WASLI 2015 Istanbul: The conference

by Jill Gallacher, Virginia Dugo-Marmalejo and Jude Caldwell

We were fortunate to receive funding from the Heriot Watt Alumni fund to attend the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters conference in Istanbul as it was seen as an opportunity that was too great to miss. As interpreting students, we were not sure what to expect, but having had theoretical training and coming out of our 3rd year language placements we were ready for the WASLI experience. And what an experience that was.

The theme of the 2015 conference was “Human Rights: Where do Interpreters fit in?”

Twenty-eight presentations and two keynote speeches took place over the two main days of the conference.

The first keynote speech was from Dr Robert Adam from the Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) Research Centre at University College London (UCL) and Dr Christopher Stone from UCL. They took as their theme “Human rights, Deaf People and Interpreting – Navigating the woods”. Using the analogy of trees in the woods, they delivered a fascinating and enlightening presentation delving into the history of Human Rights and how we as interpreters “fit” into this complex branch network. This very much set the scene for the next two days

Liz Scott-Gibson, WASLI’s Honorary President and Markku Jokinen, Director of the Finnish Association of the Deaf, made the second keynote speech, introducing us to The Dragoman & the Bridge – The Way to Human Rights.  They spoke of the professionalisation of interpreters and the progress made over the years. They made reference to their idea that Interpreters and Deaf people working together is a “three-legged race” requiring total co-operation to work efficiently, and presented their ideas in an engaging relaxed, almost chatty manner.

Many of the presentations rendered material that we have been studying over the last three years into a relevant and understandable context using actual interpreter experience. An example of this was Eileen Forrestal’s The Teaming Model, which opened up discussion on “co-created dialogue” and whether a closed process (just pass on information, no discussion, no responsibility) or open process (discuss information before passing on) of interpreting is better for the Deaf client and how the open process should or could work.

Rico Peterson on “Becoming an Interpreter, a sense of place” was also particularly relevant to us and looked at a formal apprenticeship programme at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Data collected from a 2012 study of interpreter trainees was examined. This asked them how the newly qualified apprentices spent their time, and how they measured their work, and the data gathered gave a glimpse into the minds of the new interpreters as they moved from the symbolic world of the classroom into the new dynamic workplace. Of particular interest was the notion of a Deaf Mentor, who would observe the students in real time and give support and mentorship to allow self development.

Some presentations looked at the way interpreters are trained and examined the differing viewpoints from both the Deaf and the hearing worldview. Eileen Forrestal’s “Deaf Perspectives in Interpreter Education”, focused on the feeling of powerlessness felt by some in the Deaf community when access to the decision-making process surrounding there communication is denied. She explained her feeling that the inclusion of the Deaf viewpoint in interpreter education should play a critical role.

Other presentations delved into areas of new research, one of which was presented by  our own Stacey Webb, Assistant Professor in BSL, on the subject of the job demands and resources of interpreter educators. This took an existing area of research, the Job Demand-Resource Model (Demerouti et al 2001) and focused on one area of it as it pertains to teachers of interpreting.

Another area explored which was of great interest examined the ethical and moral dilemmas facing the interpreters today. McDermid presented “Human Rights for Deaf People: The Impact of Groupthink within Interpreter Cohorts” and Jefa Mweri on “The Deaf as a Vulnerable Group – When their human rights are violated are interpreters equipped to deal with it?”.

One very topical presentation looked at the impact of the “fake interpreter” at Nelson Mandela’s funeral scandal, debating whether the resultant popular awareness raising of signed language interpreting outweighed the damage done to the profession by the event.

The limitations of Deaf people’s access to justice, and the equality or lack thereof for Deaf people in legal settings was presented by the Justisigns team, which includes  LINCS professors Jemina Napier and Graham Turner.  The project’s remit is to develop training courses for sign language interpreters, legal professionals and sign language users in Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.

Prof Jemina Napier and LINCS researcher Robert Skinner also presented an overview of the Insign project “Deaf citizens’ access to European institutions as a linguistic human right: An evaluation of the multilingual Insign project”. The research examined the views of deaf sign language users and interpreters about their experiences of VRS in general and also with the Insign project.

We learned a great deal about the cultural similarities of Deaf communities around the world and even more about the way that users of differing signed languages can utilise the iconicity of their own language to communicate far quicker than hearing people with different language are able to find common ground and communicate.

