Call for abstracts: Multilingualism in Politics

by Katerina Strani

We are seeking abstracts of chapters to be included in an edited volume on Multilingualism in Politics. This edited volume aims to make a significant contribution to the area of multilingualism in politics. Starting from the premise that language influences the way we think and ultimately the way we argue (Whorf, 1956; Ervin, 1964; Koven, 1998 etc.), the book will address the nexus between multilingualism and politics in broad terms.

Multilingualism has always existed in society and politics at all levels; from the Ancient world, the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, to 19th century France, to today’s Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, South Africa and other (officially) multilingual countries. In contemporary societies, multilingualism constitutes a key element of the social construction of public spheres. The link between multiple, and sometimes competing, languages in political argumentation and the ensuing questions of access, language status, language choice, translation and interpreting in political deliberation and decision-making are of paramount importance in contemporary politics. Linguists and political researchers have pointed out the tension between the multilingual reality and a monolingualist ideology in the way contemporary democracies function (Doerr, 2012; Granič, 2012; Pym 2013, Piller, 2016 and others). The proposed book seeks to address this in the context of contemporary socio-political developments, through multiple lenses: a sociolinguistics lens; a politics and cultural studies lens; a translation and interpreting studies lens; and finally, a language policy lens.

Against this backdrop, we seek chapter proposals that fulfil one or more of the following criteria:

  • the focus on multilingualism as a key element of the social construction of contemporary public spheres
  • the interdisciplinarity between languages and politics and, more specifically, the combination of sociolinguistics, cultural studies, language policy and translation & interpreting studies.
  • a wide scope, including not only empirical explorations on EU politics, but also local contexts of migrant and diasporic public spheres.
  • the combination of theoretical and empirical insights.

Specific topics may include (but not be limited to) the following:

* Discourse studies / CDA approaches to multilingual argumentation 

* Translating / interpreting ideology in political debate

* Minority languages in politics

* Deaf publics

* Relevant case studies from Europe 

* Relevant case studies from the rest of the world 

* Relevant case studies from migrant and diasporic public spheres 

* Relevant case studies of interpreted multilingual debates

The book proposal will be submitted to Palgrave, who have already expressed interest in it. The tentative publication date will be around the end of 2018 / early 2019.

Submission information:
Please send an abstract of 500-600 words (including 4-5 references, along with authors’ names, institutional affiliations, e-mails and a few words on each contributor) to the editor, Katerina Strani :  A.Strani@hw.ac.uk  

Deadline for submission: 16 October 2017. Authors will be notified within 4-6 weeks.

Complete chapters (8,000 – 9,000 words including references) of selected abstracts should be sent around July 2018.

Please feel free to disseminate the call to your networks of colleagues who may be interested in contributing to this volume.

We look to receiving your chapter proposals!

Congress of the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters, Brisbane, Australia, August 2017

by Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see the blog post in International Sign>

 Recently I went to Australia as I had been invited as a keynote speaker at the International Federation of Translators & Interpreters (FIT) world congress in Brisbane. This was a historic moment at the FIT congress, as it was the first time they had experienced a keynote presentation on the topic of sign language interpreting. The fact that I chose to deliver the keynote address in Auslan (Australian Sign Language) also made a greater impact on the audience as I discussed the importance of recognizing signed languages as real languages on a par with spoken languages. Through my presentation I dispelled various myths about signed languages and confirmed for many reasons why signed languages should be considered as equal to spoken languages.

The congress was attended by over 800 delegates from all over the world representing a vast array of spoken languages, and the delegation was made up of translator and interpreter practitioners, educators and researchers. There were also approximately 20-30 (deaf & hearing) Auslan/English interpreter members of the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) present at the conference.

At the end of the congress, each of the keynote speakers was asked to summarise their experience of the conference and present any key highlights or themes we felt that were worthy of note. I noticed one theme that was embedded within, and pervaded all, the presentations that I saw throughout the conference. This was the theme of ‘power’. For example, in one presentation about the Australian Aboriginal Interpreting Service, the importance of family connections was discussed and how hard it can be to navigate interpreted interaction when your interpreter is a family member, and the potential disempowerment Aboriginal Australians may experience when family members also have to interpret for them. Power dynamics were explored in relation to medical interpreting, and how interpreters’ decision-making can impact on the rapport between doctors and patients. Similarly, interpreters are in a powerful position in police interpreting, when their interpreting decisions can have a significant impact on people’s lives.

