages. Combining research findings about child interviewing and studies in face-to-face interpreting, this paper focused on the importance of engaging the minor in the interpreting process in a child-aware fashion; arguing that setting, rehearsing and maintaining ground rules of mediated communication is crucial in ensuring the integrity of interviews in the highly sensitive setting of bilingual child interviews. Drawing on the example of children to highlight the heterogeneity of profiles of non-institutional users of PSI it highlighted questions, which arise from the perspective of a specific group of users in the wider context of PSI practice and research.

Jemina Napier, Head of Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies, gave two presentations.  First she gave an overview of research findings from the Insign project she led in 2014 with other colleagues from LINCS: Prof Graham Turner and Robert Skinner. This project, funded by the Directorate General Justice of the European Commission, aimed to develop a web-based service platform, enabling European Deaf and Hard of Hearing citizens to have dialogue with EU Institutions and Members of the European Parliament in their preferred sign language.  Jemina explained that the Insign project broke ground as it was the first Video Relay Service of its kind to provide access to deaf people in more than one spoken-signed language pair.  All other services focus on national spoken and signed languages. The role of the research team was to evaluate the communicative outcomes of the Insign VRS, and they analysed recordings of VRS calls between Deaf sign language users and hearing people, as well as ethnographic observation field notes, surveys and interviews with Deaf people, interpreters, captioners/respeakers and MEPs.

Jemina’s second presentation was a co-authored presentation with Prof Lorraine Leeson from Trinity College Dublin (who was not able to be at the conference) and was on the benefits of using mixed-methods in community interpreting research.  The paper gave an overview of how the mixed-methods approach was adopted in two related studies exploring deaf people’s participation in, and access to, justice: 1) The Deaf Juror Project and 2) The Justisigns project. By using a mixed-methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods such as surveys, interviews, non-participant observation, simulation, discourse analysis, these researchers were able to triangulate data in each study to look at the overarching research questions from varying perspectives to provide a deeper understanding of the issues being investigated, and validating findings gleaned from different sources.  (Be sure to check out Jemina’s book, co-authored with Sandra Hale, on varying research methods to use in your interpreting related research. If you mix your methods you may find it to be very beneficial!)

Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor of Sign Language Studies, presented on her doctoral research, which explores the job demands, and job resources interpreter educators have and how they perceive such demands as influencing student learning outcomes. Through the Job Demand Resource Survey-Interpreter Educators (JDRSIE), developed by Webb based on an initial scoping study (see Webb and Napier 2015), preliminary findings show that interpreter educators do not feel they have enough time or resources to fully prepare students.  Although respondents feel they are doing the best with what they have, they also feel their students are not prepared as they should be upon graduation (e.g. 50% have agreed to passing students who were deemed not ready to advance).  Although this research explores sign language interpreters, Ineke Crezee from Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand expressed how she strongly relates to the findings of this work and hopes to see this study replicated for spoken language interpreter educators in the future.

Eloisa Monteoliva Garcia, doctoral researcher, shared her paper focusing on hybridity in a case study of interpreter-mediated police interviews. Drawing on her ongoing PhD research, she highlighted the particular ways in which triadic sequences mediated by a qualified interpreter and same-language interaction between primary participants are combined in police interviews conducted in English with Spanish-speaking suspects. Her research explores how interaction occurs when transparency is acknowledged and limited resources in the other’s languages are used even if an interpreter is present.  Thus, she presented preliminary findings of a CA-based study of multimodal interaction, and stresses the particular dynamics observed in the hybrid communicative format used in the specific context of the police interview as a discourse genre, an event that plays a vital role in the criminal process.