During the conference an event of great significance was the signing of the “Memorandum of Understanding” by the Federation of Interpreters and Translators (FIT). This organisation has over 100,000 members from around the world and the hope of the memorandum is that it will “unite the voice of professional associations of translators, interpreters and terminologists around the world” (FIT 2015)

WASLI 2015 finished with a boat cruise on the Bosporus in the evening of the last day of conference. This was an extremely valuable networking event as it was possible to talk to all of the presenters, volunteers, attendees both hearing and Deaf in a relaxed environment and discuss and reflect upon the areas that had interested and impacted upon us during the two days of conference. It was also great fun with a full evening of entertainment.

Apart from the invaluable information gained from the presented sessions and keynote speeches, the unquestionable gain from attendance at the WASLI conference was the networking opportunities and contacts we made. We have discussed and learned about the interpreter experience from all over the world, from countries with an established Interpreter training programme to those with a newly emerging profession and no established route to qualification.

We have discussed and debated during lunch and tea breaks various issues from the problems faced by interpreting organisations in some African countries which have a multitude of differing signed languages and their attempts to establish one as ‘official’ in order to facilitate interpreter training, to the problems faced by the interpreters and Deaf Schools in Nepal after the earthquake. We had to communicate in British Sign Language, International Sign and American Sign Language.

As a result of attending this event, we made friends from all over the world that will inform our choices and perhaps our careers for many years to come.

wasli_girls

Jill Gallacher, Virginia Dugo-Marmalejo, Jude Caldwell are 4th Year undergraduates at our MA Honours Programme in BSL (Interpreting, Translating and Applied Language Studies)

 

Passing as deaf or hearing: choosing cross-cultural identities

by Noel O’Connell

On 15th June 2015, media reports raised questions about Rachel Dolezal’s background. A scholar of race and African-American culture and daughter of white parents, Dolezal had identified as Black. Stories of black people “passing” as white or white people as black have been a fascination for researchers and historians for many years. Racial passing is generally understood to mean identifying oneself as member of another race (historically the white race). In its simplicity, the practice of passing – presenting oneself as someone one is not – may be so intuitive or natural that people may not bother to ask: “What do you mean you’re black?” I would argue there is much to discover behind this simple question. We need ask why some people desire to transform their identity even while it is clear their persona contradicts the image of their original identity. I believe the issue around ‘passing’ mirror the experiences of deaf and hearing people. Ironically though this topic has rarely been given attention in Deaf Studies research. We actually know very little about what constitutes ‘passing’ or about how deaf and hearing people may want to claim an alternative identity.

In schools where policy prohibited sign language communication, deaf children were trained to ‘pass’ as hearing children in order to achieve a desired outcome. To pass as ‘hearing’ means to behave and act ‘normally’. The practice involves imitation – copying and displaying hearing people’s cultural traits, norms, and values. In postcolonial terms, we know that mimicry is the act of imitating the language, behaviour and attitude of the coloniser. Under oralism (an educational ideology that outlaws sign languages) mimicry is applied when deaf people copy hearing people’s attitude and patterns of behaviour. In passing-as-hearing or impersonation, the deaf person portrays an image of ‘hearingness’. By speaking, talking and listening to music, wearing hearing aids and cochlear implants, they reflect and highlight socially defined hearingness. Deaf people attending mainstream schools may be inclined to present a persona of hearingness given how are often exposed to hearing culture with little opportunity to learn British Sign Language (BSL).

Similar to what happened under colonialism, we assume people born into one particular category might end up being socialised into another category. Caitlyn Jenner (aka Bruce Jenner), former Olympic champion, for example, took on different gender or sex roles. When it was reported that Rachel Dolezal had been presenting a persona of a Black American, it drew comparison with Jenner. While the link between the two shows that race and gender have much in common, we find identifiable parallels exist with the experience of deaf people. But what does this say about hearing people? Do they claim to be culturally Deaf? I doubt there is any evidence that this is true. We might ask why anyone would want to claim an identity that, in the eyes of society, holds a less than ‘privileged’ status.

In terms of how a Deaf Studies researcher might approach the subject of passing, we might ask: how do people negotiate their identities around the deaf/hearing line? Do we assume we can change our deaf/hearing identities and become ‘hearing’ or ‘deaf’ while still displaying markers of our original culture? Are there obvious cultural markers that can be discarded? More research is required to find answers to these questions. In particular I’d argue that the notion of ‘passing’ should be analysed in Deaf Studies research where we can discuss how one constructs, claims, justifies or resists ideas around alternative identities.

