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.

 ***

The Translating the Deaf Self project: Where are we now?

By Zoë McWhinney and Jemina Napier

On behalf of the whole Translating the Deaf Self project team

Click here to see a BSL version of the blog presented by Zoë.

As you may have seen in the earlier blogpost in March 2016, members of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies Scotland at Heriot-Watt University (Jemina Napier and Robert Skinner) are working in collaboration with researchers from the Social Research with Deaf People (SORD) group at the University of Manchester (Alys Young and Rosemary Oram) on an 18-month interdisciplinary project funded through the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Translating Cultures Research Innovation Grant. Information about the project can be found here, and a summary of the project presented in BSL by Jemina Napier and Rosemary Oram as part of the EdSign lecture series can be seen here.

 Research intern

As mentioned in the March blogpost, the AHRC is keen to support the capacity building of young researchers, so Zoë McWhinney began her 20 day research internship with Heriot-Watt University at the beginning of June 2016 – spending two weeks on campus at Heriot-Watt University and then will be carrying out the rest of her internship by distance until the end of the project in October 2016. Zoë was involved in supporting the final Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting in June 2016, and is involved in various tasks for the remainder of the project (including drafting and translating this blogpost!).

Data collection

Our research focuses on what it is like for Deaf sign language users to be known largely through translation. The Deaf experience of being constantly interpreted is markedly in contrast to the general hearing population’s experience, even that of other linguistic and ethnic minorities.  This experience often leads to an asymmetry of the ‘power dynamics’ and consequently the opportunities available to Deaf person in non-signing, hearing- dominated spaces. Some Deaf people’s well being may be adversely affected by the stresses created in such a situation – an area of exploration in this research project.

During the project, we have completed the following data collection:

  • 3 parents of Deaf children participated in telephone interviews in spoken English
  • 2 x focus groups were held with qualified sign language interpreters (7 interpreters in total) in spoken English
  • 8 hearing colleagues of Deaf BSL users participated in face-to-face interviews in spoken English
  • 3 Deaf BSL users who choose to speak sometimes in their professional work contexts participated in face-to-face interviews in BSL. We have coined the term ‘Deaf Contextual Speakers’ to explain how these Deaf BSL users sometimes use speech, even though they identify as BSL users.
  • 2 x Community Participatory Groups were held in BSL with Deaf community members (7 in total). Each of the 2 sessions lasted for 2.5 to 3 hours and also had some activities to allow space for open discussions. The participants in this group were most responsive when watching and commenting on clips of scenarios with examples of Deaf and hearing people’s communication being interpreted by an interpreter.
  • 5 x simulated recall interviews were held with Deaf professionals in BSL after one of the research team had filmed them in a real situation with interpreters. Originally we had planned to test the use of Think-Aloud Protocol (TAP) as a methodology (where people comment on what they are seeing while they are doing a task), but due to the complex circumstances and the reality of the participants being BSL users accompanied by interpreters in person, we adapted the approach to a ‘simulated recall (SR) interview’. The SR interviews involved participants being shown a video of themselves interacting with hearing persons via an interpreter and asking them questions about their experience of being interpreted based on what they could see in the video.

All the focus groups and interviews were semi-structured, with the participants given example questions and/ or topic outline beforehand. Time length for focus groups took from 1.5 to 3 hours, whilst the individual interviews took from 30 minutes to 1 hour each.

The research study gained full ethical approval from the Universities of Manchester and Heriot Watt.

Presentations of results

Presently, the team is conducting an in-depth qualitative analysis using both a thematic analysis approach and a critical inquiry methodology.  The findings will be published in a range of academic journals related to social research, deaf studies and interpreting studies, as well as present at different conferences and community events. BSL access to the main findings will be made available online as well.  For example, we presented some preliminary findings in a poster session at the 8th Critical Link International Conference on Community Interpreting between 29th June to 1st July 2016 at Heriot-Watt university; and will also be presenting a more detailed overview of results at the Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK Conference in Newcastle in September 2016.

