Deaf Artists commissioned on Translating the Deaf Self project

manchester heriotwatt

 

Using an innovative approach to re-interpret Deaf Studies and Interpreting research through art, 3 Deaf sign language using artists have been commissioned through Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Follow-on Funding to ‘translate’ the findings of the Translating the Deaf Self project that was initially funded through an AHRC Research Innovation Grant. The original project investigated deaf sign language users’ experiences of being known through translation the representation of deaf people through sign language interpreters and the potential impact on well being. This project explores the findings from that project through artistic exploration and transformation in the visual arts as a means of engaging more deaf people and communities with these ideas.

This interdisciplinary project is being led jointly by a deaf-hearing research team from the Social Research with Deaf People group in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Manchester and the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in the Department of Languages  & Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University.

The team are working collaboratively with Deaf Explorer – an artist agency supporting Deaf creatives – to support artists-in-residence in Deaf community organisations, including Deaf Action in Edinburgh, DeafPLUS in London, Manchester Deaf Centre and the Royal Association of the Deaf in Romford.

Three professional artists, and one artist intern, will spend a period of time in each organisation where they will be given the time, space and resources to delve into the issues reported in the preceding Translating the Deaf Self project with local Deaf people and to inform their artistic inspirations.  Other arts based workshops will happen in further locations.

This is a community-participatory project that not only involves local deaf communities but also offers the opportunity for deaf artist capacity building through the recruitment of a new deaf artist to shadow one of the professional artists as an intern.

An exhibition of the artwork will take place in September 2018, and community responses to the art will be gathered in order to further explore the extended concept of Translated Deaf Selves.

INTRODUCING THE ARTISTS

CS

Christopher Sacre will be based at Deaf Action. His work involves exploring the flow, boundaries and the shape of humanity and human populations, the inclusion and exclusion and how some humans move through the world differently to the rest.

RT

Rubbena Aurangzeb-Tariq will be based at Deaf Plus and her installations and paintings explore how we collect our feelings and thoughts within ourselves and how we learn to contain them within our own personal space and cultural boundaries.

LS

Louise Stern will be based at the Royal Association of the Deaf and has produced visual arts, films, and literature that work around ideas of language, communication and isolation.

RLH

Ruaridh Lever-Hogg recently graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Dundee and will be involved as an intern.. In his artwork he explores emotional responses to place, events, form or object.

 

Want to know more?

Twitter @UoMSORD    @HW_CTISS    @deafexplorer

Search the hashtag #ArtviaTDS on all social media platforms (Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.) The artists and research team will be using this hashtag to post about this project and its progression!

 

For more information about the preceding Translating the Deaf Self research project, follow the blog posts, linked below (BSL versions also available on these websites):

2 October 2014 [Uni of Manchester] Translating the Deaf Self: understanding the impact of mediation

8 March 2016 [LINCS] Translating the Deaf Self: An update

30 Aug 2016 [LINCS] The Translating the Deaf Self project: Where are we now?

13 Jan 2017 [LINCS] The Translating the Deaf Self project: Wrapping up and what’s next?

 

This project is funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Ref:  AH/R003750/1)

For further information contact alys.young@manchester.ac.uk or j.napier@hw.ac.uk

Deaf ExplorerAHRC

 

Links to project team & partners:

https://www.bmh.manchester.ac.uk/research/nursing-groups/social-research-with-deaf-people/

http://www.ctiss.hw.ac.uk

https://deafexplorer.com

http://www.deafaction.org.uk

http://www.deafplus.org

https://royaldeaf.org.uk

http://www.manchesterdeafcentre.com

 

 

Links to deaf artists:

https://www.rubbena.com

http://www.christophersacre.com/website/Home.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Stern

http://www.tenartists.co.uk/artists/ruaridh

 

 

Signing up a storm?

Not for the first time, the Eurovision Song Contest has managed to draw attention to language issues in a revealing way.

We all know the controversies over the years about countries choosing to sing in English. If you thought that wasn’t happening so much nowadays, the 2017 final featured 42 songs, of which 35 were sung entirely in English – at 83%, that’s the highest proportion ever.