On Deafhood Space

by Steve Emery

 

[English version]

Last week, I went to Paddy Ladd’s lecture. He was talking about “Deafhood – A Pedagogy”, which was about theories of teaching Deaf children.

It was really interesting, but there was one part of his lecture that really got me thinking,  when he was talking about  “Wounded Space”, which means “damaged space”…Well, what does he actually mean by that? This concept relates to the experiences of Deaf children through their development into adults and how the effects of oppression through oralism. The overwhelming and stifling experience of this has damaged Deaf children emotionally as individuals and subsequently as a community of adults. There’s a need to rebuild the community, to begin again.

During his lecture, Paddy Ladd explained what he meant by “Deafhood – A Pedagogy” and as he was doing this, it gave me a lot of ideas , and I was thinking about the process of change, how do we move forward and go through a transition from a Wounded Space to Deafhood?  To a place where we can become healthy, where we can improve, develop and build? I began to consider what we would need to do to be able to achieve this aim.

Paddy Ladd’s lecture focussed upon how the use of appropriate teaching methods is the way to achieve Deafhood. In my view, that is one part of it, to be able to advance and move forward, however, there are a number of other factors that need to be taken into account for us to attain this.

It’s very important for Deaf people to be a part of a collective group, this is essential. Yes we are all individuals, we have our own lives, but we need to be connected to each other as a collective, this is really important for us all,  it’s been recognised that we need to be a part of society.

The next thing that came to me, concerning the need to rebuild and develop a Deafhood Space, is that we need to have an input and participation from the wider community, not just from academics. Yes, academics are important individuals who have a place, but ordinary members of the community should not be excluded as the wider community of Deaf people need to participate and be involved in this process of development.

The third point I’d like to make is, that hearing people must be thinking, “Where do I fit in, into this Deafhood Space?”  This is really important , to be able to build a new space, Deaf and hearing people have to work together, as allies, to be involved in making and developing this new space.

My fourth and last point is about spirituality. Paddy Ladd talked about this in his lecture. Spirituality can mean many things, it can relate to religious beliefs for example. He gave his perspective that we Deaf people are of the Earth and that we are here for a reason. Our understanding and development of what that spiritual aspect of being Deaf means is a part of the development of Deafhood Space.

His lecture gave me a lot to ponder over especially this concept of Deafhood Space. Its very important for us to reflect and recognise the idea of Damaged Space, in ourselves and in others and how we can change this and make a transition by moving to and developing a positive space.  These are a few of the suggestions that I think are important for us to take into account when we are discussing moving towards Deafhood.

Call for papers! Special issue on Signed Language Interpreting and Translation

Translation and Interpreting Studies

Special Issue

Signed Language Interpreting and Translation

CALL FOR PAPERS

Guest Editors

Laurie Swabey, St. Catherine University

Brenda Nicodemus, Gallaudet University

Translation and Interpreting Studies (John Benjamins) invites proposals for a special thematic issue on signed language interpretation and translation to be published in April of 2018.  The editors aim to bring together papers that address critical issues in the linguistic analysis of interpretations and translations that occur between a signed language and spoken or written language.

We welcome data driven papers on the spectrum between a microanalysis of one specific lexical item to the examination of a full interpreted or translated discourse. Papers may take a descriptive, applied, or theoretical approach to interpreting and translation of a signed language. We encourage a broad range of methodological approaches and theoretical frameworks, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods.

Suggested Topics (related to interpreting and translation):

  • –       discourse in specialized settings (e.g., legal, healthcare, education, politics, media, video)
  • –       interpreting for emergent signers
  • –       lexical gaps between signed and spoken languages
  • –       discourse structure and signing space
  • –       conversation analysis
  • –       figurative language and metaphor
  • –       message accuracy between source and target
  • –       effects of modality in linguistic production/reception
  • –       metalinguistics, semantics, and pragmatics
  • –       language use in interpreter/translator education
  • –       linguistic issues in trilingual interpreting and translation
  • –       the work of deaf interpreters and translators
  • –       linguistic issues in tactile and close vision interpreting

Timeline for Authors

Abstracts (400-500) words due to guest editors December 1, 2015
Decision on abstracts February 1, 2016
Submission of full manuscripts September 1, 2016
Decisions to authors February 1, 2017
Final versions of papers due August 1, 2017
Publication of special issue Spring 2018

Contact Information

Abstracts should be sent to both guest editors. If you have any questions, please contact Laurie Swabey (laswabey@stkate.edu) and Brenda Nicodemus (brenda.nicodemus@gallaudet.edu).