As I have already mentioned, in my own keynote address I discussed various issues in relation to signed languages, and it occurred to me that the theme of power was also evident in my own presentation – in the fact that I chose to present in Auslan. I could make that choice. This is about power of language choice. Many of the (spoken and signed language) users that translators and interpreters work with do not have that choice, therefore they do not have that same level of power. As a hearing person, I am in an immensely privileged position to be able to make that language choice: to choose one day to present in Auslan, and the next day I could present in spoken English. My language choice can also be determined by who the interpreter might be that is interpreting for me from Auslan into English, and whether I feel comfortable with them ‘being my voice’ or whether I would rather speak for myself. Many of my deaf friends and colleagues don’t have that choice. They don’t have the power that I have.

This issue links with a previous research project I have been involved in – the Translating the Deaf Self project – which examined whether deaf people feel that they are ‘known’ by hearing people through translation, i.e., do they feel represented by interpreters. Many of the deaf participants in our study reported that they felt that they have little choice when it comes to working with interpreters, and face challenges and barriers to feeling like they are adequately represented. (A full copy of the research report is available if you would like more detail: email j.napier@hw.ac.uk).

So this experience has made me further reflect on my position: who I am; and how important it is to acknowledge one’s positionality as a researcher (see Young & Temple, 2014; Napier & Leeson, 2016; Kusters et al, 2017). I was invited to be a keynote speaker at the FIT Congress as a result of my international profile as a sign language interpreting researcher. But ultimately I was a hearing person talking about signed languages. I chose to present in sign language, and the fact that I did that did make an impact on the FIT congress audience, as it brought into evidence – ‘made real’ – many of the issues I was talking about. But we need to see more opportunities for deaf people to talk about their language and their experiences as deaf sign language users.

I thoroughly enjoyed the FIT Congress. It was a wonderful experience, and I felt very honoured to have been invited. It was an important event for FIT in having the first keynote about sign language and sign language interpreting, so I recognise and respect that. But at the same time, my attendance and presentation at that congress has made me think about my work; my language choices; my power. So I decided to write this blog to acknowledge more widely that I recognise this privilege; this power. It’s made me think about my future attendance at conferences; my language choices; who I want to have an impact on through my presentations; and whether deaf people are involved. This is something that I felt important to share through this blogpost.

 

DGI SCIC virtual classes starting in LINCS !

by Fanny Chouc

scic getting ready

LINCS held its first virtual conference interpreting class in cooperation with SCIC today, with a select group of talented MA and MSc students. Thanks to the support of our AV team, we were able to set up the system used by SCIC to provide pedagogical assistance in interpreting training institutions across Europe.

So is this the start of a new era? Is distance-teaching going to be the way forward for interpreting training, and could it replace face-to-face teaching?

No quite yet: technology has its limits, and connections sometimes broke up, for brief periods. And even if there is a drive towards video-interpreting in some fields, a screen can’t give you the same feel as a live audience. Mastering nerves is a crucial part of interpreting training. It’s therefore very important for trainee interpreters to experience a real, live audience: the dynamics, logistics and overall communication change greatly, and being prepared for this is essential.

round table

But this experience was immensely useful. This is a great way to involve a range of talented trainers from Brussels for a few hours, without any plane, train or taxi journey required. The team of professional SCIC interpreters simply connected from one of their rooms in Brussels, and LINCS students worked in the familiar setting of our large conference interpreting lab. So this type of technology facilitated an excellent training session with experienced professionals without any travelling required on either part – a clear benefit for universities located far away from the epicentre of European life, and a great way for SCIC interpreters to interact with young talents who aren’t on their doorstep, but aren’t short of skills!

jen cruise

This experience has also been a great way to bridge another invisible gap: the DGI can seem rather distant, and almost unattainable; possibly even more so from the distant shores of Bonnie Scotland. And yet after the session, our students gladly admitted that the speeches didn’t throw them: content, pace and level of difficulties mirrored fairly what they’d been doing in class during the year. Some even commented that the pace wasn’t quite as punishing as in classes they’d had at Heriot-Watt! The very positive feedback, focused on a number of aspects regularly discussed in class, also contributed to their confidence: they now realise that an EU interpreting career could be within their grasp, they have a better idea of what they need to work on, and most of them are now determined to apply for the accreditation tests.

