Sign language researchers talk research!

By Jemina Napier

Click here to see a version of this blogpost in British Sign Language (BSL).

While I am on research sabbatical from Heriot-Watt University I am fortunate to be spending my time as a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh (see here for overview of what I am working on).

As part of my fellowship I have been able to avail of IASH facilities to organize a workshop with a leading scholar in the field of Deaf Studies, Dr Annelies Kusters, to bring together a small group of researchers who work with sign language data. The 2-day workshop took place on 25-26 October 2018 and was by invitation only. Our priority was to invite deaf and hearing researchers that are fluent British Sign Language (BSL) users, and who are currently grappling with issues either to do with the analysis of qualitative sign language data, or are exploring new and innovative qualitative research methods. One of the reasons we wanted to ensure that everyone is a fluent BSL user is because we wanted to avoid holding discussions through interpreters, to allow for more in-depth and organic discussions. And this certainly worked!

The majority of the 12 attendees were my colleagues and PhD students from the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University, but we also had several attendees from other UK universities and also one Finnish university.

The first day (Thursday) was dedicated to the discussion of different approaches to data analysis, and the second day (Friday) was devoted to methodologies. Each participant was asked to give a 15-minute presentation about their topic and we built in plenty of time for discussion. The projects being conducted by the group range from experiences of deaf people seeking asylum in Finland, documentation of Indonesian Sign Language, explorations of professional and labour migration among deaf sign language users, family sign language policy, deaf tourism in Bali, video remote sign language interpreting in police settings, different perceptions of sign language interpreting, and experiences of deaf business owners, deaf professionals and deaf parents in social work contexts. As you would expect, such a range of projects calls for a range of approaches to data analysis and methodologies. Over the two days the following key issues were discussed:

  • How and whether to anonymise video data
  • Whether to directly code from sign language data or translate and code from written (representative) texts – and if so what and how to translate
  • Use of different software for coding (such as ELAN, Atlas.ti or N-Vivo)
  • Processes for deciding what and how to code
  • How to code observational fieldnotes, and saturation of observational data
  • Thematic coding as an organic or planned process
  • Using visual methods for data collection and analysis – eco-maps, photos, film-making, social media networking sites
  • Data coding fatigue
  • Benefits of documenting analytical decisions as part of the research process
  • Value of having conversations with others about coding/ annotation/ analytical processes
  • Challenges of how and what to code
  • Power dynamics in interviewing participants
  • Positionality and the observer’s paradox
  • Reflexivity in planning, reviewing data collection and data analysis
  • Ethics of recruiting and interviewing disadvantaged people, and methods for gaining consent
  • Building rapport and trust with research participants
  • How to create semi-authentic simulations of sign language (interpreted) interactions
  • Interviewing directly or through interpreters
  • Methods for taking fieldnotes

This exploratory workshop was a huge success, so we hope to make it an annual event, and open it up to other sign language researchers. Many of the issues we dissected are not unique to sign language researchers by any means, but being able to come together and have the space to have open and frank conversations about our work in sign language was a rare and much valued opportunity. We are considering a proposal for an edited volume based on the format of this workshop, so hopefully that will be a book that we can add to the IASH library one day!

 

This blogpost was first posted on the IASH website on 6th November 2018: http://www.iash.ed.ac.uk/news/sign-language-researchers-talk-research

 

A visit from Brussels

LINCS had the pleasure of welcoming back Cathy Pearson this September, following her visit in May during the CIUTI conference. This time, Cathy was visiting the department with her SCIC trainer cap on, as our application for pedagogical assistance from the EU Directorate General for Interpretation (also known as “SCIC”) was successful. 

The European Union is the largest employer in the world for conference interpreters, and DGI SCIC has a long-standing commitment to cooperating with top conference interpreting training universities across Europe and beyond through a range of initiatives. 

Pedagogical Assistance is one of them, and as such, DGI SCIC send EU professional interpreters and trainers like Cathy to partner universities in order to support the training of students at different stages. Cathy is an experienced conference interpreter and trainer, who has worked across the EU and the world for the English booth, interpreting for prestigious EU summits or supporting training programmes in many conference interpreting higher institutions. 