 

Sign Language Interpreting on Chinese television: Some progress and much to expect

by Xiao Zhao

Xiao post

From November 15th, 2014, Qixia television station in Nanjing, Jiangsu province started to provide sign language interpreting in the weekly news programme Xiao Rui Shuo Xin Wen (Xiao Rui (name of the hearing news presenter) Presents the News). The programme received immediate applause from the deaf community all over the country and the academia. There are a few reasons for this.

To start with, the interpreter, Ms Dai Manli (name in Chinese order), is Deaf. Although in the past, there were deaf interpreters on television occasionally, this is the first time that the interpreter was encouraged officially to use natural Chinese Sign Language with clear facial expressions as opposed to the past where interpreters were required to wear a smile all the time and use signed Chinese, which is an imposed sign system based on written Chinese syntax with a lot of signs created on the basis of Chinese characters, very unpopular amongst the deaf Chinese community.

Moreover, this particular programme, unlike many other programmes with SLI, takes into consideration the feedback from the local deaf community. For example, when first broadcast, the size of the interpreter screen was as small as it was in the past, which was not easy to watch for deaf audience. After taking into consideration the feedback, the TV station enlarged the interpreter frame to its current size in the second week. Indeed, the current size is far from ideal if compared with that of the SLI frame in BBC news, but it is still regarded as a positive sign by the audience.

Last but not the least, in order to reach a wider audience in China, Qixia TV station edits a special version of the programme and publishes it on its Wechat account (similar to Facebook) and on mainstream video websites. As a result, deaf people in other cities in China can easily access it on the web.

Almost at the same time, Suzhou TV station, also in Jiangsu province, invited two deaf people to work as interpreters to try out their SL interpreted news programme. These two programmes are especially valuable in the context of nationwide downplay of natural CSL in special education schools and TV stations. We hope that more TV stations and, more importantly, more government leaders will follow the lead and provide quality service to deaf Chinese citizens soon.

Sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community

Many people will have seen the video of the cute young girl Claire Koch singing Christmas carols and simultaneously signing the songs in American Sign Language for her deaf parents that went viral in December 2013. The general response was the feel good factor – how amazing, considerate and talented this little girl is.

Children like Claire are often referred to as ‘Children of Deaf Adults’ – Codas. This term is typically used as an overarching term for people of any age whose parents are (or were) deaf; sometimes, however, the term Koda (i.e., Kids of Deaf Adults) is used to distinguish between adults and young people.

Apart from her obviously impressive bilingual skills, the video also highlights one aspect of society that is often hidden from public view – the fact that young bilingual children often function as ‘language brokers’ for their parents or family members. What this little girl was doing was ‘brokering’ to help her parents understand a message that they would not otherwise have been able to access.

Language brokering

The term ‘brokering’ (rather than ‘interpreting’) is used specifically in relation to the experience of children assisting their parents with communication as it “focuses attention on the whole cultural meaning of such an event, in which any interpretation is simply a part” (Hall, 2004, p.285). There is a range of research studies that have explored ‘child language brokering’ experiences with immigrant children in different countries, that reveal how children will often broker for their parents in a range of contexts, and may feel empowered and at other times burdened (Orellana, Dorner & Pulido, 2003) by the experience.

Professional sign language interpreters have, until relatively recently, traditionally been Codas (Napier, McKee & Goswell, 2010), and some will have brokered from a young age. Since the introduction of professional sign language interpreting services, people often assume that children no longer need to interpret for their deaf parents. However, based on anecdotal observation, and Jemina Napier’s preliminary research (in press) with deaf and hearing people that have deaf parents, this is not the case. Napier’s international survey of 240 deaf and hearing Codas revealed that their experience mirrors those of spoken language child brokers: many of them had brokered from as early as 4 or 5 years old, and they felt their brokering experiences contributed to their positive self-esteem.

Claire’s father was quick to clarify in a Vlog post that they do not expect their 5-year old daughter to interpret for them, and that there was in fact a professional interpreter present at the Christmas concert, but their daughter wanted her parents to watch her directly.

For many years, deaf people have asserted their right to a professional interpreter and assured themselves and others that they do not ask their children to interpret for them. Perhaps not, but the video of Claire supports Napier’s research in revealing that Codas still broker for their parents, and they may not have been asked – they volunteer.