So even if virtual interpreting classes aren’t about to replace live university programmes, they are certainly an amazing way to build bridge with international organisations such as the EU, and possibly to set up more cooperation across campuses and between interpreting training universities. We’re therefore looking forward to building on this success for further virtual classes with SCIC and hopefully with partner universities abroad!

Thank you Fanny Chouc and Jose Maria Conde for organising this 🙂

 

BSL-team goes USA

by Emmy Kauling, Jemina Napier, Svenja Wurm, Heather Mole and Rob Skinner

For a BSL version of this post, please click here

Last month, the Heriot-Watt BSL-team was well represented at the 2017 Interpretation and Translation Research Symposium at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., in the States: Prof Jemina Napier, Dr Svenja Wurm, and three PhD students, Emmy Kauling, Heather Mole and Rob Skinner were accepted to give presentations or present a poster. Since the conference was already a month ago, we decided to remind ourselves of what happened by going through the Twitter feed (#GUSymposium). We recommend you to do the same, it is definitely worth it: you will find lots of quotes and insights from the many inspiring presentations, all focusing on translation and interpreting. A few of the insights we would like to share here:

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The president of Gallaudet University (the only university in the world where a sign language, American Sign Language (ASL), is the main language of instruction and communication), who happens to be deaf, stressed the importance of research to inform practice. She uses interpreters on a daily basis and mentioned that, as a deaf person, it is crucial to have an ally in your interpreter. She stated: “What’s important is not what is said in the room, but what’s *not* said in the room”. Which is a challenge for interpreters!

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The first keynote was by Beppie van den Bogaerde, explaining how research is embedded in the Dutch undergraduate sign language interpreter training programme. But in order to teach students how to do research (even the day-to-day mini studies that practising interpreters might do), teachers need to be experts in doing research themselves. That way, the Deaf community will benefit from improved services, based on large scientific research and local practical research. This will not only provide ‘feed-back’ to research and training, but also ‘feed-forward’. Key in this is reflection of the interpreters!

After the key note, Svenja Wurm had the privilege of kicking off the parallel sessions with her presentation on the impact of text modalities on translation. Looking into a relatively under-researched area, translation between written and signed language, Svenja highlighted some of the challenges faced by translators to create target texts in situations where parallel texts are limited. Drawing on a case study, she demonstrated that the translator used a pragmatic, culturally sensitive approach, taking into account Hearing and Deaf literacy practices as well as the affordances provided by the different text modalities.

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A hot topic during this conference was language ownership and language ideology. It was emphasised by several presenters that both Deaf people and sign language interpreters need to be aware of their own and each other’s language ideologies: what do they expect of each other? And do these ideologies match? And, as professionals, interpreters need to be aware of the impact of their own language ideologies on their service: more positive behaviour could be associated with a certain type of language use, e.g. using the majority language.

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A comment which resonated with many attendees was made by one of the conference participants: if we are talking about interpreting services, is everything just the responsibility of the interpreter? What are the responsibilities of people who use interpreters? Are people trained to use interpreters? This is particularly true for deaf people, who will use interpreters in the course of their lives, in a range of settings.

Jemina Napier gave a total of three presentations throughout the conference which included deaf citizens participating in jury deliberations which she presented with Debra Russell on the first day of the conference. On the second day, Jemina and Rob Skinner presented on the research they have done with Ursula Böser, on police interviews with deaf people. They emphasised that it is important for interpreters to be trained to work with the police; interpreters might cause damage if they don’t understand the goals of the police or why the police ask certain questions. And they showed that an interpreter does not have to feel responsible for translating everything, for example a shrug by a defendant. People shrug all the time in police settings and it is up to the police officer to interpret that and, if necessary, ask for clarification. Finally, Jemina presented on her findings in the Translating the Deaf Self project one of which revealed the pervasive fascination with the interpreter in work settings, taking away the attention from the person in question – the Deaf professional.

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During the afternoon there was a well-attended and popular poster session and reception, which encouraged many fascinating and fruitful discussions amongst conference vistors. Both Rob Skinner and Emmy Kauling (PhD students) presented on their PhD topics – video-meditated interpreting in police settings, and how people experience professional discourse respectively. Both of them were surrounded by intrigued delegates.