Yvonne Waddell, doctoral researcher, presented on an initial scoping study as part of her doctoral research. This study included participant observation methods to explore the language and communication strategies utilized by a psychiatric nurse over a 3- month period when interacting with deaf patients on his case load, who use British Sign Language (BSL) and a BSL/English Interpreter, working within a specialist mental health service for deaf people in Scotland. Two major themes emerged from her thematic analysis of her field notes and semi structured interviews: 1) The establishment and maintenance of a therapeutic relationship with Deaf patients and 2) The development of a collaborative working relationship with the interpreter.  She explains how her research may be of benefit to understanding the communicative strategies nurses use with their patients when working with an interpreter and could contribute to pedagogical practice of both psychiatric nurses and interpreters working in community mental health settings.

For more information on this Indialog conference and to learn about future conferences click here

New PhD research: The commemoration of Ashura in Iraq and its impact on Shia-Sunni dynamics

by Jafar Ahmad 

October 14 is the first day of Muharram (محرم), the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar, where most of Iraq is swathed in black as the Shia, members of one of the two main Islamic sects, mark the beginning of the commemoration of Ashura. Ashura itself is the name of the 10th  day of the month of Muharram (derived from the Arabic term a‘shara, meaning 10). On this day, in the seventh century, Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, his family and companions were killed by a Sunni caliph (leader) in Karbala, in modern day Iraq. From a Shia perspective, Husayn acted as an opposition leader and defender of the true tenants of Islam.  Sunnis dismiss this claim.

Millions of Shias from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Syria are expected to take part in the commemoration of Ashura in Iraq. Iraq will essentially come to a halt and massive security measures will be put in place to protect Shia mourners from attacks, particularly from Islamic State (ISIS). Streets in Baghdad, and other areas in Iraq that are predominately Shia, will be adorned with black flags and there will be processions of pilgrims marching on foot from different cities to the holy city of Karbala where Husayn is buried (located about 100 km southwest of Baghdad). Women will be dressed in black and mourners of both sexes will engage in self-flagellation and will congregate in gender-segregated areas for sorrowful, poetic recitations performed in memory of the death of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.  Ashura is also used as an occasion to curse the Sunni perpetrators of Husayn’s death.  While the mourning period spans two months, these rituals are the most intense during the first 10 days of Muharram.

The various traditions commemorating Ashura developed over 12 centuries and have religious, economic, social, and political dimensions. Moreover, these rituals are culturally-bound as they differ in terms of the nature and the intensity from one community to another depending on various socio-political aspects.  For example, whilst banned under Saddam Hussein (1968-2003), who was a Sunni secular leader in Iraq, Ashura commemoration has been thriving in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Since the fall of Hussein in 2003, the commemoration has intensified in Iraq becoming its biggest cultural, social, religious, and political event. It is fascinating to observe, for both Muslims and non-Muslims, how Shia from different backgrounds and different strata of society engage in these rituals. The commemoration raises questions about the nature of these rituals, in particular why they are appealing to so many, including educated, secular Shia who reside not only in Iraq but also in most large western cities such as London, Sydney, and Toronto. Moreover, there remains an overarching question why people still weep and mourn and, in some cases, participate in bloody rituals to commemorate a battle that took place almost 1400 years ago.

All of these are important questions, particularly for those who are trying to understand the nature of Iraqi society and in light of the current threat posed by ISIS, who consider Shia Muslims to be infidels. In this context, the impact of these rituals on Sunni Iraqis warrants exploration in under to understand the Shia-Sunni dynamic in Iraq. This dynamic, consciously or otherwise, was ignored by the US when it invaded Iraq in 2003. That said, the invasion unleased a renaissance of Ashura and introduced a new complexity to Iraqi society. In light of this, it is my aim to explore the commemoration of Ashura in Iraq, and how has Ashura affected, shaped and informed Shia-Sunni relations.

Jafar Ahmad is a 1st-year PhD student in LINCS

Progression 2015:  A two-day celebration of Deaf Arts

by Michael Richardson

Only ten days into my Ph.D. research programme, exploring the engagement of the Deaf community and the use of British Sign Language (BSL) in theatre, I was fortunate to be able to attend a two day conference in Glasgow celebrating Deaf Arts and the progress made in that arena over the last decade.