You may be less aware, though, that Eurovision has also offered its own unique window on the place of sign language in society.

Back in 2005, the Latvian entry ‘The War Is Not Over’ featured a final chorus in which the performers, Valters & Kaža, left their stools and laid down their acoustic guitars to sign alongside their signing. It’s not clear why. The song received the famous douze points from IrelandLithuania and Moldova, and finished 5th overall.

Things nearly got more interesting in 2009 when a Deaf artist, Signmark, competed in Finland’s national Eurovision qualifications. Signmark (real name: Marko Vuoriheimo), who was born into a signing family, performed ‘Speakerbox’ with a hearing singer. But the song ended up in second place in the Finnish competition and so narrowly missed out on being chosen for the grand Eurovision final. Nevertheless, Signmark went on to great things and goes down in history as the first deaf person to sign a recording contract with an international record company (Warner Music).

In 2015, the focus shifted from signing performers to a signing interpreter. In Sweden, the national competition was presented with Tommy Krångh delivering Swedish Sign Language renditions alongside each song. His work was so popular that there were demands for him to appear for the grand final, too

And what’s the story in 2018?

This year, the UK has decided to experiment with signing. SuRie, our representative in Lisbon, has recorded a British Sign Language version of her track ‘Storm’. The BBC proudly reported that she learnt it “in just a few hours”. SuRie has, we’re told, “been wanting to learn BSL for a long time” and jumped at the chance to pursue this when a fan sent her a video of himself signing ‘Storm’. The BBC’s Newsround said: “She got in touch and asked if he would teach her how to sign the lyrics too”.

The initiative soon started to attract interest. A clip was released on Twitter, but not everyone was enthusiastic, with one person even saying “this makes me want to poke my eyes out”. The singer anxiously replied “I realise there’s tons more to BSL than I was able to portray here and that I have a helluva lot more to learn”. More discussion followed, spinning out – that’s social media, folks! – into strongly-worded antagonism and much taking of sides.

A 24-hour Twitter poll summarised three stances that were emerging. Respondents voted as follows to the proposition that SuRie’s BSL version should be seen as either:

  • Inspiring: a model of inclusivity and artistic creativity – 16%
  • Harmlessly well-intentioned but misguided – 60%
  • Cynical, crass, ignorant and disrespectful – 24%

So what’s going on here? And why is this a LifeinLINCS issue?

Well, as a department, LINCS teaches both spoken and signed languages. And we specialise in both translation and interpreting studies, and intercultural research. The SuRie ‘Storm’-in-a-teacup touches on every part of this.

British Sign Language (BSL) wasn’t even understood to be a language until the mid-1970s. Ten years later, it started to be taught in earnest. And within 20 years of that point, it had become one of the most popular adult education subjects in the UK. Almost all of that teaching was being led by Deaf BSL users.

Now, thanks in part to a Heriot-Watt initiative, plans are afoot to offer BSL as a full language subject in schools across Scotland. LINCS’ own Dr Ella Leith is currently on secondment to the Scottish Qualifications Authority, coordinating a project to develop BSL qualifications for high schools. Exciting times!

But this starts to show why SuRie’s BSL work has frustrated some. BSL simply can’t be learned meaningfully in two hours: “It’s a complex language, you know” noted one tweeter, “way beyond swear words and song lyrics and Trump’s sign name”. The professionalisation of BSL teaching has been pursued for over 30 years. Reversing the historic oppression of the language has been wrapped up with highlighting, as teachers, Deaf people for whom BSL is a preferred language.

Then there’s the question of the quality of the BSL translation. LINCS students work their socks off not for hours but for years (eg on our main undergraduate programme to develop the ability to produce effective BSL output from English source material. And they wouldn’t start with artistic matter like song lyrics, either!

Above all, perhaps, an opportunity has been missed to do some valuable intercultural work. A Eurovision entry that had been seriously planned with both sung and signed content, developed by artists with profound knowledge of the underlying issues of language and heritage, would have been much less likely to have been viewed as ‘cultural appropriation’ at work.

Can there be a happy ending to this story?

