1st cohort of graduates of Undergraduate BSL programme!

June has been an exciting month for the BSL section within LINCS: graduations, conferences and student visitors that have kept us very busy!  Assistant Professor in BSL Stacey Webb will be reporting on these in the next few weeks. First up – graduations!
For the BSL version of this post, please click here
Over the past few weeks, family and friends have gathered to attend graduations across Scotland’s universities.  Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh campus, held 10 graduations to commence and celebrate its 2016 graduates.  It is a very exciting time because you get to see years of hard work and dedication pay off, as students walk the stage to have their achieved degrees confirmed. Their smiling faces radiate joy and accomplishment- and often what the graduates miss, is the faces of their biggest fans- mums and dads, husbands, wives, partners and best friends.  In fact, I had the best view in the house, facing the auditorium as part of the academic procession. I was able to watch smiles, happy tears and warm embraces throughout the celebration.
For those attending the LINCS SML graduation at Heriot-Watt on 24 June, you should count yourself lucky, for rumours have it, this was the most exciting graduation of the week! Graduates, friends and family members didn’t hold back their cheers, whoops and applause. Twenty students walked the stage with a connection to our BSL section, representing three different LINCS programmes:
As you can imagine there certainly was a sign language presence in the auditorium.  In fact, Professor Williams, the University Principal gave special acknowledgement to the BSL programme grads, emphasizing the importance of their future endeavors as British Sign Language/English Interpreters. We wish everyone who graduated much success in the future, and we look forward to seeing all of them accomplish great things!
1st cohort of graduates from the BSL Interpreting Course with members of staff
Back Row: Gary Quinn, Yvonne Waddell, Graham Turner, Greg Colquhoun, Scott Ellerington, Helena Laverty, Marion Fletcher, Rachel Evans, Stacey Webb
Front Row: Virginia Dugo, Lisa Li, Jemina Napier, Jill Gallacher, Sam Rojas, Rachel Amey, Jude Caldwell, Marie Elliot, Grace McBride, Svenja Wurm
Dr. Robyn Dean with supervisor Graham Turner!      
EUMASLI Graduates: Yvonne Jobse, Emmy
Kauling, Brett Best, Ellen Nauta, Muffy Cave



Heriot-Watt University BSL interpreting and community placements

By Jemina Napier

 <Click here to see this blog post in BSL>


As many people in the Scottish Deaf community and BSL/English interpreting profession will know, this year is the first time that we have a group BSL/English interpreting students completing their final year of studying in a 4-year undergraduate programme. This is the only university in Scotland that offers a training programme that is approved by the Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI) and the National Registers of Communication Professionals with working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD) as a route to professional qualification and registration to practice as a sign language interpreter. The first group of students will graduate in June 2016.

Students heading out on interpreting work placement for the first time

From January – May 2016 it is the current 4th year students’ final semester and one of the compulsory requirements is for students to complete an interpreting work placement. During this placement students will be shadowing professional interpreters in real interpreting assignments.

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


The interpreting work placement will take place in two 1-week blocks (22-26 February and 4-8 April).

The organisation of the interpreting work placement would not be possible without the support of the key organisations SASLI and NRCPD who have endorsed that interpreters can received Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for acting as mentors.

But even more importantly, it could not take place without the collaboration and support of professional sign language interpreters in Scotland, who are giving their time, energy and commitment to supporting these students. We would like to specifically thank the list of interpreters below who have agreed to take on students this year:

  1. Paul Belmonte (Edinburgh)
  2. Andy Carmichael (Edinburgh)
  3. Lesley Crerar (Aberdeen)
  4. Andrew Dewey (Ayr)
  5. Linda Duncan (Fife)
  6. Marion Fletcher (Edinburgh)
  7. Rebecca Goodall (Inverness)
  8. Donna Jewell (Falkirk)
  9. Brenda Mackay (Fife)
  10. Paula Marshall (Denny)
  11. Robert McCourt (Glasgow)
  12. Mary McDevitt (Falkirk)
  13. Drena O’Malley (Glasgow)
  14. Mark Sherwin (Edinburgh)
  15. Linda Thomson (Glasgow)
  16. Helen Dunipace
  17. Yvonne Waddell


We know that there are many more interpreters all over Scotland that might be interested in becoming a student mentor, and in future years we will be looking for more mentors as student numbers increase, so if you are interested please contact Jemina Napier as the interpreting placement coordinator by email.