The conference was hosted by Solar Bear, a Glasgow-based organisation which among other things runs Deaf Youth Theatre, a group working in BSL with young people from across the Central Belt; and Deaf Theatre Club, which encourages Deaf people to attend theatre performances across Scotland with BSL interpreters provided.  Recently Solar Bear has also been a key contributor to the development of the new B.A. Performance in BSL and English which was launched at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland earlier this month.

Also represented at the conference and giving presentations were Graeae Theatre Company and the Deaf and Hearing Theatre Ensemble from England; Tyst Theater, the National Deaf Theatre of Sweden; ANO Nedoslov, a Russian company using sign language as the basis of its performance practice; and composer Dr. Oliver Searle, who has recently written a piece of music specially for Deaf and hard of hearing children.

The two days of the conference were filled with practical presentations, giving delegates the opportunity to learn by engaging in different processes of theatre making, as well as the presentation of work, both theatre and film, with subsequent question and answer sessions designed to shed further light on different methods of creating accessible work.

The range of material explored at the conference was both exciting and stimulating.  Jenny Sealey, whose company Graeae creates work by and for Deaf, visually impaired and disabled people, advocates a fully accessible approach to theatre making that uses spoken English and BSL as well as sound effects and music.  Their practice aims to bring physical expression and audio description to bear as part of the communication from the stage:  this is accessibility in action, in the context of making great theatre.

In contrast, the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble have developed an approach which could conversely be described as theatre making in action, in the context of providing effective accessibility.  The ensemble is a group of theatre-makers with a range of skills who work in a fully collaborative way to produce theatre which is ripe with symbolism and emotional expression.  They use every possible mode of communication available to them including spoken English, BSL, movement, mime, projections (of text and images) and music and soundscapes to ensure that the meaning they want to put across is conveyed accessibly to Deaf and hearing audiences alike.

Using BSL as a communication tool within the production was central to all the work I saw during the conference, but there was an interesting variety in the ways in which BSL was used as a language within the different performance styles.  The two companies thus far described sat in the middle of the spectrum of techniques employed, as did the performance project created by Tyst Theater during the course of the second day.  But two other presentations sat at opposite extremes of the sign language as performance spectrum.

At one extreme was Deaf Youth Theatre, who had made a film, A Love Divided, with Deaf actors. The result was accessible to Deaf and hearing audiences, as a result of using body language, music and effective moving image story telling techniques to communicate to the audience.  However, almost no signed or spoken language was used, and the former was only intelligible through lip-reading:  no dialogue was heard.

At the other extreme was the Russian company ANO Nedoslov, for whom the use of sign language was a full theatrical statement  in itself.  Using techniques similar to those explored by Pollitt in Signart:  (British) sign language poetry as Gesamtkunstwerk (2014), the energetic physical actors and dancers of this company used the different linguistic components of signing to create a language of performance that was communicative, creative and beautiful.  During their presentation one of the actors signified the sport of skiing using a mix of facial expression, body language, hand shapes,  iconic signs and role shift to stunningly demonstrate to his audience a clear picture of the skis, the act of skiing, the snow, the landscape, the terrain, and finally the sheer emotional joy of completing the run successfully.  It was a perfect introduction to their techniques that set up high expectations for their later performance which were not disappointed.

In summary, the two days were a fantastic introduction to my field of research.  Having already some experience in creating theatre with Deaf people and using different techniques to include BSL in performance, it introduced me to approaches being used in other parts of the UK and further afield; and to the people involved in developing them.  I returned to my desk today energised and eager to explore the topic further over the coming years.

 Michael Richardson is a PhD student in the BSL section in LINCS

Mental health interpreting – considering some of the challenges

By Yvonne Waddell

Work in mental health settings is often unique from other settings the community interpreter works in. When we consider that language is the principal investigative and therapeutic tool in psychiatry, (Farooq & Fear 104: 2003) the interpreting process will have a direct impact on the way that therapeutic tool is applied. As interpreters working between languages and cultures, the approach we take to interpreting utterances in this area should be considered, especially when a change in a patient’s language may have implications for their mental health state (Pedersen 2012).