Eurovision reached over 180 million television viewers in 2017. Sending any kind of message to such an audience about effective engagement with sign language and with considered, high-quality translation would have to be welcome. The big prize, though, would be to show clearly that Deaf people aren’t so much “in need” of some crumbs of “access” from the hearing world’s table, but are contributors to society with extraordinary artistic, linguistic and cultural riches to share.

LINCS’ own work on the intangible heritage of the Deaf community reinforces that there are many creative artists using BSL. The Scottish Government’s National Plan for BSL envisages “promotion” of BSL as part of the shared cultural life of the nation. We’re working to get that message out through initiatives like the current two-year Royal Society of Edinburgh project to construct a Deaf Heritage network which can feed BSL inspiration into national cultural institutions.

SuRie appears to have quickly realised that there was more to all of this than meets the eye, saying: “Probs best if I leave it to the professionals, I really never intended to disappoint anyone in the community… but I realise I’m out of my depth and I do apologise”. Perhaps the very best thing she could do would be to turn this outcome on its head by coming out as a true champion for BSL in society and the arts. Now that really would send a clear signal.

Professor Graham H. Turner

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

Award for human rights scholarship for deaf juror research

 

I am excited to provide an update on a research project that I have been involved with for the last ten years.

The project has focussed on deaf jurors, and whether deaf people can serve as jury members.

I initiated the project with law academic, David Spencer, and we examined whether deaf people could comprehend the jury instructions from a judge in a courtroom through a sign language interpreter. We were interested in whether deaf people could comprehend the message indirectly through an interpreter, as compared to hearing people who listened directly in English. We found that in comparison, both groups could comprehend equally, and misunderstood the same (small) level of information, which proved that deaf people are not disadvantaged by accessing the information through an interpreter.

In addition, we have also interviewed lawyers and judges who had experience of working with deaf jurors, members of the deaf community, and sign language interpreters, to elicit their opinions as to whether deaf people could carry out jury duties. The majority of the respondents confirmed that they advocate for deaf people to serve as jurors, and in fact it is their human right, as recognised in the United States where deaf people have been serving as jurors in various states since 1979.

Along with researcher Debra Russell, I visited the city of Rochester in the US, to observe the a jury selection (empanelment), and the process of a deaf person participating in that process through an interpreter.

In addition, with a team of researchers funded by the Australian Research Council, including David Spencer, Sandra Hale and Mehera San Roque, we further investigated this topic and conducted a mock trial where we invited actors to re-enact an actual trial that had previously taken place. We observed how a deaf juror participated in the trial with two interpreters in the courtroom and then how all the jurors conferred in private their deliberations on the case before delivering their verdict. We analysed the video recordings we had made of the whole trial. The main obstacle that many countries have presented as a dilemma was the fact that only twelve jury members are permitted in the jury room (or fifteen members according to the country’s law). Bringing in interpreters would exceed that limit and that was not deemed acceptable as it may impeach a trial and compromise the confidentiality of the jury deliberations. Our research showed otherwise – that the presence of the interpreters did not have any impact on the deliberations and there were no negative effects on the trial. Members of the jury who we interviewed confirmed that it was fine having the deaf jury member with his interpreters, and that there was no negative influence. They affirmed that deaf people can participate in jury service.

We have published several articles about our findings, one of which was published in the Australian Human Rights Journal, where we stated that if deaf people are not offered the opportunity to serve as jury members, it would breach of their human rights with respect to their right to participate and contribute to society as an equal, especially in justice.

To our delight, that publication has been selected for the Australian Human Rights Journal inaugural Andrea Durbach Award for Human Rights Scholarship. The publication has been recognised as an important one which advocates for the human rights of deaf people. We are very proud to receive the award.

We have worked together with the British Deaf Association, Deaf Australia and the World Federation of the Deaf to promote the impact of this research. The award includes prize money of $1000 Australia dollars. We have decided to donate the prize money to Deaf Australia’s fundraising website Jury Rights for All, which seeks to raise money to fund the campaign to allow deaf and disabled people to participate as jury members. We hope that the donation will support their work.

