Sign Language Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice

Sign Language Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice

Sign Language Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice

Sign Language Interpreting and Interpreter Education: Directions for Research and Practice

Synopsis

More the 1.46 million people in the United States have hearing losses in sufficient severity to be considered deaf; another 21 million people have other hearing impairments. For many deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, sign language and voice interpreting is essential to their participationin educational programs and their access to public and private services. However, there is less than half the number of interpreters needed to meet the demand, interpreting quality is often variable, and there is a considerable lack of knowledge of factors that contribute to successfulinterpreting. Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that a study by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) found that 70% of the deaf individuals are dissatisfied with interpreting quality. Because recent legislation in the United States and elsewhere has mandated access to educational,employment, and other contexts for deaf individuals and others with hearing disabilities, there is an increasing need for quality sign language interpreting. It is in education, however, that the need is most pressing, particularly because more than 75% of deaf students now attend regular schools(rather than schools for the deaf), where teachers and classmates are unable to sign for themselves. In the more than 100 interpreter training programs in the U. S. alone, there are a variety of educational models, but little empirical information on how to evaluate them or determine theirappropriateness in different interpreting and interpreter education-covering what we know, what we do not know, and what we should know. Several volumes have covered interpreting and interpreter education, there are even some published dissertations that have included a single research study, and afew books have attempted to offer methods for professional interpreters or interpreter educators with nods to existing research. This is the first volume that synthesizes existing work and provides a coherent picture of the field as a whole, including evaluation of the extent to which currentpractices are supported by validating research. It will be the first comprehensive source, suitable as both a reference book and a textbook for interpreter training programs and a variety of courses on bilingual education, psycholinguistics and translation, and cross-linguistic studies.

Excerpt

Sign language interpreting, by history if not by definition, puts individuals in a somewhat awkward position. Interpreters need to be impartial in what they interpret, but they need to be involved and invested enough to ensure that communication is accurate and successful. They work for both deaf and hearing participants in any given situation, and both deaf and hearing participants lose if an interpreter is not involved or is not successful. However, often the general public’s view is that interpreters work “for” deaf people and are solely “responsible for them.”

Interpreting situations sometimes involve intensely private information of the sort that might be hard to share with one person (e.g., a lawyer or a doctor), and yet both parties have to depend on a third person who is expected to maintain objectivity and confidentiality regardless of the stress or personal conflicts created by the interaction. As such, although sign language interpreters are essential intermediaries, facilitating communication between individuals who use different languages and may be from different cultures, they have to resist directing or controlling the interactions or injecting their own views of the participants or the content they are interpreting.

Finally, in educational interpreting, where interpreters are supposed to facilitate the effective flow of classroom communication, they are often perceived as being solely responsible for it, bestowing on them a role in the education of deaf children that is neither wanted nor appropriate. This is not for want of caring or trying. Educational interpreters may or may not be familiar with the content of a particular class . . .

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