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)

Making an Impact

by Michael Richardson

For the last two and a half years I have been researching the participation of Deaf people in theatre.  With only a few months remaining, I am currently writing up my PhD thesis, wondering what I am doing – and often, why I am doing it.  Of course, working bilingually in English and British Sign Language with a mixed group of Deaf and hearing actors for a week last summer was great fun.  Finding out what audiences thought about the finished work was fascinating.  Turning it all into 80,000 words of highly academic but readable prose?  Well, let’s just say, the 65,000 words I still need to write aren’t coming easily.  I can’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fortunately, my PhD journey started well, and I am regularly reminded of the benefit of academic research by emails I receive from people who have changed their practice as a result of my work.  It all started in my first year as a postgraduate, when I was invited by a theatre to conduct a small study for them, attempting to find out why the numbers of Deaf spectators were lower than expected for Sign Language Interpreted Performances (SLIPs).

SLIPs are performances of spoken language theatre that are simultaneously translated into sign language, usually by a single interpreter standing in the downstage corner of the stage at some distance from the actors.  They are the typical method currently employed to encourage Deaf sign language users to attend mainstream theatres.

In my research I interviewed Deaf and hearing audience members, as well as a theatre interpreter, and staff responsible for access in the theatre.  The results suggest that SLIPs do not provide Deaf spectators with an experience equivalent to that of hearing audience members.  Interpreters are inadequately trained and usually given insufficient resources to prepare for a SLIP.  Theatre companies are often uninterested in, if not opposed to, the presence of the interpreter on stage, and insist on her spatial separation from the main production, making it impossible for spectators to follow the show and the translation at the same time. Theatre venues, despite promoting a performance in sign language, often do not use sign language in their marketing materials or in front of house facilities.  As a result they do not present a welcoming image to the very people they are trying to attract.  Understandably my Deaf participants had little positive to say about the effectiveness of SLIPs in providing access.

The aim of a preparatory study such as this within the PhD process is to give an opportunity for postgraduate researchers to develop and refine their research skills; and for academic staff to ascertain whether their PhD student is ready to progress to the full-scale study on which their thesis will be built.  My work on SLIPs, however, has gone far beyond this.

My research was the first to ask Deaf people their views on SLIPs, and there has been significant interest in my results from the academic community.  I have spoken at several conferences in the UK and Europe on the challenges of delivering SLIPs.  Most recently I presented my thoughts on the need to establish a separate professional speciality of performance interpreting to support the development of quality provision of SLIPs, at the Third International Conference on Interpreting Quality in Granada (http://qinv.ugr.es/iciq3-en.htm).  I have also written articles based on my research.  A paper on interpreting and theatre translation was published in 2017 in the online journal TranscUlturAl (https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/tc/index.php/TC/article/view/29265). A second paper, ‘The Sign Language Interpreted Performance: A Failure of Access Provision for Deaf Spectators ‘ will be published in March in the journal Theatre Topics (volume 28 (1), pp. 63-74).

Whilst spreading awareness of my work within the academic community is a desirable part of the PhD journey, I am also pleased that my research is having impact in the real world.  I have been invited to speak at events aimed at cultural managers, theatre practitioners and interpreters throughout the UK:  at the South Bank Centre in London with Deafinitely Theatre; in Ipswich with the Pacitti Company; at Manchester Art Gallery for the Greater Manchester Cultural Group for Deaf People; and as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Each of these events is part of the work in progress towards adequate access to cultural events for Deaf people, as is my ongoing contribution to a working group in Edinburgh that aims to develop opportunities for Deaf-led arts and cultural activities.

More tangible results have followed from discussions with individual practitioners.  Zane Hema, an interpreter trainer based in Australia, is using my ideas about performance interpreting in Continuous Professional Development sessions that he leads.   ZooCo (https://wearezooco.co.uk/), a small touring company that works to make theatre accessible to diverse audiences, is using my research to inform their thinking about how to engage Deaf audiences.  In Gloucester, the Strike a Light Festival took on a number of the recommendations that I made, including having staff Front of House who could greet Deaf patrons in sign language; and keeping seats for Deaf spectators at SLIPs that give the best possible view of interpreter and stage.  Previously they had not attracted any Deaf people at all; having made these changes, they estimate that approximately 5% of their audience during their 2017 festival was Deaf.  In the March 2018 festival they will also use the Difference Engine, a piece of technology that streams captions onto an individual’s smart phone or tablet, for their production of Lucy J Skilbeck’s Joan (https://www.strikealightfestival.org.uk/events/joan/).