As my colleague Jonathan described in his recent post, during the mental health session the interpreter will have access to the form of the language and specific linguistic information that the clinician does not since they do not understand the language of the patient. This information may be lost in translation where specific patterns of speech (such as clanging) are of a different form in the interpretation. If these types of examples are not discussed between clinician and interpreter, the subtle language-based cues indicative of illness may be missed. In addition to these linguistic and paralinguistic considerations, the area of mental health contains many challenges for the community interpreter.

The idea of considering the thought world of the other participants in the interpreted interaction is not a new one, the term first being introduced by Namy in 1977. The participant’s thought world as part of ethical decision making has been developed more extensively by Dean and Pollard (2013) in their textbook for interpreters as practice professionals.  For those of us interpreting in the community for minority languages, I would suggest that we most often consider things from our minority language users’ point of view, so it can be useful to take some time considering the thought world of our majority language user/hearing participant. Working with interpreters is rarely a daily occurrence for mental health professionals. Bear in mind that this type of interaction is probably new to the professional, and the vast majority of medical professionals are only trained in the typical medical interview, where there is one other person in the room (the patient) and they share a language and culture (Rosenberg et al 2007).

Those of us in interpreting studies are aware of the advances the profession has gone through in terms of the role, degree of involvement and appropriate strategies of the interpreter. However, professionals express a preference for a conduit model of interpreter and consider a word-for-word literal translation as the most accurate (Dysart-Gale 2005, Rosenberg et al 2007, Hsieh 2010). While this fixed translation approach may be problematic for ensuring accuracy of meaning, this preference may reflect the importance of how something is said both by professionals and patients in mental health settings. The mental health professional will use deliberate and considered phrasing in their approach, and they are keen for that to be preserved in the interpretation.

However, mental health professionals who are unfamiliar with the grammar of a minority language may not realise that literal interpretations of terms are not always possible and perhaps two words in English may require several sentences in the minority language to accurately relay the meaning. If we consider an example of BSL (British Sign Language) as one of those minority languages, professionals who do not realise that BSL is a full and distinct language from English and assume that BSL is simply ‘English on the hands’, may expect the interpreter to stop signing once they have stopped speaking.  As the interpreter continues to sign, although they are accurately relaying the meaning of the original utterance, if the professional doesn’t have access to what they are saying in this expanded interpretation, they may begin to feel left out of the conversation, or suspicious of what is being signed after they have stopped speaking.

In anticipation of these moments of tension that can arise, one strategy might be for the interpreter to keep the professional in the loop as to when a term may need expansion in the second language. The ideal time to have these types of discussions would be in the brief meeting the interpreter has with the professional before the appointment, or afterwards at the debriefing.  While best practice in mental health interpreting research may describe the benefits and necessity of these briefing sessions (Chovaz 2013, Tribe & Lane 2009, De Bruin & Brugmans 2006, Messent 2003,) I also work in health boards across Scotland as a community interpreter, and am aware of how rare those briefing sessions can be when you are a freelance interpreter booked for a one-off job, and dilemmas occur often.

When we are faced with a dilemma in mental health settings, being aware of the mental health professionals’ communication objectives is also important in helping us come to a decision.

