Emmy Kauling is a sign language interpreter and linguist from the Netherlands, who has started her PhD September 2016 at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her research interests are sign language interpreting in academic and professional settings, socio- and interactional linguistics, and the representation of deaf people by interpreters.
Recognising the professional individual
In professional encounters, much depends on how interlocutors perceive each other. Deals are made, expertise is acknowledged and information is exchanged, from professional to professional. But what happens if a deaf professional takes part in such a context and has to bring an interpreter because the other professional(s) cannot sign?
In their communication amongst each other, professionals make linguistic choices that adhere to the discourse of their occupation, in order to index their various identities (Marra & Angouri, 2011). Identities, including a professional identity, and interpersonal relations are established by speaking and interacting (Svennevig, 2011). If those interactions are interpreted, they are expected to be translated in the appropriate register, that matches the discourse that is used by the participants (e.g. Napier, 2011; Napier, Carmichael, & Wiltshire, 2008). However, most often the interpreter that is interpreting for the professionals is not an expert in the field (e.g. Harrington, 2000; Woodcock, Rohan, & Campbell, 2007), which means he/she might not be aware of, or fluent in, the professional discourse used. This might have repercussions for the deaf person, but also for the other professional(s) and even the interpreter. The challenge might be that the participants are not represented in their appropriate professional discourse by interpreters (e.g. Feyne, 2014; Hauser, Finch, & Hauser, 2008). This presentation will focus on the preliminary findings of a scoping study which is part of a PhD research project. The scoping study explores to what extent participants of an interpreted event feel they are recognised as professionals.
Rachel Mapson trained at the University of Bristol and has been working as a BSL/English interpreter for 23 years. Work generated from her PhD thesis on Interpreting linguistic politeness from British Sign Language to English has been presented and published internationally, to academics in the field of pragmatics, to the interpreting profession and to wider Deaf/hearing audiences. Rachel is based in Edinburgh where she continues her interpreting practice part-time. In 2016 she joined the staff at Queen Margaret University where she is involved in the development and delivery of online postgraduate CPD modules for registered BSL/English interpreters.
Smooth operators: interpreting as rapport management
Interpreters work as the interface between different cultures, languages and people. Cultural differences in the way people perceive im/politeness require particular consideration by interpreters. Conscious decision-making around the interpretation of im/polite language is essential, as mistakes may impact significantly on interactional dynamics and the relationship being developed between the interpreter’s clients. Although language and behaviour perceived as appropriate generally go un-noticed, anything perceived as impolite attracts immediate attention (Kasper 1990, Ruhi 2008). Poor judgements by the interpreter may therefore also draw unwanted attention towards themselves and the interpreting process.
Drawing on qualitative data generated from a study involving eight highly experienced BSL/English interpreters, the presentation will illustrate the complexity of considerations that interpreters make. Their decisions are influenced by multiple context-specific influences, requiring interpreters to be culturally sensitive to the needs of both sets of clients. Influenced by the work of Spencer-Oatey (2000/2008), the interpreting process is framed as rapport management, which provides a useful basis for considering the complexities involved. Data reveal a number of dynamic and interacting influences that coalesce differently in each interpreted interaction. These influences provide the rationale behind use of various interpreting strategies that fall within three main categories: reflection, smoothing and non-renditions.
Interpreters’ comments emphasise the pressurised and dynamic nature of interpreting, the need for conscious evaluations of im/politeness, and the potential impact of interpreter identity on this process. The research highlights the importance of interpreters’ social intelligence in achieving smooth communication, and the merit of focussing on rapport management within interpreter training and continuing professional development.
Ramon Woolfe – Exposed to sign language from birth, and as a qualified translator, Ramon Woolfe has a real passion when it comes to signed languages and interpreting. Court interpreting is one of the domains that has his interest, having observed interpreters in both civil and criminal trials. Ramon has interpreted for leading humanitarian organisations including the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). Currently an EUMASLI student Ramon is often found buried in academic publications, or putting his hands to good use in his greenhouse.
Deaf Interpreters – Are we justifiably recognised?
This presentation focuses on the strands of the qualities and strengths of Deaf interpreters, but the allies and various relationships as well. The current routes for deaf people to become qualified and registered to become a deaf interpreter will be examined and the current situation with respect to how interpreting agencies employ their services, discussed. What kinds of assignments are currently offered to Deaf interpreters who have studied to become qualified interpreters? This paper also discusses the cultural nuances related to having Deaf interpreters assigned, and how clients, both Deaf and hearing appreciate having deaf interpreters in place to work with the cultural aspects of dialogue. An important question that needs to be addressed is what exactly constitutes the ‘third dimension’ in the process of interpretation, does it increase or decrease any potential cultural conflict for the parties involved?
Interviews with both deaf interpreters and hearing highlighted their experiences in terms of the relationship between the two in different situations, and highlight positive experiences of both Deaf and hearing interpreters and how negative experiences are dealt with.