The last day’s keynote was by Robert Adam, who focused on the similarities and differences within the sign language interpreting profession, in other words: he presented on Deaf interpreters and hearing interpreters. However, he argued that it is time to talk about language combinations instead of focussing on audiological status, just as it is the case within the spoken language interpreting field.

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Just as Svenja Wurm had begun the conference it was Heather Mole (PhD student) who ended the conference, presenting on power and privilege in sign language interpreters’ discourse. She made a point that interpreters are often not trained on how to talk about power dynamics, resulting in a feeling of “I’m sure that I’ve done the right thing here, but I’m not sure!”. Sign language interpreters need a vocabulary to be able to talk about power, to understand their responsibility.

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It was wonderful to be part of this conference and the representation of Heriot-Watt University was significant, which was not unnoticed by many of the participants. Not only did we sandwich the conference with presentations but we also made the filling flavoursome as well!

LINCS colleagues participate in SCORE with a Public speaking and International Communication Workshop for football referees

 

by Pedro Castillo and Maggie Sargeant 

For the second year running, two colleagues from the LINCS Department at Heriot-Watt’s School of Social Sciences (SoSS), Dr Maggie Sargeant and Dr Pedro Jesús Castillo Ortiz, were involved in the SCORE (Scottish Centre of Refereeing Excellence) course for football referees (2015) and assistant referees (2016), in partnership with the Scottish Football Association and Oriam: Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre, based at Heriot-Watt University. The course aims to provide a pathway for up-and-coming match officials to develop skills relevant to refereeing at the highest level of the game. In this regard, public communication skills and intercultural awareness are key in bringing Scottish referees into the international arena.

Building on existing research in communication and leadership in sport, Sargeant and Castillo delivered the first communications workshop of its kind in Scottish football. Neil Gibson (Director of Sport, Performance and Health at Oriam, Scotland’s Sport Performance Centre) was delighted that participants had the opportunity to develop the kind of skills that will take their careers beyond the national context.

In the first edition (2015-2016), 9 referees attended the course, learning how to deliver clear, concise and coherent messages when communicating both on and off the pitch. Best practices in dealing with how to explain the rules of the game both to players during football matches and to the media when required were highlighted as having been particularly useful by the participants in their workshop feedback.

In the second edition, this season, 10 assistant referees took part in a series of role plays, communicating with match officials in international matches where issues such as racism and sexism have to be handled sensitively. They also engaged in public dialogue around the offside rule, a game-changing situation in football, where assistant referees play a key role during matches.

In both editions, Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo presented real and hypothetical scenarios for group discussion, in which referees and assistant referees have to face a diverse linguistic and cultural environment on and off the field (players, coaches, tournaments, media). Although the promising future referees and assistant referees were well aware of what is at stake in the international football sphere, this module of the course made them aware that knowledge of foreign languages, intercultural communication and dealing with a complex global media landscape are also crucial in achieving and providing excellence in refereeing.

To some extent, football referees share skills and challenges with interpreters, hence Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo’s involvement in the course, with the conviction that transferable skills can be at the heart of courses such as this taught to up-and-coming SFA referees.

“If public communication skills, face-to-face interaction in multilingual environments, fast decision making and dealing with potentially conflicting parties is at the core of the training of future interpreters in LINCS, and we can successfully achieve it, why wouldn’t we apply it to football referees and other sports professionals?” Dr Sargeant and Dr Castillo explained.

With positive feedback from the SFA organisers and the participants of the course, the involvement in training opportunities such as SCORE evidence the potential impact that key skills we research on and teach in LINCS can have, bringing other professions and industries to the top level of international excellence.

We are looking forward to next year’s SCORE course and we hope to see these referees and assistant referees in the next Euros and World Cup.

Good luck!

Back to Holyrood

by Fanny Chouc

Heriot-Watt MSc interpreting students have been getting a taste of the “real thing” this Thursday and will do so again next Thursday: they’re putting their interpreting skills to the test, during a live parliamentary debate at Scottish Parliament, and they’ll be practicing from the actual interpreting booths of the Scottish Parliament.

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Thanks to a long-standing cooperation with Holyrood, the seat of the Scottish Parliament, we’ve been able to give our 2016-2017 cohort a chance to experience a real professional booth, during an authentic event. Students are organized in small groups and split between the two main interpreting booths overlooking the main debating chamber. They practise live, simultaneous interpreting from interventions from the presiding officers and MSPs, under the supervision of lecturers who are also experienced conference interpreters.