Let’s take another example:

Imagine you are interpreting at a counselling session. In response to one of the counselor’s questions, the client’s answer lasts for 20 minutes. The counselor actively listens to this narrative but does not interrupt. The client is signing (or speaking) very quickly and displaying strong emotions, and you are struggling to pick up some of the names and other details that are being described. You feel like you should interrupt and clarify because you might have got something wrong, and you are missing details, but you also don’t want to stop them as they are in full flow, it’s the first time they’ve really opened up about this and the counselor does not seem to be making any moves to interrupt them. This is an example of where interpreting values (such as accuracy) come into conflict with the values of the setting (the counselors’ priority of the client’s narrative). This is where dilemmas arise for interpreters. Since both values are valid, deciding which value to forfeit is a process suited to careful consideration of all contextual factors relevant to the situation. I’ve found Dean & Pollard’s Demand – Control Schema an effective taxonomy to frame this consideration of the interpreted interaction.  If we know in advance that the counselor’s goal for this session is to allow the client the space to communicate their story uninterrupted and feel listened to, then we may decide to prioritise the value of the setting over repeatedly interrupting the patient to clarify terms in order to preserve accuracy. This can leave us with an uneasy feeling of, ‘I didn’t interpret properly, I should have interrupted to clarify that name.’ That uncomfortable feeling is due to the forfeiting of interpreting values, which is never an easy decision, but that feeling isn’t something we need to carry around with us, affecting our confidence and making us uncertain over whether we ‘did the right thing’. The feeling can be understood and explored in the context of a supervision session, or in debriefing with the counselor who may assure you that they were more keen on having the person express themselves that having them interrupted for less important details (for more on value conflict for interpreters see Dean & Pollard 2013 and Dean & Pollard 2015).

While interpreting in mental health settings may always be challenging, by continuing to be reflective practitioners, engaging in CPD, conducting further research in this area, and sharing good practice, perhaps we can move towards a more effective interpreting experience for all involved.

Yvonne E Waddell is a registered BSL/English Interpreter, working in community and conference settings. If you’re a regular attendee at the EdSign Lecture series you’ve probably heard her work into English, or seen her interpreting into BSL. She is currently a doctoral candidate in LINCS exploring strategies employed by mental health nurses when working with Deaf patients and sign language interpreters.

References

Chovaz, C. J. (2013). Intersectionality: Mental Health Interpreters and Clinicians or Finding the “sweet spot” in therapy. International Journal on Mental Health and Deafness3(1).

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q. (2013). The demand control schema: Interpreting as a practice profession. CreateSpace.

Dean, R. K., & Pollard, R. Q. (2015 in press). Re-discovering Normative Ethics in the Practice Profession of Interpreting. In L. Roberson & S. Shaw (Eds.), Signed Language Interpreting in 21st Century: Foundations and Practice. Gallaudet University Press.

De Bruin, E. & Brugmans, P. (2006) The Psychotherapist and the Sign Langauge Interpreter. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.  11:3 Summer 2006

Dysart-Gale, D. (2005). Communication models, professionalization, and the work of medical interpreters. Health Communication, 17, 91-103.

Farooq, S., & Fear, C. (2003). Working through interpreters. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment9(2), 104-109.

Hsieh, E. et al (2010) Dimensions of trust: the tensions and challenges in provider-interpreter trust. Qualitative Health Research. 20 (2) 170-181

Messent, P. (2003) From postmen to makers of meaning: a model for collaborative work between clinicians and interpreters. In R. Tribe & H. Raval (Eds.), Working with interpreters in mental health. London & New York: Routledge

Namy, C. (1977) ‘Reflections on the training of simultaneous interpreters: A metalinguistic approach.’ In Gerver, D., & Sinaiko, H. W. Eds. Language interpretation and communication (Vol. 6). New York. Plenum Publishing Corporation. p25-33

Pedersen, D. D. (2013). Psych Notes: Clinical Pocket Guide. FA Davis.

Rosenberg, E., Leanza, Y., & Seller, R. (2007). Doctor-patient communication in primary care with an interpreter: Physi- cian perceptions of professional and family interpreters. Patient Education and Counseling, 67, 286-292.

Sutton-Spence, R., & Woll, B. (1998). The linguistics of British Sign Language: an introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Tribe, R., & Lane, P. (2009). Working with interpreters across language and culture in mental health. Journal of Mental Health, 18(3), 233–241.