As I write this, I am in the middle of slowly redrafting the first half of my literature review, and thematically coding the seemingly endless hours of video data that I generated in my main research project last year.  Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the fact that the work I did in the first year of my PhD is already having an impact, not only in universities, but also in the real world of cultural provision.  My research is contributing to an improvement in the lives of Deaf people, at least in the arts.  And that, I remember, is why I am doing it.

IPCITI returns to Heriot-Watt after 4 years!

by Paola Ruffo

The Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt hosted the 13th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting (IPCITI), 9-10 November 2017

IPCITI is an annual postgraduate conference organised by students for students and it marks the consolidation of the collaboration between Dublin City University, Manchester University, the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University. Its main aims are to promote greater participation in Translation and Interpreting research and foster a supportive and intellectually stimulating environment where research and academia can be accessible in real terms.

This year, the IPCITI 2017 Organising Committee (Jafar Ahmad, Nga-Ki Mavis Ho, Lorraine MacDonald, Michael Richardson and Paola Ruffo) has worked hard to welcome delegates from all over the world to Heriot-Watt and create a diverse and enriching programme, which included meaningful contributions across all areas of Translation and Interpreting Studies.

The conference started with a workshop by Mr Ramon Inglada (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University) on ’CAT Tools: welcome to the cloud-based (r)evolution’ followed by Dr Ana-Frankenberg Garcia’s (University of Surrey)  keynote on ‘The use of corpora in translation research’. Day two saw Interpreting research and practice join forces to discuss ‘Interpreting theory and practice in dialogue’ with a panel formed by Prof Graham Turner (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University), Prof Claudia Angelelli (CTISS, Heriot-Watt University), Mr Martin Gallagher (Police Scotland) and Ms Delphine Jaouen (NHS Scotland).

A variety of topics has been discussed by our international presenters over the course of these two days, covering diverse areas of T&I Studies such as translation and interpreting technologies, literary translation, interpreters’ training, British Sign Language interpreting, risk in translation, and news translation in relation to ideology and human rights.

To quote our Head of School, Prof Robert MacIntosh, who opened the conference: “We have a long heritage of Translation and Interpreting of which we are very proud” – this year’s successful and high-quality IPCITI drove that point home again.

You can follow The International Postgraduate Conference in Translation and Interpreting on twitter (@ipciti) and on the dedicated website www.ipciti.org.uk.

See you in Manchester for IPCITI 2018!

 

LINCS interpreters at the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

by Josemari Conde and Ramon Inglada

As the curtain falls on the 2017 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF), it is time to look back at 10 days of great films, fine Spanish food and interesting Q&A sessions with actors, directors and producers.

It is also a good time to celebrate yet another successful collaboration between the ESFF and LINCS. Our interpreters have participated in several festival screenings and have played an important role in enabling communication among everyone attending the festival, regardless of their language skills.

At LINCS we are extremely proud of this cooperation and we hope to be part of the festival again in 2018!

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LINCS collaboration with the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

by José María Conde and Ramón Inglada

The 2017 Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival (ESFF) starts on Thursday October 5th and will run in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling until October 31st. This is the 4th edition of the festival and LINCS is collaborating with the ESFF once more, this time as a ‘Major Sponsor’:

http://www.edinburghspanishfilmfestival.com/sponsors/

This is a contribution with the best we can offer from our school: interpreters. Three of our interpreting students will be volunteer interpreters in several presentations and Q&A sessions with Spanish speaking filmmakers. More details are available in the website below:

https://www.edinburghspanishfilmfestival.com/en/festival/2017/

Two staff members in LINCS, José María Conde and Ramón Inglada, are coordinating this collaboration, hoping that it will continue for many more future editions of the festival.

We encourage you to attend some of the screenings and enjoy the festival!

SpanishFilmFestival

 

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!