Why ‘trust’ should not be taboo in relations between deaf people and interpreters
Dai O’Brien, Gab Hodge, Kate Rowley, Robert Adam, Sannah Gulamani, Steve Emery, John Walker
Discussions of relationships between sign language interpreters and deaf people assume the importance of deaf people placing our ‘trust’ in interpreters to accurately represent us. ‘Trust’ is framed in these claims as faith in ability without proof of competence. We argue this framing is damaging. However, many deaf people feel that they cannot challenge such concepts for fear of alienating interpreters and thus limiting their choices for accessing their own lives and workplaces. In essence, it is taboo for us to talk about ‘trust’.
We present findings from a collaborative autoethnographic approach to the question of what it means to ‘trust’ interpreters. Data was gathered using a mixture of interview, written or signed reflections then analysed using a thematic analysis approach.
We found ‘trust’ was not considered when initially selecting interpreters to work with. Instead, we have sophisticated ways in which to evaluate interpreters. These evaluations feed into decisions made about how we work with interpreters and how we build short- and long-term professional relationships.
We argue that scrapping such an emotive and subjective concept of ‘trust’ serves the wider interests of both deaf people and interpreters. Instead, we should be working towards constructing a framework in which interpreters can provide proof of, and be recognized for, their specific competencies.
Is our post-pandemic Tool Kit missing a few essential tools?
This presentation will discuss the changes that have occurred in the way we interpret, following the coronavirus pandemic, and whether the training that we have had is adequate to prepare us for working in a remote environment. I will also highlight the challenges that can occur working remotely, contrasting it with working in person.
Our interpreting practice has been informed by years of research but this is all based on interpreting in person rather than working remotely. De Meulder, Pouliot and Gebruers (2021) undertook a study asking SL Interpreters about the changes to their work as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There were respondents from 63 different countries. Of these respondents, 60% had never worked remotely before the pandemic and 27% had worked remotely occasionally. Overnight, the way we worked and interacted with others within interpreting assignments drastically changed.
We had to quickly learn how to use technology in a way that most of us had never worked before. Ensuring that we have the correct equipment, lighting, and technical understanding to work across numerous platforms.
This ‘new normal’ has potential for interpreters with a wealth of professional experience in specialist settings struggling with the technical aspects of remote working. Therefore, I will post the question as to whether just having experience in the domain is enough anymore? Furthermore, how do we remedy the challenges that occur with remote work to ensure that a professional level of service is provided for all participants?
Additionally, the way we communicate with those we are interpreting for and those we are co-interpreting has changed. Seeking clarification presents a different set of challenges. We now have to be more intrusive and overt. We may have to stop interpreting altogether until we are able to get the participants’ attention. Considering the journey that the interpreting profession has gone on, we are having to behave in a different fashion in which we have been trained. I can no longer subtly lean toward my co-interpreter for them to whisper the information I need. I now have to rely on them picking up that I have missed something. I can no longer point to who is talking in the room. I may not even be able to see who is talking as I try to interpret with boxes of speakers moving around on the screen as people turn their cameras off and on.
Our current toolkit is no longer fit for purpose. There are some tools that were not required 2 years ago that are now a fundamental part of our tool kit. If we don’t ensure we get these tools in place, and ready to be utilised, we are at risk of being left behind. In order to mitigate this risk, we need to ensure that firstly training is available for interpreters who do not feel as comfortable with technology. We also need to be developing and agreeing on the coping strategies that work well in a remote setting. Finally, we need to ensure that this is also factored in when delivering training courses to the next generation of interpreters.
Finally free of the interpreter’s gaze?
Maartje De Meulder and Christopher Stone
Typically, SLIs appreciate/desire seeing the (deaf) person/people for whom they work, and are used to/require direct real-time feedback/backchanneling, otherwise they feel #awkward. This entails an implicit assumption of additional #awkward invisible labor from deaf participants, often without interpreters realizing this.
The COVID-era via Zoom conferences has shown that not being seen by the interpreters was, for many deaf academics, liberating. Working with interpreters does entail a kind of invisible labor. While this labor was more opaque pre-COVID, having the agency to turn the camera (and thus the interpreters’ gaze) off has spotlighted this additional labor.
In the presentation we will:
- examine the effect of SLI education focusing on how to cope in those situations where there is a clear and visible power differential, e.g. between doctor and patient.