As our MSc students are, for the most part, just starting to acquire the core skills they need to become interpreters, the focus of this visit has been on note-taking for interpreting purposes. Cathy delivered a masterclass, which was also open to our M.A. students returning from their year abroad, and keen to revisit the training they already had in 2nd year for this essential skill.  

Note-taking may sound like something all students should have mastered by their final year, but in fact, the type of notes interpreters take is completely different from what you would use during a lecture. Interpreters must develop excellent instant analytical skills and only use notes to prompt their short-term memory, as their attention has to be on active listening. Therefore, they need to develop a quick, efficient and sparing note-taking system they can rely on to faithfully re-do the speech they heard in a given language. The masterclass included demonstrations and practical exercises, which were explored further in workshops with MSc students. 

To complement this intensive practice, Cathy also gave a very insightful and focused talk on the pathway to become an EU interpreter (facebook live video available on the LINCS page). In this session, she highlighted what students should focus on to achieve their professional goal, stressing that they must, first and foremost, have a perfect command of their mother-tongue, since it is the language into which an interpreter would work the most. She also provided detailed information on the recruitment process and language combinations sought after by the EU at the moment, and showed the excellent resources developed by the EU for trainees and applicants who have been invited to take the pre-selection and accreditation test. This was a particular point of interest to alumni currently going through this recruitment process. 

But Cathy’s visit is only the starting point of our programme of training initiatives in partnership with SCIC this year: students will also be able to benefit from further guidance from EU interpreter through virtual classes, with the first of these sessions taking place at the start of October. 

For more information on our MA programmes in conference interpreting, click here.  To find out about our MSc conference interpreting programmes, click here 

LINCS post-graduate researchers hold first symposium

 

Wednesday 25th April was the occasion of the first LINCS PGR Symposium.  Over the course of the day, nine post-graduates presented papers to an audience of their peers, lecturers and professors from within the department.  Reactions were universally positive, succinctly summarised by this tweet by @HW_LifeinLINCS:

Incredibly insightful and thought-provoking presentations.

Contributors ranged from those who had only recently started their PhD journey, to two who are busy writing up their theses with a view to submitting the finished works at the end of the summer.  Research interests were grouped in four panels:  translation, language and identity, sign language interpreting, and spoken language interpreting.  Sites of research ranged from the Heriot-Watt University classroom to Faroese fish-processing factories, by way of theatres and mental health clinics, court-rooms and police custody suites, Google translate and the Galician community in London.

The papers delivered on the day were as follows:

Paola Ruffo: Literary Translators’ perceptions of their role and attitudes towards technology in contemporary society

Nga-Ki Mavis Ho: Academic translation from English into Chinese: Increasing awareness and handling of academic rhetoric by the introduction of the Graduation system

Elisabeth Holm: New Speakers of Faroese and the Sociolinguistics of Labour Market Access and Participation

Michael Richardson: Deaf and hearing theatre – creating an intercultural third space

Alex Dayan- Fernandez: Reinventing transnational networks: Contemporary language activism, linguistic ideologies, and cultural identity (re)constructions of the Galician diaspora in London

Emmy Kauling: “He’s a professional *something*” – Co-constructing professional identities through interpreted professional discourse.

Christopher Tester: Perceptions of the Role and Function of Deaf Interpreters Working in the Court of Law

Rob Skinner: Ap-proximately there:  Video-mediated interpreting services at Police Scotland

Natalia Rodríguez Vincente: Rapport management in interpreter-mediated mental healthcare encounters: a shared responsibility?

Inevitably you can find more information about all these papers on Twitter – post-graduates can be active tweeters!  Look for #HWPGRsymp18.

The value of the day lay not only in the opportunity for students to present their papers, but also in the responses those papers stimulated.  Each presentation was followed by lively questioning and debate and the day was notable for the supportive and collaborative atmosphere created by all the participants.  Post-graduates were inspired to think about new aspects of their work, and everybody developed greater insight into the breadth of interesting research that is being carried out across the department.  Importantly, we were able to make links between individual research projects that will lead to further discussion where interests or methods overlap.