Initial translation from International Sign into English by EUMASLI students Tessa Heldens (Netherlands) and Ramon Woolfe (UK)

LINCS 2nd in Scotland and in top 10 UK for student satisfaction!

When deciding on which university to go to, it is important to see what students who are studying your chosen courses think. There are various unofficial online forums and other sources where people discuss their experience in a particular university or course, but nothing is as reliable as the annual National Student Satisfaction survey (NSS).

The NSS has been conducted every year since 2005 and asks the honest, anonymous opinion of about 500,000 students across the UK on their university, the course they studied, the lecturers, the facilities etc. There are 23 standard questions that full-time degree students across the country are asked – anonymously (we mentioned it above, but it’s important).

Our results this year?

For the category of European Languages, 92% of students were satisfied overall with their course.

We are ranked 2nd in Scotland and in the UK Top 10 for overall satisfaction!

Let’s not forget the continuing success of LINCS staff at the annual Learning and Teaching Oscars organised by the Student Union, where students vote for their favourite lecturer in 7 categories across the university’s Scottish campuses (about 500 staff!), so competition is strong! This year, Pablo La Porte, Assistant Professor in Spanish, won the Thinkers Award and Katerina Strani, Assistant Professor in French and Intercultural Studies, was nominated for the Guiding Hand Award.

And last but certainly not least, this year’s Graduating Student Prize for Best Teacher in the School of Management and Languages (this included 4 departments last year, and 5 departments as of this year) has gone to Fanny Chouc, Assistant Professor in French.

Thank you to all our students for voting for us! 

Click here for a list of Undergraduate Programmes and click here for a list Postgraduate Programmes offered in LINCS.

Fresher’s week starts on 05 September and the term starts on 12 September.

See you all then! It’s going to be a fabulous year –

 

LifeinLINCS in Top 25 Language Professional blogs!

The results from the bab.la competition are out and LifeinLINCS is at the

Top 25 Language Professional Blogs (out of 1,000 nominees and 100 language resources!)

and Top 100 Language Lovers Blog !

These accomplishments will soon feature as “badges” in our pages.

We would like to thank our readers as well as staff and students in LINCS who contribute to the blog.

The Top 5 posts for 2015 were:

 

The Top 5 posts for this month were:

 

With 246 posts, almost 90,000 views and more than 42,000 visitors since the blog was launched in 2011, we will continue to publish posts about research and practice in Languages, Interpreting, Translation and Cultural Studies.

Thank you for your support. Stay tuned!

Katerina Strani

Blog Editor

 

 

Welcome to the new LINCS blog!

Well, it’s not exactly new, but it’s had a bit of a face-lift. We may change a few more pictures and make minor aesthetic changes, but the content and purpose of the blog will still remain the same.

The most important change that will take place next week is the change of our domain name. Our domain will be changed to: 

www.lifeinlincs.org

so please add this to your bookmarks!

The About page has information about the blog and about the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies (LINCS) at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Research page has information on our two research centres, the Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) and the Intercultural Research Centre (IRC).

The Seminars page has a list of CTISS, IRC and EdSign Seminar Series.

The Postgraduate Programmes page has information on Postgraduate Taught Programmes in LINCS (MSc and PGDip).

The PhD Opportunities page provides information on research areas and categories in LINCS for prospective PhD students, as well as links on how to apply.

The Department’s contact details are under Contact.

We hope you continue to enjoy our blog and contribute to discussions and reflections on language and intercultural communication !

BSL team growing in LINCS

By Jemina Napier and Graham H. Turner

In October 2013, Jemina made a post that gave an overview of ‘Who’s who?’ in the BSL team in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies (LINCS) at Heriot-Watt University. The blog introduced various members of staff and also PhD students whose topics focus on sign language related areas of research.

In this blog we are delighted to announce that the team has expanded with an additional two deaf and two hearing people: three members of staff and one PhD student.