Final Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting

On 7th June we had our third and final meeting with the Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) in Edinburgh, Scotland, with representatives from the British Deaf Association (Scotland), the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) and Action on Hearing Loss (Scotland), where we presented the preliminary results from our analysis of the data. The role of the SAG has been to give the research team guidance on the research methods, data collection, recruitment of participants, interpretation of the results, and also about potential implications of the research, and we would like to thank all the people who have attended meetings throughout the project, including other representatives from Deaf Action in Edinburgh and Deaf Connections in Glasgow. One of the final recommendations from the last SAG meeting was for the project team to hold a roadshow to present the results of the project to members of the Deaf community in BSL. We will look for funding to enable us to do that.

What’s next?

The research team are now working with AC2.Com Productions and Mutt & Jeff Pictures to develop scripts for 3 short video dramas in BSL in order to illustrate some of the key findings from the research project. We plan to disseminate the videos through various platforms, including social media.

 

As well as working on the video production, Zoë will be assisting the research team to organise a dissemination event in September, where the whole team will present final results from the project and launch the videos. The event will be hosted in collaboration with our partner Action Deafness at their new venue at the Royal School for the Deaf in Derby – so look out for future announcements!

 

When dealing with the police, deaf people are at a major disadvantage

by Jemina Napier

This article was originally published in The Conversation by , Professor and Chair of Intercultural Communication, Heriot-Watt University. Jemina Napier has received co-funding for JUSTISIGNS through the European Commission’s Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning programme, and from the UK arts and humanities research council.

 

When dealing with the police, deaf people are at a major disadvantage

Are you receiving me? Matt Antonio

We all have occasions when we need to deal with the police. Perhaps your car has been stolen and you have to report it; or perhaps you have witnessed a mugging and you have been called to the police station to be interviewed and provide a witness statement. Or perhaps you have been accused of shoplifting and the security guard has detained you in the back room until the police arrive.

Interacting with the police can be stressful, regardless of whether you are a witness, a victim or a culprit. Most of us have one very useful advantage, however: we can hear. Anyone who is deaf and has dealt with the police may have found communication a major problem. Too often, the forces in the UK and elsewhere in Europe struggle to provide sign language interpreters at short notice or even to understand the needs of deaf people. It hampers their access to justice and needs to be addressed urgently.

The first thing to make clear is that we are talking about quite a substantial number of people. The European Union of the Deaf estimates there are approximately a million deaf sign language users in Europe. In the UK, there are estimated to be approximately 70,000 deaf people who use British Sign Language as their first or preferred language.

This is a linguistic and cultural minority group with its own accepted norms of behaviour. And most people probably don’t realise that deaf people use different sign languages in every country around the world. They identify one another on that basis in the same way that a British person might identify a German or Spaniard through the way they talk.

Interpreter rights

When it comes to the justice system as a whole, deaf people’s right to interpreters has increasingly been recognised – even if this is typically enshrined in disability discrimination law rather than laws to protect cultural minorities. But while there are now established systems for providing interpreters in courts and tribunals, and clear guidelines on booking them for police interviews and solicitor consultations in the UK and some other countries across Europe, researchers have repeatedly found that deaf people encounter barriers.

The issues are often to do with people in the justice system not being aware of the need to book interpreters to ensure that deaf people can communicate. This can usually be resolved in time for court cases or for courses in prison, but what happens in police encounters at short notice?

Sitting comfortably? Boogaloo

There are reports of police misreading a deaf person’s attempts to communicate. On some occasions, deaf people have had to wait many hours before an interpreter can be found and they can be interviewed by police.

There are recurring cases of people giving witness statements without an interpreter (or with an unqualified person). The statement is then admitted as evidence in court, and the deaf person doesn’t understand the process they have been involved in or the consequences of signing the statement. As the police interview is the first point of contact in a legal process, it is essential that people understand their rights and the process. This can’t happen for deaf people if they don’t have a professional qualified interpreter in the interview.

JUSTISIGNS

To better understand the problem in police settings and address the barriers, I have been collaborating with a team of international specialists for the past three years. The JUSTISIGNS project includes seven universities and sign language professional bodies from the UK, Switzerland, Belgium and Ireland.