We would also like to thank Deaf BSL users in Scotland in advance for their support of our students, and hope that you will encourage them in their efforts to develop their skills to become professional interpreters. The students to look out for are:

  1. Rachel Amey
  2. Jude Caldwell
  3. Greg Colquhoun
  4. Niamh Cochrane
  5. Virginia Dugo
  6. Scott Ellerington
  7. Rachel Evans
  8. Jill Gallacher
  9. Nadia Krupova
  10. Helena Laverty
  11. Lisa Li
  12. Grace McNeill
  13. Samuel Rojas
  14. Marie Elliott

Community placement

We would also like to acknowledge the support of all the organisations throughout the UK that are providing community work placement experiences for our 3rd year students. The 3rd year placement is different from the 4th year placement as it takes place over a whole year, and students are required to work in two different organisations where BSL is used every day so that they can have immersion in the language and culture of Deaf people every day. While on placement, the students do project work or other tasks (but not interpreting) and participate in general organizational activities.

This year is the second year that organisations have hosted students on community work placements, and we are appreciative of the efforts that the organisations go to in order to support our students to develop their BSL skills and Deaf community and cultural awareness.

It has been a steep learning curve for us at Heriot-Watt University and also for our community organisation partners, as this is a new approach to sign language interpreter training and as far as we know Heriot-Watt University is the first programme in the world to require students to take a 1-year language immersion community placement. We could not make this happen without the close collaboration with Deaf BSL users and Deaf community organisations.

Graham H. Turner, Coordinator of the BSL Community Work Placements notes that:

“Heriot-Watt’s BSL team members have many years’ experience of interpreter education. We were very conscious of the widespread feeling that university-educated interpreters tend to know what to do in the classroom, but do not have the kind of profound appreciation of Deaf lives that comes from being close to the ‘beating heart’ of the community. Our partners are working with us to change that. We simply couldn’t create on our campus the kind of learning experience that they can offer. If our programme fully achieves its aims, it will be in no small part because of the contribution partner organisations are making to developing the interpreters that they wish to work with in the future.”

So we would like to thank all of the organisations listed below who have so far hosted students on community work placement:

Action on Deafness (Leicester)
Birmingham Institute of the Deaf (BID)
British Deaf Association (BDA Scotland & Northern Ireland)
Deaf Action (Edinburgh)
Deaf Connections (Glasgow)
Deaf Direct (Worcester)
Deafness Support Network (Northwich)
DeafPlus (London)
Deafway (Preston)
Deaf Links (Dundee)
Donaldsons School (Linlithgow)
Hampshire Deaf Association – Sonus (Southampton)
Manchester Deaf Centre (Manchester)
National Deaf Services/National Deaf CAMHS (London)
Nottinghamshire Deaf Society (Nottingham)
Royal Association for Deaf People (RAD) (London, Kent & Colchester)
Ericsson Access Services (formerly RedBee Media) (London)
Remark! (London)
Scottish Council on Deafness (Glasgow)
SignVideo (London & Glasgow)
Solar Bear (Glasgow)


We are always looking for new community partners, so any interested organisations can contact Graham H. Turner by email.

Finally, Gary Quinn, the Head of the BSL section at Heriot-Watt University says:

“As programme coordinator, I would like to thank all the interpreters and staff in the community organisations that are supporting the degree at Heriot-Watt University by giving our students the opportunity to develop more ‘real-life’ awareness of the Deaf and Interpreting communities in the UK. I know the students have appreciated your efforts to support their learning and each of you has contributed a vital part to our students’ development, which will undoubtedly make our graduates better prepared for the professional world of BSL/English Interpreting.”

In sum, we would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who has direct involvement in supporting students studying BSL/English interpreting at Heriot-Watt University and we wish our 4th year students who are about to go out on interpreting placement the best of luck and hope that they have a positive experience.


Sign Language in Action

by Jemina Napier

Click here to see this blog in International Sign, British Sign Language or Irish Sign Language

Jemina book

Sign Language in Action is a new book just published by Palgrave as part of the Research & Practice in Applied Linguistics series.