In summary, the PGR Symposium was an important and successful experience for all involved.  There have already been calls for it to become a regular feature of the LINCS calendar, perhaps twice a year, to ensure all PGRs have a chance to present their work in the safe environment that the symposium offers.  Personally, I hope not to be here for the next one (I’m one of those working towards submission of my thesis in a few months), but I very much look forward to seeing my own Twitter feed filled by photographs and summaries of the research undertaken by future cohorts of LINCS PGRs.

Michael Richardson

LINCS PGR Representative

Studying languages : wise or unwise ?

by Fanny Chouc

Conflicting information has recently been released in the press over the career benefits of studying languages, with the Telegraph grabbing headings with a bold statement according to which “Languages graduates are now the least employable in Britain”, according to an ONS survey, while the BBC published data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which place language graduates above medicine, business and law graduates in terms of earnings. The CBI’s reports on employment skills sought after by employers have also repeatedly stressed the importance and benefits of languages in terms of employability, highlighting that despite the looming prospect of Brexit, “there can be great advantages for British businesses if employees can communicate with at least reasonable proficiency in the language of clients, customers and suppliers”. According to the same study, EU languages are still very much in demand: businesses surveyed have stressed the need for “French (50%), German (47%) and Spanish (30%)”, showing clearly that linguistic skills remain prevalent, not to mention the communication skills and intercultural awareness that goes hand-in-hand with the study of languages.

So who to trust? Should you still consider that language degree, or is it a waste of time and money? Worthy question, particularly relevant in England and Wales when you consider the financial cost of higher education studies. When you are considering paying up to £9,250 a year in tuition fees (caped amount for undergraduate degrees in England), of course, employability becomes a significant factor in your choice of studies.

Part of the answer could possibly be found in the type of studies linguists choose, if we consider the case of Heriot-Watt University graduates: the Languages and Intercultural Studies department (known as LINCS) offers degrees with a very clear professional focus. In keeping with the ethos of Heriot-Watt University, students who come to do a degree in languages … don’t actually do a degree in languages! They do degrees in translation, in interpreting, or focus on an applied use of languages for business. So languages are considered as a field of expertise studied for specific, applied purposes, and students get to grips with very professional uses of the language: how to handle interpreting in a business meeting, how to prepare to interpret simultaneously at an international conference, how to master key CAT (computer-aided translation) tools … and rather than the more traditional and philological approach still noted in more traditional language degrees, Heriot-Watt LINCS students don’t study literature: they focus on developing their understanding and knowledge of modern-day Spain, France, Germany, China, etc … They learn about the way institutions work, what education systems are like in each countries, how politics currently stand in each area, and they study international organisations, business strategies and cultural-specific approaches to corporate management.

Another key aspect of LINCS training is the connection with the industry, another crucial element stressed by the CBI in their report. LINCS works closely with Heriot-Watt University’s Career Services, running regular and innovative information sessions with inspirational speakers from around the world who studied on the degree programmes offered by the department, sometimes using e-communication tools to ensure that students get a chance to speak to talented professionals living and working in distant locations. Students also have access to mentoring schemes, career fairs and tailored support; they receive guidance and advice throughout their studies, and they’re all included in a LINCS-specific mailing list designed to flag internship, volunteering and paid work opportunities.

Does this work? Yes, undoubtedly: based on latest destination survey, LINCS graduates from Heriot-Watt have a very high employability rate. 96% of them were either in employment or further education 6 months after they graduated. It is also very interesting to note that these graduate-attribute focused degrees also open doors in many unsuspected fields: LINCS graduates go into translation and interpreting, of course. They secure positions in big international companies, yes. But some also secure positions in banking, in the film industry, in policy-making organisations, in the media, in accountancy …

So don’t be fooled by headlines: a focused, applied language degree is still very relevant. It will give you a very versatile and highly employable profile, and it could make you richer than a lawyer!