- reflect on the change in power differential when deaf participants are not visible during online meetings reducing/removing the invisible labor created by the SLI gaze; and enabling engagement in other tasks simultaneously (like hearing people) and only looking unseen at the interpreter sporadically.
- discuss the questions this new situation raises such as, how interpreters cope interpreting with and without the ‘deaf gaze’.
Exploring professional taboos in interpreter-mediated Mental Health Act assessments
Jemina Napier, Alys Young, Rebecca Tipton, Sarah Vicary, Celie Hulme, Natalia Rodriguez Vicente
This paper draws on the Interpreter-mediated Mental Health Act Assessments project (INForMHAA) funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, School for Social Care Research in England. The project focuses on the role of Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHPs) and interpreters in working together to carry out assessments under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1983.
The overall research question for the project is: How does interpreter mediation impact on Mental Health Act Assessments and how can interpreter-mediated Mental Health Act Assessments be improved?
Through a mixed-methods study we have: completed a scoping review of relevant literature, conducted surveys and interviews with AMHPs and Interpreters about their experiences of working in MHA assessments; and have created case study simulations of interpreter-mediated MHA assessment scenarios as a stimulus for focus groups with AMHPs and interpreters.
This paper will explore taboos concerning interpreting in this context that have been uncovered through our research. Our research findings will have implications for best practice guidelines for AMHPs and interpreters working together and will be used to create a portfolio of training resources for inter-professional working.
Anti-social interpreting: Drawing a line in the Sand
Taboo…. let’s talk about why there are not enough input from deaf consumers. Professionalization of signed language interpretation has resulted into the exclusion of deaf voices. Deaf interpreters do not count because we are interpreters as well. When I was a deaf doctorate student studying signed language interpretation and translation, I explored with a concern that deaf voices were excluded in various arenas of this profession. I was met with resistance. There were various reasons for this resistance. First, there was an expression of fear that if deaf consumers were included, they may define what constitutes a good interpreter. Second, some professionals argue that deaf people do not understand anything about interpreting. Third, there was the argument that deaf consumers do not work in this field. Fourth, there was an insistence that the deaf community was too broad and diverse. Granted, there are diverse perspectives in the deaf community (race, ethnic, gender, disability, age, educational background, language status). However, just because it is complicated does not mean it should not be done. Why have we not started conversations about creative ways we can get perspectives from deaf consumers to inform our work?
Breaching Taboos: Towards Evidence based training for stakeholders working in interpreter mediated Domestic Sexual and Gender Based Violence (DSGBV) settings
Lorraine Leeson, Lianne Quigley, Haaris Sheikh, Gill Harold, Leonie O’Dowd, Catriona Freir, Sinéad Molony, Brian Conway, Andrew Geary, Lucy Carey, Jemina Napier, Lucy Clark, Maribel del Pozo Triviño, David Casado Neira, Maria Del Carmen Cabeza Pereiro, Silvia Pérez Freire, Beatriz Longa Alonso, Frankie Picron and Mark Wheatley
Discussion and disclosure of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence (DSGBV) remains taboo for many cultures, communities, and societies. However, DSGBV has been spotlighted across 2020-22 with police forces and NGOs reporting significant increases in instances of abuse recorded during the Covid-19 pandemic. Concurrently, lack of access to information in many sign languages, along with limited organised opportunities to discuss DSGBV has left many of those experiencing DSGBV in Deaf communities in a vacuum.
The Erasmus+ funded Justisigns 2 project is building evidence-based resources for interpreters, police officers, counsellors and other key stakeholders who engage with deaf, refugee, and migrant women and girls who experience DSGBV but who use a language other than that of the host community. The project team comprises universities, NGOs and police services, chaired by Interesource Group (Ireland) Ltd. In this paper, we present results of a survey of key stakeholders that we ran in 2021 in Ireland, the UK and Spain and unpack important points for the development of specialist training. We also present activities with Deaf communities NGOs and government bodies.
Nonconformity and signed language interpreting: (dis)uttering expletives
Octavian E. Robinson
Let’s talk about expletives. How comfortable are you with signing or saying words like fuck, shit, or words in your language viewed as words that do not belong in “polite” company or feels unprofessional and inappropriate? This is an important question because expletives have an vital function in language and communication.