We are all very excited to see the BSL team growing so rapidly. We now have eight members of staff and six (7) PhD students (staff member Gary Quinn is also doing his PhD part time). In addition to PhD student research topics on a description of prosody in BSL, job demands for interpreter educators, ethical discourse among sign language interpreters, the impact of interpreters on the practice of mental health professionals, sign language interpreting on television in China, comparative interpreting strategies of  deaf and hearing interpreters and power and privilege in educational interpreting contexts, the team are working on a range of research projects, that investigate deaf jurors, legal interpreting across Europe (Justisigns), video remote interpreting and captioning for access to EU institutions (Insign) and sign language brokering, with plans for new projects in the pipeline to start next year. It is envisaged that with more staff and PhD students there will be greater scope to attract further research funding and embark on a wider range of projects.

Below you will see a brief profile of each new member of the team, along with a link to a video clip where they introduce themselves in British Sign Language (BSL).

Dr Steve Emery (deaf) is a BSL-using researcher who has joined the team as an Assistant Professor. His research interests focus on deaf citizenship, minority group rights and Deafhood and genetics. He has worked before at Heriot-Watt University and Bristol University as a postdoctoral researcher on various research projects, and also spent time at Gallaudet University as a visiting scholar. Steve will be teaching subjects primarily linked to Deaf culture and history, and Deaf people in society.

Mark MacQueen (deaf) is a native Scottish BSL-using sign language teacher who has joined the team as BSL Language Assistant.  After being thrown in at the deep end and starting to teach at Falkirk College, he later went on to work for the British Deaf Association in the delivery of their BSL curriculum. After studying linguistics and participating in the Heriot-Watt University Train the Trainers of BSL teaching course, Mark brings a wealth of expertise to the role. He now has over 14 years of experience of sign language teaching in a range of settings,and his priority is to ensure that Heriot-Watt BSL students develop a high level of fluency in BSL.

Rob Skinner (hearing) is employed as a Research Associate on the Insign project funded by the EU DG Justice. He grew up in the Deaf community with deaf parents as a native BSL user, and has worked as a sign language interpreter for many years specialising in media/ TV, mental health, and video relay interpreting (at Sign Video). He has also worked as a research assistant at the centre for Deafness Cognition and Language (DCAL) research at University College London on various sign language related projects. Once Rob’s contract on the Insign project finishes in December 2014, he will be continuing work on the Justisigns project.

Heather Mole has a background in BSL/English interpreting (a degree in Deaf Studies from Bristol University) and a masters in Disability Studies from Leeds University after which she was an adviser to disabled students in a university setting for 8 years. In that time she has reflected on the power dynamics of service provision and interpreting and plans to research the dimensions of power and privilege to see what impact they may or may not have on the interpreter.

LifeinLINCS up for Three International Awards

Authors: Bernadette O’Rourke, Jemina Napier, Graham Turner, Jonathan Downie

It is great to see that, despite a recent hiatus, readers of LifeinLINCS really appreciate the blog. In fact, it seems like you appreciate the blog so much, you think it should receive awards. Thank you so much for nominating LifeinLINCS for three Proz.com Community Choice awards.

 

Both the nominations and votes for these awards come from members of proz.com, the world’s largest community of professional translators and interpreters. While the site is not without its controversies, it still brings together over 700,000 translators and interpreters from across the globe.

 

It is therefore an incredible honour for LifeinLINCS to be nominated for the award for best blog in the “Interpretation-Related” section. This puts us up against such staples as The Interpreter Diaries, Unprofessional Translation and blogs from big associations like AIIC and NAJIT.

 

Two LifeinLINCS posts are also up for awards. Why Language Learning Will Not Reduce Interpreting Costs is up for best Interpretation-Related article and Inventions for Freelancers part 2 is up for Best Interpretation-Related blog post. In both cases, there is real competition from professionals and academics, which goes to show that high quality content on interpreting is never far away.

 

As if that wasn’t enough, Jemina Napier, one of the editors of LifeinLINCS is up for Best interpreting Conference Speaker and Jonathan Downie, one of our regular contributors, has received a nomination for Best Translation-related Training Course for his Webinar: Getting the Most out of Research in Translation and Interpreting.

 

We would like to thank everyone that nominated us and remind our readers that details of voting can be found on the relevant page on proz.com. Voting closes September 22nd.