 

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/11/24/languages-graduates-now-least-employable-britain-new-figures/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/11/24/languages-graduates-now-least-employable-britain-new-figures/

http://www.cbi.org.uk/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=DB1A9FE5-5459-4AA2-8B44798DD5B15E77

http://www.cbi.org.uk/cbi-prod/assets/File/pdf/cbi-education-and-skills-survey2016.pdf

 

Call for papers CIUTI 2018 ! Translation and interpreting in an era of demographic and technological change

 

The Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh is delighted to announce an international conference on Translation and interpreting in an era of demographic and technological change, to be held in Edinburgh on 30 and 31 May 2018.

Open to all, the conference immediately follows the members-only General Assembly of CIUTI (Conférence Internationale Permanente d’Instituts Universitaires de Traducteurs et Interprètes) and is intended to create a common space for reflection on translation and interpreting issues. The conference language is English.

Key dates
• Abstract submission deadline: 31 January 2018
• Notification of acceptance: 28 February 2018
• Registration open: 28 February 2018
• Early-bird registration available until: 31 March 2018

Aim and scope
The digital era, characterized by technology which increases the speed and breadth of knowledge turnover within the economy and society, now embraces every aspect of our lives. The impact of new technologies is changing the very nature of language and communication, causing adjustment in every aspect of who says what, to whom, how, why, and with what effect. These developments interact in increasingly complex, pivotal and pervasive ways with demographic shifts, caused by war, economic globalisation, changing social structures and patterns of mobility, environmental crises, and other factors. Translators and interpreters attempt to keep up with these shifts. This conference is designed to reflect upon the innovations in research, practice and training that are associated with this turbulent landscape.

Topics
We invite papers related but not limited to the following translation and interpreting (T&I) areas:
• T&I in the digital economy
• T&I and new technologies
• Accessibility issues in T&I (e.g. data sharing, maintenance, copyright)
• New methodologies in T&I
• Multimodality in T&I
• T&I and the media
• T&I and literature
• T&I in the public sector
• T&I in politics and law
• Ethics, equality and diversity in T&I
• T&I in education

Submissions are invited for 20-minute presentations. Abstracts should be no more than 400 words (excluding references) and clearly state research questions, approach, method, data and (expected) results. Please submit your abstract as a file attachment including the title of the paper, author name, affiliation and e-mail address to CIUTIconference2018@hw.ac.uk. The subject header of the submission email should read: Abstract CIUTI.

Further details will soon be available via http://www.ctiss.hw.ac.uk/research/conferences1.html 

Location: Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the home of the Scottish Parliament and well served by international communication and transport links. The University was established in 1821 as the world’s first mechanics’ institute, with its Royal Charter granted in 1966). It is ranked among the World’s top 500 and the UK’s top 30 universities. The Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) is internationally renowned for the calibre of its research which has been developed over more than 40 years. Bringing together research expertise across disciplines in translation studies, interpreting and applied language studies, the Centre’s work – building a diverse and coherent body of knowledge which seeks to address socially-relevant issues – informs the thinking of government, industry and public bodies around the world.

Another virtual class with DG SCIC !

by Fanny Chouc

20171117_132609-01

LINCS held a virtual class in cooperation with the Directorate General for Interpretation on Friday 17th November. This EU institution, familiarly known as SCIC, runs all the interpreting services of the EU Commission, and cooperates with universities which specialize in conference interpreting. LINCS managed to secure this prestigious type of cooperation for the 2nd year running, following a first virtual class held last June with the previous Honours and MSc cohorts.

Fernando Leitão, Head of the E-learning sector for SCIC, explained to the 19 UG and PG students present that the “main purpose [of a virtual class] is to supplement guidance you are getting from your teachers”.

This virtual class was also a first, as the Brussels-based SCIC team was joined by a team of interpreters from the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg. Thanks to the support of Heriot-Watt’s AV team, a three-way connection was set up via Polycom. As a result, students based in Edinburgh were able to attend a virtual class jointly run from two other European cities, and two different EU institutions, thus enjoying a truly international class.