Beyond uttering or signing the expletive, another discomfiting moment in the interpreted interaction is encountering the expletive gesture that also functions as a non expletive gesture in signed language. The signs perceived as expletive gestures by the dominant majority, often accompanied by spoken words, may not necessarily translate into expletive words in signed language. Yet the sight of such gestures disrupts the interpreting process. As expletives, often understood as the domain of specific groups or classes of people, is increasingly found across all types of discursive spaces such as professional and academic settings; interpreters confront the question. This shift in usage of expletives and growth in access via signed language interpretation asks for insights in how we might move beyond this discomfort. Deaf history, women’s history, and language attitudes help us understand and confront some of the challenges and discomfort in teaching and using expletives in signed language interpretation.
Bio: Octavian E. Robinson earned his Ph.D. in women, gender, and sexuality history from The Ohio State University in 2012. Since then, he has published as an interdisciplinary scholar within the broader umbrella of disability and deaf studies. His work focuses on ableist rhetoric, disability and language, and crip linguistics, which frames sign language interpreting as a form of disability carework. His most recent publication is on the intervention of a critical disability lens in signed and spoken language interpreting with John Benjamins. He is Associate Professor of Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University.
What’s missing? Equity, diversity, and inclusion training for interpreters, pre and post qualification
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 a global movement became the catalyst for change and an acknowledgement of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) space. However, Translator and Interpreter Education Programmes (TIEPs) rarely, if ever, include EDI training. Post-qualification professional development activities often cover a small range of topics, focusing on linguistic components, specific domains or interpreter well-being, and are often delivered by the same group of trainers. There seems to be an assumption that interpreters are not in need of specific EDI training. Why is this? Is it because, the profession is largely white, heterosexual interpreters who conform to societal norms?
The Deaf and hearing communities that we work with are diverse, yet the demographic of interpreters is homogenous, so where do we gain our knowledge of difference from? This presentation will advocate that EDI should be integrated into TIEPs, that awarding bodies like iBSL and Signature should include EDI in their training curricula and that post qualification training should also cover these topics. Furthermore, it will be proposed that space should be made for trainers from the global majority, to be involved in delivering interpreter training. It is hard for a minority to make a difference, allies are required to raise their voices and step back, to allow diverse language service professionals to step forward.
Don’t mention the machine: the #awkward future of human interpreting.
Maartje De Meulder
In this presentation I explore some #awkward issues regarding the future of human sign language interpreting. The institution of human sign language interpreting services (SLIS) can be questioned regarding scalability and fairness. Even so, the provision of human SLIS has become the institutionally normative, often unquestioned, solution to grant deaf people access to the work place and public services, among other things. This is not yet the case for AI-powered automated translation technologies like (computer-generated) avatars and speech recognition features. If anything, they make interpreters feel #awkward not because these technologies are so good, but because they obviously aren’t good enough (yet), especially text/speech-to-sign technologies. Yet, there is the inconvenient truth that current working practices of sign language interpreters are not unchangeable and in fact, are already changing now. In this presentation, I discuss some of the #awkward questions this situation leads to, such as:
- Will sign language technologies provide a scalable service?
- How will language rights for deaf people keep pace with the development of language technologies?
- Who benefits from these technologies, and who is at risk of being left behind?
- How will sign language interpreting training programs need to adapt to prepare for a hybrid future?
“We’re just going to make you comfortable now” – Linguistic and interpersonal challenges of interpreting conversations about death.
One of the more challenging situations in which we work is when we are interpreting with a patient who is nearing the end of their life. As well as the emotional impact of giving voice to the dying, the interpreter must also carefully manage their relationships with all parties while making some difficult decisions around the language they use to describe death.
This presentation will discuss the conclusions of a cross-disciplinary discussion, where the presenter met with a palliative care consultant and a clinical nurse specialist to review the care given to a deaf patient and the lessons learned as we offered support at the end of his life. It will attempt to answer questions such as:
- How impartial or emotionally detached is it appropriate for the interpreter to be in these settings?
- How will they walk the tightrope between using language clear enough to be certain the patient understands the imminence of their own death, while at the same time working with the euphemisms used by clinical staff to make their conversations as gentle as possible?
- How will we interpret phrases like, “We’re just going to make you comfortable now”?
