- Complexity of International Sign for inexperienced interpreters: Insights From a Deaf IS Instructor
- Book title
- International Sign: Linguistic, Usage and Status Issues
- Pages (from-to)
- Washington: Gallaudet University Press
- Sociolinguistics in Deaf Communities Series
- Volume | Edition (Serie)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication (ACLC)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:
192 Complexity of International Sign for Inexperienced Interpreters: Insights From a Deaf IS Instructor Joni Oyserman In this chapter, I focus on how inexperienced interpreters view, acquire, and use International Sign (IS). A profile of this group is developed on the basis of empirical observations and insights concerning linguistic aspects, which draws on IS training courses, the author’s years of international experience, and interviews with individual interpreters. I discuss some IS teaching methods, highlighting specific effective techniques, and whether IS can be acquired through formalized training. In particular, I examine the notion of an "IS designation" and question which skills ("I know, I can, and I have knowledge of") an interpreter would need to acquire to earn this label. Those skills are explored to provide inexperienced IS interpreters with guidelines for becoming competent in the eyes of the international Deaf community. Using my own perspective and based on my personal experiences, I follow the definition of IS as a lingua franca, as stated by Rosenstock (2004), and focus on my experiences as an instructor of "inexperienced" interpreters, by which I mean interpreters who have been doing inter- preting work in their own national sign language for some time but have no experience with IS. This group of inexperienced interpreters is large, because many interpreters either have not worked abroad or have never had the opportunity to work in an international setting. For this reason, they are proficient in only a single sign language. Being multilingual is a prerequisite for being able to interpret in IS, as noted by Moody (2002) and Mesch (2010). To use the situation in the Netherlands as an example, out of a pool of around 4801 registered interpreters, there are only a few who can translate to and from IS, as indicated in their profile on the 1. Stichting Register Tolken Gebarentaal, http://www.stichtingrtg.nl Rosenstock Main Pgs 1-220.indd 192 12/17/2015 9:18:49 AM Complexity of International Sign for Inexperienced Interpreters : 193 Register Tolken Gebarentaal (RTG, a Dutch register database for certified sign language interpreters only) list and based on my personal experience. Those interpreters have all studied multiple sign languages and have more than two spoken languages at their command. It is remarkable that this group is not expanding with the addition of new interpreters. This seems to be related to the way inexperienced interpreters view IS, and this is what I focus on in this article. Instinctively, learning IS poses quite a challenge because interpreters think that their skills will never be able to match those of deaf IS us- ers who conduct smooth conversations with each other (Hiddinga & Crasborn, 2011; Green, 2014). That smoothness makes interpreters won- der what strategies, tools, and skills are used by the Deaf and whether they as interpreters can acquire them—and if so, how—in spite of the fact that they are L2 signers and that they have only partially acquired the inherent cultural aspect. McKee and Napier (2002, p. 51) cite this issue: IS interpreters clearly need a depth of automatic proficiency in manip ulating all these grammatical structures of sign language. They must also possess the linguistic flexibility and imagination to think beyond known lexicon and improvise with productive sign and gesture re- sources to express meaning in unconventionalized, yet characteristi- cally "Deaf" ways. In his article, Moody (2002) offers a number of pointers for new inter- preters, suggesting that they "make it representational" and "act it out," and that they ask to be accompanied by experienced interpreters. In short, the standard advice for expanding one’s knowledge of IS is to travel a lot, make contacts at international Deaf events, and regularly visit Deaf for- eigners in one’s own country (Mesch, 2010; Moody, 2002). However, the barriers to actually implementing this advice are high. Many interpreters prefer to first attend workshops or training courses in IS prior to going to an European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli) conference, a World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI) conference, or some other conference where interpreting is done from the source language to IS and vice versa. Interpreters often explain that they want to know beforehand what aspects...
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