We found that there is no uniform approach across Europe to training or certifying legal sign language interpreters or making such people available for deaf people in the justice system. Through a series of focus groups and interviews with police officers, deaf people and interpreters in the four countries, our findings included:

  • Police officers are unaware that sign-language users need to have an interpreter present as they cannot necessarily lipread or write notes; and are unclear on the qualifications or level of expertise required of sign language interpreters. There are no clear guidelines for how interpreters and police can work together;
  • Some police forces have policies to guide officers when it comes to interviewing deaf suspects/witnesses/victims – in the UK, some forces have begun to develop online videos for example – but police officers do not always know about best practice;

  • There are not enough interpreters available at short notice to meet recommendations that only qualified and experienced practitioners be used in the legal system;
  • Though some interpreters have received legal training, interpreters are often nervous of working in police interviews in case they get called as a witness in a later court case;
  • There is a lack of established legal terminology in British Sign Language and other sign languages.
Best practice rarely followed. Photographee.eu

On the back of this evidence, JUSTISIGNS held masterclasses and training workshops for police officers and interpreters in the partner countries; and events and meetings to inform deaf people and other relevant organisations and professionals of the project. In the UK, it helped develop best practice guidelines on legal interpreting and worked with Police Scotland on a British Sign Language translation of the Scottish law caution and an explanation of what it means.

The hope is that in years to come, deaf people will be able to deal with the police in unexpected situations without any disadvantage. That is certainly what they are entitled to expect.

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

CL8_4

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

CL8_3

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

CL8_1

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

CL8_2

 

Papers

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

CL8_6

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

CL8_7

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.

CL8_5

 

 

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:

CL8_10

CL8_9

CL8_8

LifeinLINCS in Top 25 Language Professional blogs!

The results from the bab.la competition are out and LifeinLINCS is at the

Top 25 Language Professional Blogs (out of 1,000 nominees and 100 language resources!)

and Top 100 Language Lovers Blog !

These accomplishments will soon feature as “badges” in our pages.

We would like to thank our readers as well as staff and students in LINCS who contribute to the blog.

The Top 5 posts for 2015 were:

 

The Top 5 posts for this month were:

 

With 246 posts, almost 90,000 views and more than 42,000 visitors since the blog was launched in 2011, we will continue to publish posts about research and practice in Languages, Interpreting, Translation and Cultural Studies.

Thank you for your support. Stay tuned!

Katerina Strani

Blog Editor

 

 

Why Interpreting Studies needs Silo Breakers

by Jonathan Downie

Academics are as much followers of fashion as any lover of Dior or Calvin Klein. Sure, it might not be the latest fragrances or the newest haute couture but research tends to be concentrated around a few themes.

In Interpreting Studies, the 70s and 80s were the age of cognitive research, mostly related on conference interpreting. Psychologists flocked to the discipline and those interpreters brave enough to row out into the deep water of academia were happy enough to follow them. In those days, we learned about ear-voice-span, modelling, and error triggers. The foundations would be set for the creation of the effort models by Daniel Gile in the 1990s, models which are still used today, even if there is still debate about their accuracy.

In the 90s, Interpreting Studies suddenly found itself moving away from conference interpreting towards practices that, depending on your particular cultural bent are variously called “community interpreting” or “public service interpreting”.  Barring the semantic debate on whether court interpreting is a different kind of thing altogether, these terms roughly mean “anything that isn’t business or conference interpreting”.

Largely, the growth of research in PSI (as I will call it for speed) continues unabated, which is no bad thing. Through research in PSI we have learned that interpreters are social beings, that their work is affected by many more factors than our previous lists of error triggers would have suggested and that the idea that interpreters can and should be all but invisible and default to doing nothing when faced with ethical decisions is a load of nonsense.

So far, so good. But, the sad thing is that these welcome advances in knowledge have taken time to filter down to other areas of interpreting. If it wasn’t for Ebru Diriker, Seyda Eraslan and Morven Beaton-Thome, we might never have realised that conference interpreters and political interpreters are as visible and contextually-driven as their PSI compatriots. If it wasn’t for scholars in sign language interpreting, we wouldn’t have realised that the same norms work in that area of interpreting too. (Actually, one could make a good argument that sign language interpreting scholars figured it all out before anyone else but that is another debate.)