20171117_143631-01

Students were equally delighted and daunted to have an opportunity to try their consecutive interpreting skills on speeches delivered by EU interpreters. Topics were sent a couple of days in advance by the coordinator for this virtual class, Clara Baruffati (herself a graduated from our MSc in conference interpreting, currently doing a stage with SCIC), and students were able to research topics such as the butter crisis in France, the impact of technologies on paper-books, and how nuclear science can tackle disease-spreading insects. While our Honours year students started learning note-taking skills and practicing consecutive interpreting during their second year, MSc students only started to acquire this set of very specific skills a couple of months ago, so tackling speeches 5 to 8 minutes long presented a real test of their abilities.

But despite the pressure of working with such prestigious teachers, who are such inspirational role models for aspiring conference interpreters, students dealt with the tasks well, receiving comments such as “impressive performance” in some cases.

So what advice did they take on board from the experience?

Firstly, “you’ve got to be prepared to roll with everything”, according to Kevin McCarthy, EU interpreter and trainer from the English language unit.

Secondly, work on communication skills and confidence: “your credibility is everything”, so mastering signs of stress is crucial, as are communication skills.

Students were also encouraged to pay special attention to the coherence of the speech, and to ensure that they use the opportunity to ask a few questions to elicit every crucial piece of information from the speakers.

This very thorough session, during which students received not only specific feedback on their performances, but also valuable professional advice, left students rearing for more similar challenges, and determined to take all the advice on board to practise and progress further.

Eilidh MacLaghlan, one of the Honours students selected to deliver a Spanish consecutive, said: “The SCIC virtual class was an exciting and unique opportunity to receive feedback from professionals in the industry we wish to enter following our studies. The advice and pointers we were given from interpreters at the European Commission and the European Court of Justice will be hugely beneficial as we progress through our degree course, and into our professional life.”

This session was also welcomed by LINCS staff coordinators, Fanny Chouc and José Maria Conde: “students greatly benefit from getting feedback from such inspiring interpreters and trainers; it’s also good for them to hear the type of advice they get in class from EU experts, as it enables them to relate more clearly what they are doing in class with the professional world.”

Following this exciting experience, students are hoping to get further opportunities to receive guidance from EU interpreters, and they are also looking forward to the coming – award-winning- annual multilingual debate, which will take place on March 21st. On that occasion, they will be applying their simultaneous interpreting skills to facilitate debates between the members of a multilingual panel, an audience of over 400 in the James Watt Conference Centre, and a wider online audience, since the two debates of the day will be streaming live online.

Follow us on Twitter @HW_LifeinLINCS and @heriotwatt_soss for updates on #MLD2018.

LINCS does music

New project on BSL Syntax !

Our newest BSL team member Dr Jordan Fenlon has been successful in securing an AHRC grant as a Co-Investigator on a project on BSL syntax.
The project aims to document and describe word order and non-manual features in different types of British Sign Language sentences. The project team includes Principal Investigator Kearsy Cormier (University College London) and Co-Investigators Adam Schembri (University of Birmingham) and our own Jordan Fenlon.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, the project will run for 3 years from December 2016.
Watch this space for updates on this and other projects in LINCS !

LINCS PhD Scholarships 2016 – deadline Jan 31st

Happy New Year to all!

LINCS is offering two departmental scholarships and one professorial scholarship to start in the academic year 2016-17. The term of the Scholarships is three years. Successful candidates will be expected to make a contribution to activities in the Department in return for a fee-waiver, a maintenance allowance of £14,057 per annum and a research support allowance of £2,250 over the registered period of study. The closing date for applications is 31st January 2016.

LINCS is committed to conducting theoretically advanced and socially-useful research which is relevant to the academic community and also engages with public interest. It is one of only four UK institutions that belong to CIUTI, the international organisation that ensures professional standards in the training of interpreters and translators.

LINCS incorporates two research centres:

Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS)
The aims of CTISS include the investigation of the nature of the process of translating and interpreting and the dissemination of research.