The code-mixing console – A dynamic model for smoothly sliding between sign language and signed spoken language
A dynamic model for smoothly sliding between sign language and signed spoken language
“OH NO. I did it again: I followed hearing grammar. I shouldn’t have. Should I?” Have you ever had a bad conscience about using “Signed Exact [insert your spoken language here]?
Your bad conscience is telling you that “hearing grammar” is deeply rooted in the oppression of sign languages the deaf community has been experiencing for centuries.
My hypothesis is that every interpreter uses elements of SESL in their everyday work. Often, however, more or less unconsciously in the sense of “I was very close to the spoken text” but sign language interpreters often don’t have the tools to articulate exactly WHAT made their interpretation ‘close to the spoken text’ and WHY they chose to do it.
I developed a dynamic model that uses the image of a mixing console with a number of slider controls that can smoothly be adjusted between the two endpoints of the continuum “sign language” and “spoken language”, a continuum between modalities and languages. This model puts our own language ideologies to the test, breaking with the taboo of using phrases borrowed from the spoken working language.
Improving global majority take up within signed language interpreting & translation profession.
Nikki Harris has been working as an interpreter for 24 years, born of mixed parentage she invites our interpreting community to look deeper at assignments that carry an element of racial diversity. Until quite recently, there has been no mention of casting interpreters whilst finding interpreters for assignments. To a point our profession has remained some what colour blind & silent resulting in a disregard for this area of work being seen as a specialism.
As a board member of Interpreters of Colour Network, established in 2020, who’s membership is not exclusive to the UK. Nikki wants to put respectability politics aside in her presentation and invites conference delegates to prepare to experience #awkward. The aim of this discussion is to look deeper at our predominantly white, hearing, profession and unpick, people’s thought processes behind the cultural mismatching of assignments, whilst also being mindful of our recruitment and attainment issues of IOC (deaf & hearing) into our profession. It is hoped that delegates will start to see E&D opportunities as a ‘whole profession responsibility’. Thus sowing the seeds to tackling some of the 20 recommendations suggested after the 2021 UK interpreter census commissioned by ASLI and carried out by Heriot-Watt University.
Why don’t you understand IS interpreters if international sign is so visual?
Aurélia Nana Gassa Gonga, Onno Crasborn and Ellen Ormel
You are attending an international conference like efsli, a talk is given in spoken English and this is interpreted in international sign (IS). International sign, this lingua franca for signed languages, is supposedly widely understandable because of its visual and iconic nature. That is why you can watch the IS interpreters and expect to understand the talk. However, sometimes you do not understand anything. Oops! How awkward is this?
Our study provides one possible explanation for this awkward experience. We recorded IS and NGT interpreters interpreting the same lecture from spoken English and investigated what IS is consisted of. Our results show that IS interpreters use about 66% of lexical signs, while NGT interpreters use up to 80% of lexical signs. So, even if IS interpreters do use fewer lexical signs than their NGT counterparts, lexical signs are still the bulk of the IS content. However, these signs are probably the very least transparent part of the different communicative resources of sign languages.
This can make the IS not easily understandable if you did not learn these specific lexical signs before. IS interpreters use many lexical signs, as national sign language interpreters do. If you did not learn these specific forms, you could miss more than half of the IS content.
Privacy and trust in remote interpreting – taboo or not?
Remote connections have become a natural way to connect with other people, both in free time and in world of work. It’s easy to make a video call not only from a well-equipped remote workstation, but also from train, café, or home-office when the family is at home. Can we trust that privacy will be maintained? Concern is also relevant for remote interpreting. How can we ensure privacy and security of remote interpretation? The devices and applications used on remote connections also make shooting and recording easy. What should we consider when agreeing to record remote interpretation?
To answer questions concerning remote interpreting, The Interpreting into the Future – Digitality of Interpreter Education and Work –project is surveying and developing the solutions of remote interpreting. Project also compiles guidelines of implementing the remote interpreting, produces educational material and provides training course on the subject. Project is funded by European Social Fund (ESF) and led by Diaconia University of Applied Sciences (Diak). It partners with the interest organizations of interpreters and of clients and the businesses providing interpreting services in Helsinki-Uusimaa Region in Finland. It is time for an open debate and for common guidelines on remote interpretation.