Another question is: how do clients from different areas of society today appreciate the ‘extra’ person in the interaction. How are deaf interpreters best regulated in order to provide best practice service for their clients? How can hearing interpreters form a healthy and effective relationship with their deaf colleagues – what are some of the possible threats they face? Interpreting agencies claim that they are compelled to employ mediators who they call ‘relay interpreters’, who are neither qualified nor accredited, as an acceptable substitute for appropriately qualified Deaf interpreters for various assignments. I would like to discuss the implications of this.
In conclusion, the paper will put forward some recommendations on how can we improve the working relationship between hearing and deaf interpreters.
Heather Mole – As a PhD student at Heriot Watt University under the supervision of Professor Jemina Napier and Dr. Katerina Strani I am working on the power dynamics in the sign language interpreting profession. I trained as a SLI some 15 years ago, and worked in the profession for a few years before emigrating to Canada where I worked as an advisor to Deaf and disabled students for 8 years. On returning to the UK the opportunity to begin a PhD presented itself and I eagerly applied and am now in my 3rd year.
Perceptions of power dynamics by sign language interpreters
Power dynamics saturate sign language interpreting due to the cultural, professional and institutional power of the various participants in the setting. As coordinators of interpreted events (Roy, 2000) SLIs regularly find themselves coordinating power whilst simultaneously aware of their own power and how their clients are perceiving them. When SLIs encounter challenging power dynamics on the job, existing vocabularies for analysing them do not explain their discomfort, offering no closure or opportunity for reflection-in-action (Schon, 1984). Understanding the current perceptions of SLIs around these dynamics is a step towards improving them.
The methodology for this PhD research involved collecting data with registered sign language interpreters in the UK. I asked SLIs to write five reflections about notable power dynamics in interpreted situations over the course of a few months. The SLIs were then interviewed about their experience and this data is included in the analysis. Using thematic analysis to explore their reflections I will present the preliminary findings of the research showing how perceptions of power impact on interpreting practice.
Recognition through academic achievement: the contribution of doctoral research in the UK
Research conducted by home-grown practitioner-researchers plays a valuable role within ASLI and the profession more generally. This panel session traces the five doctoral journeys examining interpreting practice in the UK context. Focussing on the experiences and contributions of those involved, the session includes discussion about how interpreters can benefit from and engage with research, as participants, researchers and disseminators.
Christopher Stone’s research, at the University of Bristol, explored the work of Deaf interpreters (DIs) on regional broadcast television news. The study highlights the processing efforts and ‘imagined audience’ engagement the DIs aim for, influenced by the traditional support roles deaf bilinguals undertook in the deaf community.
Jules Dickinson’s research, at Heriot-Watt University, looked at the interpreter’s role in workplace settings. This ethnographic study explored the ways in which interpreters affect the dynamics between deaf and hearing employees, focussing on humour and small talk in meetings.
Rachel Mapson’s research, at the University of Bristol, involved group interviews with experienced interpreters to explore interpretation of im/politeness. The study highlights the centrality of rapport management within liaison interpreting and the affordance of ‘familiarity’ in this process.
Vicky Crawley’s research, carried out at York St John University, used data from a series of tasks carried out by BSL-users and English-speakers via an interpreter. This study concentrated on the reasons for and the strategies used during interpreter participation, specifically “repair”, which remains a contentious, and sometimes misunderstood practice.
Yvonne Waddell’s research at Heriot-Watt University explores a different perspective on rapport management in the interpreted interaction. This study examines mental health nurses’ concerns about working with interpreters, the impact this has on interactional dynamics and their clinical practice.
Helen is a qualified interpreter, assessor and verifier who is celebrating 25 years working in the field. Having worked for RNID (now Action on Hearing Loss) for 16 plus years she has been working as a freelance interpreter, trainer, assessor and verifier since 2009. Helen also works part time for SignVideo as an interpreter supervisor with responsibility for training. She has developed and delivered training days, workshops and webinars in a variety of contexts.
Whilst at RNID she lead the joint project with ASLI that developed PD4ME, an online CPD resource for signed language interpreters. Helen firmly believes that CPD is essential for a professional interpreter and, as such, it needs to be meaningful.
What do you do when you have the t-shirt?
Continuous Professional Development is the bedrock of any profession and is, rightly, a requirement for continued registration as a professional interpreter, but what do you do when you have been in the profession for a number of years? You have attended every CPD course available and may have even delivered the training. For a CPD requirement to be effective the activities required of participants must be meaningful otherwise it becomes little more than a tick-box exercise. There are always opportunities for unstructured development but what about structured development? What structured CPD is suitable for long-standing members of the profession? How can we continue to develop our knowledge and skills in a structured environment without attending courses just to meet CPD requirements?
This workshop is aimed at those who have been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. We will explore the nature of structured CPD and discuss what meaningful CPD looks like for experienced members of the profession. Looking at other professions, we will discover what we can learn from their CPD structures. We will also discuss opportunities for structured development outside the field of interpreting and the benefits of multi-disciplinary training.