What is becoming increasingly obvious is that the separation of Interpreting Studies into silos – PSI people here, sign language people there, conference people wondering what is going on over there, cognitivists trying to shovel everyone into labs in the corner – is actually damaging to the field and to practice. While we can’t always say empirically that findings from sign language interpreting apply directly to conference interpreting or court interpreting, we can at least argue that people in other areas of interpreting should be paying attention. We might actually want to suggest that the next logical step of most research is to try answering the same questions in a different setting.

But instead of better collaboration, silo thinking is entering even into the realm of industry conferences. The first call for papers of the FIT conference in 2017 included tracks for sign language interpreting and community interpreting only, wiping out any chance for experts in other areas of interpreting to contribute, at least initially.

Yes, yes, conferences have to set themes and have to limit participation somehow but does dividing contributions along the lines of different interpreting settings (and even languages) actually make any sense? Does it not simply reproduce in the conference hall the same divisions and inability to communicate with each other that already dogs our profession? Can’t we do better?

To cite Bob the Builder and President Barack Obama, “yes we can”. What if we had conference themes that dealt with our shared concerns, such as PR, client relationships, safety, and professional status instead of on PSI, conference interpreting and the like? What if researchers worked across sub-disciplinary boundaries to examine whether PSIs use different cognitive strategies than business interpreters or whether some of the work on performance in church interpreting might equally apply to conference interpreting?

It doesn’t take too much imagination to think of ways of breaking out of our current silos and working together. The next big idea for conference interpreting might well come from sign language interpreting. Court interpreters might learn PR and self-presentation ideas from mental health interpreters. Let’s interpret and research together and end our self-imposed divisions. It’s exactly what interpreting needs.

 

The Manchester terror drill – and why we must stop linking Arabic with fanatics

This article was first published in ‘The Conversation’ https://theconversation.com/uk

by Máiréad Nic Craith

Greater Manchester Police staged a mock attack featuring a suicide bomber late on the night of Monday May 9. It began at the Trafford Centre shopping complex when a man in black walked into the centre of the main foyer and shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “God is great” – several times at the crowd. Moments later, an explosion rocked the food hall. The 800 volunteers dropped to the floor or ran into cafes and shops screaming for help, many of them made up to look as if they had horrific injuries.

The reaction has been largely negative, with many making the point that using the words “Allahu Akbar” reinforced the stereotype that terrorists are primarily Muslim. They rightly said that in reality, anyone can be a terrorist. By enforcing the Muslim stereotype, the exercise divided rather than united people and could increase anti-Muslim hate crime.

The police force was quick to put up a senior officer to respond. Stressing that “Allahu Akbar” was not scripted, he called the phrase “unacceptable” and apologised on behalf of the force since it “vocally linked this exercise with Islam”.

End of story? Actually an important point has been overlooked. The commentary has focused on the fact that the attack associated Islam and terrorism, but something else was associated with terrorism, too – the Arabic language. Spoken by an estimated 422m people, it is one of the most common languages in the world. Have we become so used to associating politics with particular languages that the matter is not considered exceptional or worthy of discussion?

UK connotations

This issue goes much wider than Arabic. Staying with the UK, other languages are associated with political ideologies, too. I worked in Northern Ireland for 11 years and could not fail to notice the political stereotypes around the Irish language. I worried that my beautiful Irish language name would generate the perception that my intentions were political – although friends assured me that given I was from the South, the issue did not arise.

Since the days of the hunger striker Bobby Sands, who taught himself and other fellow prisoners Irish in the H-Blocks, Sinn Féin has often been accused of politicising Irish. Linking Irish with political intent makes it uncomfortable for some people without nationalist aspirations to speak it in public.

Last year, for instance, the Belfast Telegraph columnist Claire Harrison wrote that she stopped her university course in Irish partly because of “a growing discomfort with a general assumption that I was a raving republican”.

Sinn Féin conference in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Niall Carson

The perception that Irish is political has been greatly enhanced by politicians from non-nationalist parties seizing the opportunity to score a point at the expense of the Irish culture. Linda Ervine, a prominent unionist Irish-language speaker, last year accused Nelson McCausland of the unionist DUP of politicising the Irish language in exactly the same manner he claims republicans are guilty of. It’s not as if it has to be this way. Many of my friends in Northern Ireland who speak Irish on a regular basis do not associate it with politics and are motivated only by a love of Irish culture.