Desire to help

The developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello and his colleagues have produced various articles (e.g., 20112013) that indicate that toddlers and young children have a natural instinct to want to help others, and they go to great lengths to cooperate with adults. This may explain why Codas still offer to broker for their deaf parents, even when it is not required of them: the children know that their parents cannot hear what is being said, so it is a natural instinct for them to want to help their parents to understand by signing for them.

Professional signed language interpreters have traditionally ‘evolved’ from the Deaf community (Cokely, 2005), but since the introduction of formal interpreter training programs anyone can choose to be a sign language interpreter (Stone, 2008) and be ‘schooled’ into the profession. Fewer Codas seem to be choosing to work as professional interpreters, or we are experiencing attrition from interpreter education programs as Codas do not complete the course of study, meaning that fewer interpreters come from the Deaf community (Cokely, 2005). So what happens to the earlier ‘desire to help’ that can be seen in young Kodas?

There are still huge supply and demand imbalances in the signed language interpreting sector worldwide, so more people need to be attracted to the profession, regardless of whether they are Codas or not. Many Codas still continue to broker for their parents when they are adults, even if other professional interpreters are available, because it is the only legitimate option due to the family member being the only professional interpreter that can understand the deaf person, for example, due to onset of dementia (Major, 2013).

Plus Codas who work as professional interpreters still feel undervalued in terms of what they bring to the profession, and want to have it recognized that although they may have grown up doing language brokering, they have still worked hard to develop their professional interpreting skills (Williamson, 2012), and can “bring value” to the profession (Colonomos, 2013), but should not be automatically valorised.

Thus it is vital to explore the nature of language brokering that is performed by Codas for several reasons:

(i)  to gain a clearer picture of the interpreting needs of the Deaf community, to account for interpreting demand that may currently be ‘masked’ by the fact that supply is met by children rather than professional interpreters;

(ii) to ascertain how the Coda brokering experience can be harnessed into positive linguistic and social competence, and mentor Codas into becoming professional interpreters and translators (such as Angelelli 2010 suggests for young spoken language bilinguals); and

(iii)  to draw parallels with the experience of immigrant children to inform community interpreting policy and practice more generally for all languages in the UK, Europe and internationally.

Although Napier’s initial survey study was useful for “sketching the broad contours of the [brokering] practice” (Orellana, 2010, p.51), more research is needed to further contribute to the body of child language brokering research and explore “how adults narrate their experiences as child language brokers, and how their perspectives on their language brokering experience change as they grow from children into adults” (Bauer, 2010, p.127). Furthermore, it is also necessary to explore the language brokering experiences from the young Codas themselves, and deaf parents’ and other stakeholders perceptions of their language brokering experiences (as Cirillo & Torresi, 2010 did in Italy regarding institutional expectations with spoken language brokers). Thus further replication of spoken CLB research is needed.

The next step will be to replicate the work of Valdes et al (2003) with Latino children, and conduct a qualitative, ethnographic study involving interviews, focus groups, non-participant observations and simulated interpreting tasks to observe ‘language brokering in action’ (Orellana, 2009, 2010). This approach will enable us to examine sign language brokering experiences of Codas in more depth, and from different perspectives, and build upon the findings of Napier’s survey study.

2014 and beyond

Therefore as of 2014, Jemina Napier and her research team in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University will begin the next phase of research to explore sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community. The research will build on the initial survey study, and involve focus groups with deaf parents, Codas/ Kodas, sign language interpreters and hearing service providers.

The research team includes people that represent each of the key stakeholder groups: (1) Professor Jemina Napier, who is a Coda and interpreter; (2) Clare Canton is a deaf parent of three hearing Codas and a qualified deaf interpreter, who is a PhD student on the project; and (3) Yvonne Waddell, who is a hearing (non-Coda) qualified interpreter and is also a PhD student on the project. See: https://lifeinlincs.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/whos-who-in-bsl-at-heriot-watt-university/ for a profile of each member of the research team, and also the BSL teaching and research team at Heriot-Watt University.

It is envisaged that the project will be carried out in collaboration with key organisations who represent the Deaf, sign language interpreting and Coda communities. 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 a summary of this article in International Sign click here

For more information, or to participate in the project, please contact Jemina Napier:

Email – j.napier@hw.ac.uk

Facebook – Jemina Napier

Twitter – @JeminaNapier