The book is co-authored by Jemina Napier and Lorraine Leeson, who both have extensive experience as sign language researchers, educators and interpreter practitioners – Jemina in the UK and Australia, and Lorraine in Ireland, with briefer stints in Belgium, the UK and the USA.

We have both conducted research and written extensively on various topics which can be considered under the umbrella of applied linguistics, including sign linguistics, sign language discourse, sign language and identity, sign language learning and teaching, and sign language interpreting and translation.

After many conversations on our mutual research interests, we decided to collaborate on writing this book to draw together all the threads from our research into one overview.

So the book defines the notion of applied sign linguistics by drawing on data from projects that have explored sign language in action in various domains. The data sources have been drawn from various studies have been conducted by us both.

As well as defining key concepts and giving an overview of existing research, the book provides clear guidance on conducting applied sign linguistics research, with suggestions for new research topics.

The book is targeted at sign language and sign language interpreting students, sign language teachers, researchers, interpreter practitioners and educators, Deaf Studies teachers and students, educators working with deaf children, and policy makers.

It will also be of interest to other people working with minority language communities and to scholars and practitioners in applied linguistics research more generally.

Following on from an earlier blog post by Jemina that discussed the ethics of conducting sign language interpreting research without deaf people involved, we feel it necessary to position ourselves in relation to the focus of this book, as neither of us are deaf.

So here, we discuss our role as hearing people doing sign language research, and our goals in writing this book.

The involvement of non-deaf people in the deaf community has been an on-going and vexatious issue. There has been long recognition of the value that ‘hearing’ people bring to the deaf community if they embrace the values of the community and can sign fluently enough to engage with deaf people.

There have been attempts to separate the identity of hearing people that are involved in the deaf community from those ‘other’ non-deaf people who do not use sign language and who are considered as ‘outsiders’ (see Napier, 2002; Ladd, 2003).

In the USA, there is currently much debate about the notion of interpreters having ‘Deaf-HEART’.

Others have suggested that there should be no reference to audiological status, and instead we should refer to a community of ‘sign language users’ (Bahan, 1997), ‘sign language persons’ (Jokinen, 2001) or ‘sign language peoples’ (Batterbury, 2012; Batterbury, Ladd & Gulliver, 2007).

Whichever convention you prefer, we identify ourselves as hearing people; we align ourselves with deaf people and their values based on our long involvement in the community, and we bring that subjectivity to our research and our writing.

There is also much debate in the deaf community and among researchers about the potential oppression that deaf people face in having non-deaf people conduct research on their community, with emphasis on the need for research to be with deaf sign language users (Sutherland & Young, 2014; Turner & Harrington, 2000) and to adopt a ‘community participatory approach’ (Emery, 2011; Napier & Sabolcec, et al, 2013; Young & Temple, 2014).

Consequently there is an emerging body of work that explores the need for ethical approaches to conducting sign language research in order to ensure that there is involvement from deaf sign language users in conducting the research; that deaf people’s views are taken into consideration; and that the research is ‘deaf-led’ (see Harris, Holmes & Mertens, 2009; Hochgesang , Villanueva, Mathur, Lillo-Martin, 2010; Mertens, 2010; Singleton, Jones & Hanumantha, 2012; Singleton, Martin & Morgan, 2015)

We do not see ourselves as positioned only in Deaf Studies. As linguists and interpreting studies researchers we see our work within a broader context of applied linguistics and intercultural communication, and the languages that we work with happen to include signed languages.

Thus our focus in our book is on sign language use, and not deafness.

We acknowledge though that although we are allies of the deaf community, we are not deaf, and therefore do not have shared life experience with deaf people. We are guests in the deaf community (as suggested by O’Brien & Emery, 2013), but we do have a strong philosophy of collaboration with the deaf community collectively and individually in all our research and practice.

We believe that it is important for deaf and hearing researchers to work together for the best interests of the worldwide deaf community, but we recognise the power we have as hearing people in the community and the historical backdrop of hearing researchers dominating the field.

We have ‘hearing privilege’, but privilege does not always have to occupy a negative position. We would assert that we accept the responsibility of having hearing privilege (Storme, 2014), and we use our hearing privilege positively to broker engagement and educate inside and outside the community.