Over the Irish Sea in Scotland, we are seeing signs of something similar. In my recent TEDx talk on living heritage I noted that Scots has gained a new visibility and credibility as the culture has become more self-confident in the wake of the 2014 independence referendum. Pro-independence daily The National now features a weekly column in Scots, for instance. Yet the emergence of Scots cannot escape the political undertones. As the culture scholar Scott Hames wrote a few months ago, the “question of Scots is now becoming hyper-politicised in crude and distorting ways”. He argued that “national identity is undoubtedly part of the picture; but it needn’t be the whole picture”.

Many of us have heard the slogan that “a language is a dialect with an army and a navy”. Languages now considered “neutral” or “official” have often gained their visibility and credibility with the support of political structures – a fact often forgotten at the beginning of the 21st century.

So how to respond? The Irish-language activist Aodán Mac Poilín has suggested that, rather than attempting to depoliticise languages and break their link with specific communities, we should think about making them appropriate for many communities and in many spheres – multi-politicising them, if you will. With this in mind, it is good to read about the latest Arabic initiative in London, in which “Subhan Allah” (or “Glory be to God”) is appearing on posters on the sides of the red buses. This initiative by Islamic Relief is designed to change the negativity about Islam and foster understanding between different communities.

Sadiq Khan. Dominic Lipinski/PA

A few days ago, London elected its first Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan. The most recent winner of the Great British Bake Off was the Muslim Nadiya Hussain. With more events like these and fewer ill-conceived terror drills and such like, it raises the possibility of multi-politicising Arabic. Perhaps there will come a time when we don’t immediately think of terrorism when we hear the word “Allah”. Perhaps we might think instead about justice, human rights and good food.

RADAR Workshop: From Hate Speech to Hate Communication

“From hate speech to hate communication:
How racism is produced and reflected through communicative practices”
Free training workshop
16th and 17th June 2016
George Davies Lecture Theatre, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

 

RADAR – Regulating AntiDiscrimination and AntiRacism (Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme JUST/2013/FRAC/AG/6271) is an EU-funded programme that brings together nine partners from six countries. The project’s aim is to raise awareness and develop the necessary tools to identify and tackle hate-motivated and hate-producing communication, which have a racialised dimension. This will be achieved through training activities and events. The project will also provide a handbook as well as comparative studies and analyses. For more information on the project’s objectives, deliverables and individual work packages, please visit the project website and register on our platform.

RADAR workshops are being organised in the six partner countries (Italy, Finland, The Netherlands, Poland, Greece and the UK) from April to June 2016 to test the training material developed as well as the training approach. An international workshop will then be held in September in Perugia, Italy, drawing on the knowledge and expertise gained from the local pilot events.

Who is this workshop for?

  • professionals and trainees in the legal sector, the police, social workers, charity workers, people working in local and national authorities, policy makers, volunteers interested in ethnic equality and diversity
  • trainers interested in participating in the trial / pilot implementation of the proposed training approach and have open access and reusability of the available material.
  • people who have experienced racism or xenophobia and are interested in sharing their experiences and leading discussions.

What are the workshop aims?

  • Understand hate-motivated and hate-producing communication practices. Such an understanding can be empowering for (potential) targets of discrimination or hate communication. It can also help professionals to make better judgments, react effectively to racist and xenophobic behaviours and attitudes and ultimately help to prevent racism, xenophobia, discrimination and exclusion.
  • Recognise explicit as well as implicit forms of prejudice, racism and xenophobia, as well as the situations from which they might arise.
  • Develop skills to produce non-biased and inclusive communication.
  • Develop competence in communicating with people with culturally (and socially) different habits and behaviour models.
  • Distinguish between verbal, paraverbal, nonverbal and visual messages, how they are combined and embodied in communicative practices.
  • Become familiar with communicative techniques, strategies and procedures that apply to different situations and contexts.

In this way, participants may acquire useful tools for identifying and preventing hate-producing and hate-motivated communication practices and, ultimately, hate crimes. Participants should also be able to transfer the approach, either by putting it into practice in other contexts or, in the case of trainers, by training others.

What is the workshop content?