Of course, microphones remain switched off: it’s only practice after all, and students are half-way through their training. But this type of proper situated learning experience, set in a genuine work environment, provides students with a unique chance to test their skills and observe a number of challenges which aren’t always easy to integrate in a classroom setting.

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This unique interpreting training experience has been the object of a study by Chouc and Conde, and there are many benefits for students: they are confronted, in the space of 2 ½ hours, with a range of Scottish accents, but also various paces or style of expression. They also become more aware of the type of procedural jargon used in parliamentary business, observing recurring turns of phrases used to present a motion, formally adopt it or to address the various stakeholders. They encounter passionate speeches, arguments, technical terms familiar to MSPs, but which can be challenging for students who don’t use this type of terminology daily. It also puts their awareness of current and local affairs to the test, since the parliament handles a range of matters very much determined by the news, as well as issues that every community faces.

But more than anything, students get a feel for the career they want to embrace: it’s a test of stamina, as they remain in the booths for the full duration of the session (over 2h). It’s also an opportunity to learn how to work in teams, as students all work in pairs or as a trio: they assist each other, discuss solutions and glossary, and gradually adopt the behaviour of professional interpreters, sitting side-by-side, and scribbling the words, acronyms, names or figures their colleagues may need. They also take it in turn to listen to their peers as pure users, thus applying their critical skills to a live performance. This is a crucial step in developing their own self-assessment and monitoring skills.

Ultimately, though, it remains an exciting and inspiring opportunity, and students leave the booths motivated, focused, and better aware of the demands of a professional interpreting assignment. And that takes them one step closer to professional booths in international institutions!

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Christmas, Interpreting and Scottish Parliament

By Mathilde Guillemet

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Edinburgh is dressed in its magical gown. It is covered in Christmas decorations, the Christmas market is on and Santa is just round the corner. Could there be a better time to visit? Well, the seven participants that decided to attend our Intensive Interpreting Practice course certainly didn’t think so.

For the first time this year, LINCS has decided to run this course in December. So seven interpreters gathered in Edinburgh from different part of the world (Sweden, Austria, Russia and even Senegal!) to get together and enhance their interpreting skills.

Our team of professional lecturers have worked with them all through the week, giving them constructive feedback on their output in English from all their working languages. They also received feedback on their Spanish, French and Russian from some lecturers.

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The week was very stimulating and eventful. The participants got a chance at practicing Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpreting in our state of the art interpreting labs. They also took the time to do some revision on their note-taking techniques.

As part of the course, too mock conferences were organised. The topics were: “Accessing medical care: challenges and issues” and “Economy and environment: friends or foes?” These offered the opportunity to students to practice delivering a speech and put themselves in the role of the speaker but also to interpret from real speeches and from a very lively discussion.

To prepare themselves to deliver a speech during these mock conferences, a public speaking session had been organised; because, after all, what is an interpreter if not a public speaker expressing someone else’s ideas?

As all the participants were practising interpreters, it was a good opportunity for networking and for sharing different techniques used by interpreters either when they are interpreting or ahead of the interpreting for preparation.

And finally, as Heriot Watt University has a partnership with the Scottish Parliament, the participants spent one afternoon working in a dummy booth. The Scottish Parliament have four interpreting booths that they kindly open to students of Heriot-Watt University for practice. This was an excellent exercise for our participants, as it allowed them to practice interpreting from a wide range of Scottish accents, a form of English to which they are not necessarily accustomed. It was also a great opportunity to witness the making of Scottish politics!

students from Heriot-Watt University practice simultaneous translation during a session of the Scottish parliament, in Edinburgh.  08 December 2016. Pic-Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

students from Heriot-Watt University practice simultaneous translation during a session of the Scottish parliament, in Edinburgh. 08 December 2016. Pic-Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

students from Heriot-Watt University practice simultaneous translation during a session of the Scottish parliament, in Edinburgh.  08 December 2016. Pic-Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

students from Heriot-Watt University practice simultaneous translation during a session of the Scottish parliament, in Edinburgh. 08 December 2016. Pic-Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

All our participants had a great time, enjoyed Edinburgh and the content of the course.

One participant said: “I very much appreciated the varied content of the course and the diversity of lecturers. I will without a doubt recommend this course. And many thanks for your precious advice!”