 Because of our hearing privilege we get invited to do things like write a book, but we believe that we act in a way that is congruent with deaf cultural norms and values, and one of those values is reciprocity.

Adam (2015) talks about the importance of disseminating information about sign language research in sign language, and you will notice that the majority of blog posts about sign language research on the LifeinLINCS page have links to signed versions (including this one).

We would like to take this one step further – all the royalties from this book will be donated to the World Federation of the Deaf to support their on-going work with deaf sign language users throughout the world. So we are using our hearing privilege to give back to the deaf community.

This book focuses on sign language in action; where and how it is used, who by, and how we can research sign language in action in order to better understand the relationship between sign language use, culture and identity. For us, we have deliberately focussed our discussion on how deaf and hearing people use sign language, and the implications for learning and teaching and professional practice, in the hope that the information in the book will benefit all sign language users and the values of the deaf community worldwide.

On Deafhood Space

by Steve Emery


[English version]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justisigns: Promoting access to legal settings for deaf sign language users

Written by Robert Skinner

Click here to see a BSL version of this blog

How accessible is your local police force? Is your local police force prepared for a situation that involves a deaf person? What about the interpreting provisions? What specific training is needed to improve interpreting standards that go on to protect deaf individual’s rights when it comes to accessing the justice system?

Legislation is in place that recognises the human rights of deaf people to ensure equal access to the legal system. On 20 October 2010 the European Parliament adopted the Directive on the Rights to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings. This means everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:

  • to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
  • to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court

The principle that every European citizen is entitled to equal access to justice is well established and is enshrined in EU legislation and case law. EU Member State’s Public service providers are under an obligation to ensure equality of provision of their services across language and culture.

What does this mean for the average deaf European citizen? This means that your local Police Force is under an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate the provision of their service to deaf people. Before this can be acted upon police forces first need to know what equal access means, what steps need to be taken and how this can be delivered.

Justisigns is a 30-month project funded through the European Commission Leonardo Da Vinci Lifelong Learning Programme, and the aim of the project is to promote access to justice for deaf sign language users, with a particular focus on police settings. Jemina Napier, Graham Turner and Robert Skinner from the Languages & Intercultural Studies department at Heriot-Watt University are conducting the project in collaboration with consortium partners: Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Switzerland, KU Leuven in Belgium, efsli (European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters) and EULITA (European Legal Interpreters & Translators Association).

The project is scheduled to end in May 2016. The first phase of the project involved conducting a survey of the nature of legal interpreting provision for deaf people across Europe (Napier & Haug, in preparation). In sum, it was found that although there are some established provisions for legal sign language interpreting across Europe, it is inconsistent. Furthermore, there does not seem to be a uniform approach across Europe to the training/ certification of legal interpreters, and the (lack of) availability of interpreters for legal settings is a Europe-wide issue. It is, however, difficult to identify legal sign language interpreting needs when it is not possible to identify the number of deaf sign language users in the legal system

The consortium has decided to focus on deaf people’s access to interpreters in police interviews for the next stage of the project until May 2016, as this is an under researched area. The goal of the project is to collect data through focus groups and interviews with deaf people, interpreters and police officers about their experiences. The information we gather will then be used to develop training materials and to offer workshops/ courses to these key stakeholder groups. By applying research in this way we can ensure deaf people and interpreters influence how equal access to the legal system is established.

In the 1990s, a ground-breaking study ‘Equality before the Law’ from the Deaf Studies Research Unit at Durham University was published (Brennan & Brown, 1997). In this research a range of issues were identified such as:

  • Lack of understanding and appreciation from the legal profession around what it means to be deaf and be part of a linguistic/cultural minority group.
  • Negative attitudes towards interpreters.
  • The awareness and need to use a registered/qualified interpreter who has been trained to work in court/police settings. In many cases CSW or family/friends were used to act as interpreters.
  • Lack of training opportunities to prepare trained interpreters to effectively work in Court/Police settings.
  • Treatment of deaf people as mentally disabled or “dumb”.
  • Failure from legal professionals to make adjustments that enable the interpreter to do his/her job.
  • Failure from legal representatives to video tape interviews with deaf suspects/witness/victims.
  • The need to develop internal policies that promote the use of good practice, such as booking a qualified interpreter; filming an interview
  • Few deaf people understood their own legal rights.
  • Deaf people do not always understand the reasons for their convictions – thus questioning the outcome of their “rehabilitation”.
  • Challenges with providing a faithful and accurate interpretation between English into BSL and BSL into English