Patterns in interpreting taboos and its representation in social and religious issues in Indian Sign Language
P J Matthew Martin
This study explores and demonstrates the patterns in the interpreting taboos on social and religious issues in social media, among the Deaf community in Mumbai. The members of this group are active on ‘WhatsApp’ a social media platform and are constantly in touch with other fellow members for representation of their social and religious needs. We propose that an increasing presence of social media has promoted certain patterns in the representation of social and religious issues in social media. These techno-religious digital spaces (Kong 2001) reframe notions of what it means to be users and depict how such interpretations are enacted in a contested arena, in which competing technological solutions and cultural preoccupations interact in often highly innovative ways. Hence survey study was undertaken to establish and demonstrate various patterns and the usage of social media in interpretation of Indian Sign Language (ISL) and taboos on social and religious issues. The data was gathered using the survey research tool developed for the purpose of the study. The same was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS 22). The ‘WhatsApp’ chat of members of the group (n=93) in the group over a period of 6 months was analyzed using ‘WhatsAnalyzer’ an online analysis tool. The results of the analysis depicted that, there is a pattern in the ISL interpreting taboos with reference to in usage of text (24%), visual Images (31%), audio-visual (41%) and audio (4%) formats of communication in the social media group, when representing social and religious issues. The analysis also established that there is no significant gender difference in ISL interpreting taboos (‘p’-value=.681) in the social media usage, while representing social and religious issues.
Interpreting through change: managing the menopause as work
The menopause transition and menopause remain shrouded in shame, stigma and taboo and can have a distressing and debilitating affect across all areas of the lives of those affected, including at work.
As a mostly female1 profession in the United Kingdom, approximately 33% of the current sign language translating and interpreting workforce sits within the ‘typical’ menopause age group. We might anticipate, therefore, that the menopause transition and menopause have the potential to significantly impact sign language translators and interpreters (SLTIs) individually, as well as the profession as a whole. A situation that may be further exacerbated due to the majority having no employer support available to them.
This presentation will report how SLTIs in the United Kingdom experience menopause symptoms in relation to their work, how they manage these and what can be done to support them. It is hoped this will initiate a positive and informed dialogue within the profession, aimed at supporting colleagues while they navigate this life event.
1 Others who may not identify as cis women may also experience menopause and the terms ‘women’, ‘woman’, ‘female’, etc., are used here as placeholders.
When he comes into police custody, he has certain rights: the burden for achieving access in a video-mediated custody interview
The UK police have come under criticism for their failure to understand what deaf people need and how this need can be met(Brennan & Brown, 1997; Race & Hogue, 2017; Skinner et al., 2021; Skinner & Napier, in prep). The police have been described as overly dependent on interpreters in their effort to provide an equitable service (Skinner & Napier, 2022). To understand the complex issues linked to over-dependence on interpreters, this presentation will share the findings of a study investigating the possibilities in using video remote interpreting in custody settings. The study looked at how custody sergeants and interpreters worked together to complete a custody booking-in process. Although the booking-in process is highly procedural the study demonstrates how achieving access exists in multiple forms and is unevenly distributed.
The first type of burden is linked to the establishing of roles and managing expectations, the second is linked to understanding and modifying institutional process, the third is connected to the custody sergeant’s knowledge (or lack of) and willingness to understand the citizen’s & interpreter’s needs, and the fourth is accommodating interpreter’s translation styles.
International Sign interpreting: are there gendered elephants in the room
The sign language interpreting (SLI) profession is generally described as being predominantly female (Napier and Leeson, 2016). When looking at International Sign (IS) interpreters, however, the gendered ratio is not being mirrored. In the field of Gender Studies, scholars have extensively been focusing on professions that are predominantly (fe)male to explore workers’ lived experiences of gender in the workplace. Within Deaf Studies and Interpreting Studies, apart from some small-scale studies and personal accounts shared by deaf professionals, interpreters, and interpreter trainers, limited attention has been paid to gender and SLI.
Adopting an intersectional approach (Crenshaw, 1989), this study explores why the IS interpreting arena attracts male interpreters. It looks at how gender, femininities, and masculinities are (re)produced and experienced by IS interpreters in terms of privileges and disadvantages. Deaf professionals’ experiences as well as their aspirations and perspectives on working with IS interpreters in terms of gender are captured.
Preliminary findings, collected through observations, fieldnotes and an ethnographic case study, will be shared. Plans for follow-up research will be discussed. This study aims to make theoretical contributions and hopes to inform future interpreting practices at a micro and macro level.