On that note, LINCS would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

If you would like some more information on this course and on other CPD courses run by Heriot Watt University please visit our website: https://www.hw.ac.uk/schools/social-sciences/departments/languages-intercultural-studies/intensive-interpreting-practice.htm

Or contact summerschool@hw.ac.uk

 

Heriot-Watt University BSL interpreting placements 2016-2017

By Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see this blog post in BSL>

Our first cohort of students from the BSL/English interpreting 4-year undergraduate programme graduated in June 2016. Most of the graduates have registered with either the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) or the National Registers of Communication Professionals with working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) as trainee or qualified interpreters, and are already working as interpreters or communication support workers in various settings. Their readiness to work was thanks to the support they received from Deaf community members and professional BSL/English interpreters, who gave them the opportunity to go into real life interpreting assignments and learn outside the classroom. This basically means that students go on interpreting work placement in their 4th year, and shadow working interpreters; they observe interpreting in the real world and are also encouraged to try interpreting in safe environments by their interpreting mentors.

Interpreting work placement in 2016-2017

Based on feedback from mentors and students from last year, we have changed the structure of the interpreting work placement. Instead of doing 70 hours over two 1-week blocks in one semester, we have embedded the placement across the whole academic year. So now students are required to complete 100 hours of shadowing: 25 hours in Semester 1 (October-December) and 75 hours in Semester 2 (January-May). This arrangement gives the students and mentors more flexibility to identify suitable interpreting assignments across a range of different areas.

The aim of the interpreting work placement is to:

  1. To give students the opportunity to access authentic ‘real-world’ interpreting situations
  2. To provide students with the opportunity to observe the professional practice of qualified interpreters at work
  3. To facilitate the opportunity for students to try interpreting in ‘real-world’ interpreting situations, in a safe and supported environment, where appropriate and with the agreement of all parties
  4. To enable students to discuss, critique and reflect on their observations of other interpreters and their own professional practice

Students have to keep a logbook of their observations, and write reflections about what they have learned. This experience equips the students with the skills needed to be reflective practitioners when they go on to work as interpreters.

Once more we would like to publicly acknowledge the interpreters that are giving their time, energy and commitment to supporting these students. Specifically, we thank the list of interpreters below who have agreed to take on students this year:

  1. Paul Belmonte (Edinburgh)
  2. Bruce Cameron (Glasgow)
  3. Andy Carmichael (Edinburgh)
  4. Lesley Crerar (Aberdeen)
  5. Andrew Dewey (Ayr)
  6. Shaurna Dickson (Edinburgh)
  7. Linda Duncan (Fife)
  8. Helen Dunipace (Glasgow)
  9. Marion Fletcher (Edinburgh)
  10. Eddie Foley (Glasgow)
  11. Donna Jewell (Falkirk)
  12. Sheena MacDonald (Edinburgh)
  13. Brenda Mackay (Fife)
  14. Rachel Mapson (Edinburgh)
  15. Paula Marshall (Denny)
  16. Robert McCourt (Glasgow)
  17. Mary McDevitt (Falkirk)
  18. David Milligan (Glasgow)
  19. Nicolle Murdoch (Edinburgh)
  20. David Summersgill (Dunbar)
  21. Linda Thomson (Glasgow)
  22. Yvonne Waddell (Hamilton)

Again we would like to thank the support of SASLI and NRCPD who have endorsed that interpreters can received Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for acting as mentors.

The students on placement in 2016-2017 are:

  1. Jenna Adams
  2. Sarah Forrester
  3. Amy Hunter
  4. Tanja Jacobs
  5. Christina Kunz
  6. Tommy Malone
  7. Marnie Radmer
  8. Kristina Tandl
  9. Isla Van der Heiden
  10. Sabine Zielinska

We would like to thank Deaf BSL users in Scotland for their continued support of our students, and hope that you will encourage them in their efforts to develop their skills to become professional interpreters.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016 – how accessible was it to Deaf people?

by Michael Richardson

This blog-post is based on an article to be published in the October 2016 edition of the British Deaf News, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

 

As I write, the final day of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe is drawing to a close.  During a three-and-a-half week period there will have been over 50,000 performances of more than 3,000 different shows:  it is easy to accept the claim that this is the largest arts festival in the world.  But how many of these performances are accessible to Deaf people?  The Fringe is committed to improving the accessibility of Edinburgh venues and its own box office, but as it takes no role in choosing any of the shows, it is left to each visiting company whether or not to make their performances accessible to Deaf spectators.