Two main themes are covered in the workshop:
(1)      language use in legal texts (laws and judgments) and its social implications
(2) communication practices reflecting and (re)producing racism, xenophobia, discrimination, exclusion.

We consider the following communicative practices among others: advertisement pictures, promotional and other videos, talkshows, written texts, in particular newspaper articles, and social media posts.

There will be discussion groups, round tables and activities to reflect on these communication practices, share experiences and recommendations. The full workshop programme will be provided following registration.

How to register

The 2-day workshop is free and includes lunch, coffee breaks, a drinks reception and a certificate of attendance. Registration is required. Places are limited so please register here http://goo.gl/forms/YEyCLvePki  by 10th June

Heriot-Watt is located on the outskirts of Edinburgh city centre and is easily accessible by bus and train.  Further travel information as well as the full workshop programme will be provided following registration.

Contact

Dr Katerina Strani, Assistant Professor, Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies, Heriot-Watt University: A.Strani@hw.ac.uk

Social Media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Project-Radar-Just2013fracag6271-370112223154383/?ref=hl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RadarProject         @RADARproject    #RADARproject

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Being a Successful Interpreter

by Jonathan Downie

When it comes to opportunities to improve their skills, interpreters are spoilt for choice, right? We can work on simultaneous, consecutive, note-taking, er, hold on, that’s about it. Traditionally, and understandably, we tend to stop at skills training.

Skills training is good but it is becoming increasingly obvious that we need much more than good note-taking or control of synonyms. Interpreters of all stripes need to know how to sell their services, plan their career, present the right image and much more. In fact, unless you have a nice staff job, your work away from an assignment is as important as your work during it.

If your interpreting skills are poor, you won’t get more work. If your business, personal and planning skills are poor, you won’t get any work at all!

And then there is the whole question of burnout. How can we survive the ritual of research, travel, invoicing, admin, that comes inevitably with the job of being an interpreter, let alone the need to keep our family and friend relationships healthy?

Those are the kinds of questions that have been constantly in my mind as I spent 5 years of my life getting a PhD in expectations of interpreters. While my own research focus was on one small area, I have had the privilege of meeting and learning from experts in a wide variety of areas. From deliberate practice to perceptions of interpreters, from nutrition to decision-making, it has been an exciting and sometimes troubling ride.

Most of the results of that work were poured into my upcoming book: Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence. Surprisingly, it turned out that the majority of the experts I was meeting were basically saying the same thing: successful interpreters add value to their clients, to their profession, and to themselves. And this was the true whether I interviewed experienced professionals like Esther Navarro-Hall and Judy & Dagmar Jenner or leading researchers like Prof Ebru Diriker and Dr Elisabet Tiselius.

Books are great, especially when they come with guides as to how to apply what you are learning. Their only disadvantage is that they are devoured alone. Imagine what it would be like if we could take the material from the book: the strong messages on adding value, the challenges to develop our skills strategically, and yes, all the lessons I learned from wiser people than me; but could discuss, dissect and apply them in a room together.

I thought that might be a good idea and, thankfully, a few people from Heriot-Watt University thought so too. So, on June 2nd, we will have the inaugural Being a Successful Interpreter course. This is a one-day interactive event that will being interpreters of all kinds together in one room, to learn together how we can build sustainable careers that suit our own skills and lifestyles, better understand the thought-processes of our clients, develop our skills strategically and build supportive communities.

Why bother being in the same room? Why not just do a set of webinars?

Well, for one, I have stopped believing that the traditional “I talk; you listen” mode of teaching actually works. Instead, the emphasis will be on learning and discussing together. There will be places where we look in detail at specific ideas from the book but we will mostly spend time discussing together how to apply them. There will even be space to sit and reflect on your own work, your own trajectory and your own decisions.

The emphasis will be in applying what researchers, experts and leaders have been saying and doing so in a way that makes sense to each of us.

There are two tiny catches. Tickets are limited. There is only space for 20 people in the room. And tickets are only on sale until 20th May. So, if you are looking to give your career a boost, plan for the future, or adjust to the ongoing changes in our profession, this is your chance. See you on the 2nd!

Just in case you missed it, you can get more info and buy tickets by clicking the name of the course at the end of this sentence: Being a Successful Interpreter.

 

 

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!