Who's who in BSL at Heriot-Watt University

Welcome to the 4th BSL blog on lifelinlincs

After the last three weeks where you have seen discussion of sign language-related topics, in the blog for this week we thought we would take the opportunity to do a profile of the BSL team at Heriot-Watt University – a who’s who of the ten members of the team, and to give an overview of what we do here and our research interests.

Below you will see a short profile of each staff member and PhD student in the BSL team, with links to webpages that provide further information about their work where possible. If you click on the link attached to their name, you can also watch their bio presented in sign language.

The most recently appointed member of staff is Professor Jemina Napier, Chair of Intercultural Communication. She is a signed language interpreter who grew up and worked in London before moving to Australia, where she lived for 15 years and began her career in teaching and research. She recently returned to the UK to take up her position at Heriot-Watt University, where she teaches in the BSL/English Interpreting 4-year undergraduate programme on courses including ‘Deaf People in Society’ (covering topics such as Deafhood, Deaf identity and culture) and practical interpreting and translation skills. She also teaches in the European Masters of Sign Language Interpreting (EUMASLI) programme, which is offered jointly between Heriot-Watt University, Magdeburg University in Germany and Humak University in Finland. EUMASLI has 24 deaf and hearing students from all over the world who are already seasoned interpreters, and have enrolled in the programme to explore and examine signed language interpreting at an advanced level. Jemina’s research interests focus on signed language interpreting, and deaf-hearing cross-cultural communication. She has conducted research on legal, medical and educational interpreting (for more information on her research and publications see her web research profile) and will be commencing two new key projects over the next coming year: (1) Justisigns, in collaboration with universities in Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland, to focus on legal interpreting across Europe, and (2) Examining experiences of deaf and hearing children when engaging in language brokering  (non-professional interpreting) for Deaf members of their family in comparison with young people and spoken languages. She is also keen to explore other opportunities for research on deaf-hearing relations and comparing spoken and signed language interpreting.

Rita McDade is a Teaching Fellow and the longest standing member of the BSL team at Heriot-Watt. Rita began her work in the Deaf community in 1985 as a Liaison Officer in a Deaf organization, and worked in various roles until she developed a keen interest in teaching and learning, especially in relation to languages, linguistics, translation and interpreting. Rita was one of the first people in Scotland to be involved in teaching deaf (relay) interpreters, and also to work as a deaf interpreter, and she is still very passionate about that work. Her research interests focus on intersections between language and culture and power dynamics in cross-cultural communication that influence sociolinguistic variation in how signs are produced. Although she has an interest in many issues in relation to deaf-hearing cross-cultural communication, she focuses most closely on research on teaching and learning and in particular on how students begin to learn early on in their course, which cements their future learning and development. At Heriot-Watt University Rita teaches in the undergraduate BSL/English interpreting programme, and five years ago she initiated offering BSL classes as an elective to any student who is interested in taking the course. Those courses are very popular and well attended by students from across the university, so it is Rita’s hope that both the BSL elective courses and the BSL undergraduate programme will grow and develop.

Professor Graham Turner is head of the BSL section and Chair of Translation. He has been at Heriot-Watt since 2005. At that time, the BSL work that had been initiated by others in the Department (see overview below on the History of BSL at Heriot-Watt) was still on a small scale, so his goal was to grow the area of BSL and sign language research at the university. Over the last eight years since his arrival the  BSL section has grown significantly in size, and now includes ten different members (as you will see featured in this blog post). Graham works with the team on various research projects on sign language, signed language interpreting and translation, Deaf culture and heritage, and a range of other topics. For more information about Graham’s research and publications, see his research web profile.

Gary Quinn is a Teaching Fellow and Coordinator of the BSL/English Interpreting undergraduate honours/MA programme. At Heriot-Watt he teaches BSL and sign linguistics, and in previous years was also responsible for teaching two cohorts in the Training of Trainers (TOT) course, to train deaf people as BSL teachers. He is currently conducting his PhD research on BSL grounding, examining how deaf people align with one another in signed interaction and engage in turn-taking appropriately. See his research web profile for other publications. Gary has been one of the key investigators on a research project conducted in collaboration with Rachel O’Neill and Audrey Cameron and the Scottish Sensory Centre, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh in the development of science signs for deaf school children. Click here to see Gary talking about the project in BSL (with captions).