Deaf people’s involvement in theatre, whether watching or performing, is my own particular interest.  For almost ten years I have been exploring the use of BSL on stage, in both youth theatre and musical theatre.  A show I produced for Edinburgh Music Theatre which used integrated sign language interpreting was featured on the BBC’s See Hear as one of only a handful of performances providing accessibility for Deaf spectators in the 2011 Fringe.

I am now doing a PhD at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, researching Deaf people’s participation in theatre, so the 2016 Fringe seemed an excellent opportunity to review progress towards better access for Deaf people.  The timing was particularly appropriate as I have just completed a project interviewing a small group of Deaf people on the subject of theatrical interpreting.  So, debit card at the ready, I logged on to the Fringe website and began my search for sign language interpreted performances.

The first good news I can report is that the amount of interpreted theatre has increased since 2011.  The Fringe website’s own list of performances accessible to Deaf people featured 31 different shows, of which 11 were interpreted on 2 or more occasions.  In addition, in the Free Fringe the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble worked with Forest Fringe to present a whole day of BSL interpreted shows at the venue Out of the Blue.   Certainly there are more options to choose from for Deaf spectators than in earlier years.

Interpreted shows included a wide range of performance styles. Drama, physical theatre, circus, children’s shows and comedy were all represented, as well as traditional Scottish storytelling and music, a choir performing African song and dance, and a skit of the Eurovision Song Contest.  More choice was offered by the use overall of a relatively large pool of interpreters.  Still lacking, however, was a strong presence by Deaf actors.  The Fringe website listed only one bilingual (BSL/English) theatre show, which I will describe later; and a one off spoken word event performed by my colleagues, two Deaf and two hearing from Heriot Watt University (Jemina Napier, Gary Quinn, Stacey Webb and Mark McQueen).

Incidentally, although the accessibility pages of the Fringe website are not easy to find, once you have clicked through they are increasingly good at giving the kind of extra information that Deaf theatre goers asked for in my research project.  75% of the shows described as accessible had a named interpreter advertised, and over 30% either gave the position of the interpreter or offered the option for Deaf spectators to choose appropriate seats when they arrived at the venue.

This kind of pre-show communication is certainly starting to address the first requirement of accessibility:  that target audiences need to be fully aware in advance of all relevant details of the accessible event (although in 2016 no information was presented in BSL, a situation which may change following the BSL (Scotland) Act 2015).  However, I am particularly interested in the communication that occurs during the show, and the ways that it engages Deaf spectators.  My Deaf research participants had been clear that in interpreted theatre they expect a particular style of high impact interpreting that matches the performances of the actors and is presented within the same visual frame as the performance, so I set out to see if theatre companies and interpreters were meeting these expectations.

I was not disappointed.  At Forest Fringe I watched three shows where there had been rehearsal time put aside to integrate the interpreting into the show as much as possible.  In all three the interpreters were costumed effectively to match the actors, but the choices of shows had an impact on the degree of further integration.  Nic Green’s  Cock and Bull, interpreted by Catherine King, was an avant garde political satire that was highly visual and sexually provocative.  This accessible visual style was contrasted with a complex script in which sentences were broken into individual words and even parts of words, with actors overlapping different lines with songs and voice-over.  This combination of a very physical staging with a difficult spoken text unavoidably limited the fuller integration of the interpreter.

The other two Forest Fringe shows, both interpreted by Yvonne Strain, presented fewer challenges.  Greg Wohead’s Celebration Florida allowed her to be both costumed and fully integrated into the action, moving with the two actors and giving Deaf spectators an equivalent experience to hearing audiences of the show’s exploration of nostalgia for forgotten experiences, people and places.  A different approach was taken for Action Hero’s Watch Me Fall, a show which used home-made stunts to question our relationship with ideas of tough-guys and daredevils as celebrities.  Possibly for her own safety as much as for anything else, the interpreter took a fixed position on the side of the performance area.  Rather than being integrated into the show she performed as though a member of the standing audience, reacting as we did to the stunts, but also interpreting the announcements between the stunts and the few short sections of dialogue as they occurred.