Intercultural Research Centre (IRC)
The IRC addresses key intercultural issues arising from the changing global context. It makes original contributions to the study of interculturality with particular reference to dimensions of living culture in European societies. The Centre’s particular focus is on comparative work emphasising the applied dimensions of culture, with “culture” defined broadly in anthropological terms.

Departmental Scholarships

We welcome applications from suitably qualified candidates to develop projects in the following areas:

Additionally, appropriate candidates may apply to join the international doctoral program on transformation processes in Europe. Current themes of the program are: migration/ interculturality, urban society/culture, and worlds of work.

Professorial Scholarship: Public Service Interpreting

Lead Supervisor: Professor Claudia Angelelli

In multilingual societies, cross-linguistic/cultural communication is increasingly frequent, especially when it relates to accessing services. As a result of mobility, immigration, and displacement, users of services (e.g. health care, justice, education) often do not speak the same language as providers (who generally speak the societal language). When providers and users cannot communicate directly, language mediators, translators and interpreters broker communication. Language brokers, translators and interpreters vary in their abilities and qualifications, and for some language combinations or communicative settings there simply are no professional interpreters or translators. This project explores constructs of linguistic rights and linguicism by studying access to communication, quality and professionalism across languages in various settings.

How to apply

Please submit your application via our online application portal.  If you have any problems with the online application process please email your query to pgadmissions@hw.ac.uk

The closing date for applications is 31 January 2016.

For further information on the application process as well as the relevant requirements, please visit this page.

We look forward to receiving your applications.

On Deafhood Space

by Steve Emery

 

[English version]

Last week, I went to Paddy Ladd’s lecture. He was talking about “Deafhood – A Pedagogy”, which was about theories of teaching Deaf children.

It was really interesting, but there was one part of his lecture that really got me thinking,  when he was talking about  “Wounded Space”, which means “damaged space”…Well, what does he actually mean by that? This concept relates to the experiences of Deaf children through their development into adults and how the effects of oppression through oralism. The overwhelming and stifling experience of this has damaged Deaf children emotionally as individuals and subsequently as a community of adults. There’s a need to rebuild the community, to begin again.

During his lecture, Paddy Ladd explained what he meant by “Deafhood – A Pedagogy” and as he was doing this, it gave me a lot of ideas , and I was thinking about the process of change, how do we move forward and go through a transition from a Wounded Space to Deafhood?  To a place where we can become healthy, where we can improve, develop and build? I began to consider what we would need to do to be able to achieve this aim.

Paddy Ladd’s lecture focussed upon how the use of appropriate teaching methods is the way to achieve Deafhood. In my view, that is one part of it, to be able to advance and move forward, however, there are a number of other factors that need to be taken into account for us to attain this.

It’s very important for Deaf people to be a part of a collective group, this is essential. Yes we are all individuals, we have our own lives, but we need to be connected to each other as a collective, this is really important for us all,  it’s been recognised that we need to be a part of society.

The next thing that came to me, concerning the need to rebuild and develop a Deafhood Space, is that we need to have an input and participation from the wider community, not just from academics. Yes, academics are important individuals who have a place, but ordinary members of the community should not be excluded as the wider community of Deaf people need to participate and be involved in this process of development.

The third point I’d like to make is, that hearing people must be thinking, “Where do I fit in, into this Deafhood Space?”  This is really important , to be able to build a new space, Deaf and hearing people have to work together, as allies, to be involved in making and developing this new space.

My fourth and last point is about spirituality. Paddy Ladd talked about this in his lecture. Spirituality can mean many things, it can relate to religious beliefs for example. He gave his perspective that we Deaf people are of the Earth and that we are here for a reason. Our understanding and development of what that spiritual aspect of being Deaf means is a part of the development of Deafhood Space.

His lecture gave me a lot to ponder over especially this concept of Deafhood Space. Its very important for us to reflect and recognise the idea of Damaged Space, in ourselves and in others and how we can change this and make a transition by moving to and developing a positive space.  These are a few of the suggestions that I think are important for us to take into account when we are discussing moving towards Deafhood.