Dr Svenja Wurm is a Lecturer in BSL and Translation Studies and is coordinator of the EUMASLI programme. She grew up in Germany and has been living in the UK for 15 years after coming initially to study in the BSL/English Interpreting programme at Wolverhampton University. Rather than working professionally as a signed language interpreter, she decided to pursue her interests in translation theory and research, and enrolled in an MSc in Translation Studies at Edinburgh University. In 2005 she commenced her PhD studies at Heriot-Watt where she explored the process of signed language translation from written English into BSL. In her role as Lecturer, in addition to coordinating the EUMASLI programme, she teaches in the undergraduate programme: Translation & Interpreting Studies, Subtitling and English/BSL Translation Skills. Svenja also coordinates the EdSign Lecture Series, which is co-hosted by three universities in Edinburgh (Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh University and Queen Margaret University) and delivers a programme of lectures on a range of Deaf and Interpreting Studies topics that are open to the Deaf community, interpreters and BSL and interpreting students. Svenja’s research interests focus on English/BSL translation and interpreting processes, and a newer area of interest is in relation to multimodality and how people communicate using different modes of speech, sign and written text. She is also interested in deaf literacy and the various ways that deaf people communicate in BSL or English. For an overview of her publications, see her research web profile.

We also have 5 PhD students who are all investigating aspects of signed language interpreting:

Robyn Dean is a third year PhD student from Rochester, New York in the USA, and has been a practicing interpreter for 25 years, specializing in medical and mental health interpreting. Her work as an interpreter educator has focused on ethical decision-making (and she developed the Demand-Control Schema with her collaborator Robert Q. Pollard). Robyn’s PhD research is also exploring ethical decision-making for interpreters, and she is being supervised by Graham Turner, Svenja Wurm and Jemina Napier.

Xiao Zhao is a second year PhD student from China and is being supervised by Graham Turner and Svenja Wurm. (She is learning BSL and has basic Chinese Sign Language skills). Her research interest is in signed language interpreting on television in China, and the different perceptions of different stakeholders (e.g., the media, deaf people and signed language interpreters in China). Xiao chose to come to Heriot-Watt is that she felt that it is one of the few places in the world where one can conduct research on signed language interpreting that is relevant to your home country. The reason she has an interest in this area of research is because signed language interpreting in China is growing exponentially and there are many discussions of the importance of this provision in China, but they do not have enough resources to train interpreters, and not enough knowledge about best practice in signed language interpreting for the Chinese context. Therefore she sees this as an opportunity to immerse herself in a new field of study in order to learn something.

Yvonne Waddell is a first year PhD student from Scotland and is being supervised by Jemina Napier and Isabelle Perez. She has been qualified as a BSL/English interpreter for 3 years, and works in a variety of community and educational settings. She sees the need for more research on signed language interpreting in order to inform and influence best practice in signed language interpreting, which is why she has chosen to come to Heriot-Watt to undertake a PhD. Her research interest is to examine how behavioural decisions made by interpreters in different situations are perceived by hearing professionals and the consequent impact on deaf participants in interaction.

Clare Canton is a deaf first year PhD student from Scotland and is being supervised by Jemina Napier and Graham Turner. Clare was the first deaf person to be registered as a qualified BSL/English interpreter in Scotland, and interprets in a range of settings, including medical, mental health, with deaf migrants, and at international conferences. With her company Beyond BSL, she has provided training and support for learners of BSL in one-to-one and group contexts, as well as mentoring, for example in relation to theatre interpreting. She also delivers interpreter training on topics such as deaf-hearing interpreter co-working strategies. As a PhD student, Clare is interested in exploring language brokering experiences of deaf and hearing people in the Deaf community who have grown up brokering for family members.

Stacey Webb is also a new first year PhD student from the USA and is being supervised by Jemina Napier and Svenja Wurm. She is an ASL/English interpreter of many years experience, and also teachers interpreters in various courses. Thus her research topic focuses on interpreter education, where she hopes to explore the training of interpreters in more depth.