Away from Forest Fringe I saw two shows interpreted by Yvonne Waddell, a PhD candidate at Heriot Watt University, in which she had worked independently with the companies to provide as much integration as possible.  Ronan O’Donnell’s Brazil is a one man show set in an imagined Scotland destroyed by the bombs of war and living in poverty and mistrust.  Yvonne provided a highly visual BSL interpretation to match the poetic language of the original, and was fully integrated into the show.  She was costumed, and performed from on the small stage close to the speaking actor.  At significant moments the two made eye contact, effectively suggesting that they represented two different sides of the same character.

A different style of integration was used in Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons by Walrus, a play with two characters exploring their changing relationship in a world where they were only allowed to use 140 words per day.  Here Yvonne Waddell worked with Greg Colquhoun, a recent graduate of Heriot Watt University (MA British Sign Language (Translation, Interpreting and Applied Language Studies)).  The interpreters were less integrated into the action, standing on one side of the theatre-in-the-round stage, but each interpreter represented one character throughout, fully costumed, partly shadowing their actors and often using a word to sign literal translation to reflect the way that English words were used in the original.  The matching of the interpreters to the actors was particularly effective and is hopefully a sign of things to come in theatre interpreting.

I cannot finish this article without discussing further the work of the Deaf and Hearing Ensemble.  Individual interpreters are doing what they can to improve the experience of Deaf spectators, but this company bring a strategic approach that is shown in their partnership with Forest Fringe.  In addition, this year they performed their own show People of the Eye, featuring one Deaf and one hearing actor and using a mix of BSL, speech and creative captions to tell the story of a Deaf girl growing up in a hearing family.   The show puts across the combination of humour and anguish that is often a Deaf child’s experience through a mix of emotional dialogue and tightly choreographed physical and visual theatre.  The aim is to create accessible bilingual theatre that both engages and educates audiences, and the four and five star reviews it received demonstrate that this was achieved.

Unfortunately People of the Eye was (to my knowledge) the only theatre show to feature a Deaf actor at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016, although there was also a bilingual BSL/English poetry event (that I was unable to attend).  For me (and others) this raises the question of why significant sums of money are put into theatrical interpreting rather than using at least some access funding to support Deaf actors and Deaf theatre:  a show like Deafinitely Theatre’s recent production of George Brant’s Grounded would be a perfect fit for the Fringe.  But for now we can be clear about one thing.  The use of BSL in performances at the Fringe is increasing, and interpreters and theatre producers are working hard to do it better, and to make interpreting more integrated.   As signed performances become more common place, hopefully an appetite will grow in theatre audiences to attend performances by Deaf actors using BSL, thus coming to appreciate Deaf language and culture and all they can offer to the creation of high quality physical and visual theatre.

 ***

New academic year starting!

 

 

With RADAR workshops, Critical Link 8, EIRSS, performing at the Fringe and the Applied Languages and Interpreting Summer School, our summer this year was busy but fun. The “holidays” have traditionally been a creative time in terms of research and impact.

Now Welcome week is here and the campus is buzzing with newly arrived students. There is a truly international mix, and that’s not just LINCS.

Teaching starts on Monday 12th September. In the meantime, we are running events to welcome all LINCS students. From coffee and muffins for 1st year students at the newly-opened Learning Commons, to drinks and nibbles in town for MSc students, we make sure that you are properly welcomed and are ready to start your academic journey with us. Our consistently high NSS results (2nd in Scotland and 6th in UK for student satisfaction!) prove how much we value the student experience.

But we never rest on our laurels.

This year, we are asking new and continuing students to participate in a competition to celebrate European Day of Languages. Students need to answer the questions “Why study languages?” and “The best thing about studying languages is…” for a chance to win Harriet, the Heriot-Watt cow that can also be used as a stress ball. There are 10 cows up for grabs!

hwu_cow

The winning statements will be put on a poster which will be displayed at the LINCS stand during the University Open Day on 23rd September, as part of the celebrations for the European Day of Languages on 26th September.

We have a range of programmes in both languages and cultural studies, as well as some exciting new elective courses to add more flexibility to your degrees and give you more options depending on your needs. More information here for undergraduate and here for postgraduate programmes.

If you’re thinking of joining us, why don’t you come along to one of our Open Days? More info on www.hw.ac.uk/opendays

@HW_LifeinLINCS

#languages

#culturalstudies