While this list represents a scary reality, where deaf people are at risk of being wrongly convicted, our preliminary research has found some level of progress in the UK over the last 18 years. For example:

  • There is legislation in place that insists on equality before the law.
  • It is recommended that only qualified interpreters are used in the legal system.
  • Some interpreters have received legal training.
  • Some police forces have in place policies to guide officers when it comes to interviewing deaf suspects/witnesses/victims.
  • A few police forces in the UK have begun to develop online videos, recognising the specific linguistic and cultural needs of the deaf community.
  • Deaf professionals are now working within the legal system.

What our research so far reveals is that some forms of good practice exists. Unfortunately, we are not seeing a consistent approach to ensuring that the rights of deaf people are protected. Often good practice is achieved because individuals recognise the linguistic and cultural differences of deaf people. This tell us that what is needed is quite basic, a shared recognition and appreciation that deaf people belong to a distinct linguistic and cultural community. Once this definition has accepted the values of the legal system can begin to meet the needs of this community. The linguistic challenges interpreters experience in legal settings still persist, many of these challenges appear because of how the language is used and the vocabulary differences between English and BSL.

The Justisigns work is not complete. We are still running further focus groups and interviews. To support our research we are looking for volunteers in Scotland and England to participate. If you would like to contact us about your experience please email r.skinner@hw.ac.uk.

The evidence we collect will be used to inform the development of training materials and recommended guidelines for police forces.

A research symposium will also be held as part of the project on Saturday 7th November 2015, to discuss various methodological approaches to conducting interpreting research in legal settings. See http://ctiss.hw.ac.uk/seminars/justisigns.html or http://artisinitiative.org/events/artisheriot-watt2015/

More information about the project can be seen here: http://www.justisigns.com/JUSTISIGNS_Project/About.html with a version in BSL at http://www.justisigns.com/justisigns_sls/BSL.html

All information collected through the research will remain confidential. The project has received ethics approval from the Heriot-Watt University School of Management & Languages Ethics office.

Collaboration and innovation to explore sign language brokering experiences

by Jemina Napier

Click here to see this post in British Sign Language

Previous blogs have reported how I am conducting research on experiences of language brokering in the Deaf community, which looks at the communication support that both deaf and hearing PDFs (People from Deaf Families) give to their deaf parents to communicate with hearing people.

This is an under-researched area, I think mostly because of the taboos associated with kids ‘interpreting’ for their parents. Previous research has typically focussed on the negative experiences of hearing PDFs, the ‘conflict’ that arises for kids in taking on a language brokering role, without giving consideration to the deaf parents’ perspective or considering that deaf children (and adults) also broker for their deaf parents. So it is important to explore the positive and negative experiences from the perspective of all the people involved.

So I am working in collaboration with two organisations: CODA UK & Ireland and Deaf Parenting UK, to jointly offer a workshop for children and their deaf parents as part of the project.

The workshop will take place at the Rycote Centre, Parker Street Derby DE1 3HF on SUNDAY 29th MARCH 2015 from 10am-4.15pm.

Using innovative arts-based research and visual research methodologies, encompassing drawing and photo-response (visual elicitation) tasks, as well as vignette methodology, the day will enable participants to explore their experiences of sign language brokering. These innovative methodologies have been previously used to explore child language brokering in schools in the UK and Italy with children from migrant families using various spoken languages.

The day will involve an art workshop for kids (facilitated by me) and a discussion group for deaf parents, facilitated by Nicole Campbell who is Project Coordinator at Deaf Parenting UK.

The workshop is *free*, and lunch will be provided. Families will be offered a £20 gift card to cover travel expenses, and there will be prizes for the kids.

To register for the workshop, email: MARIE@CODAUKIRELAND.CO.UK

Deaf parents with deaf or hearing children are welcome. Maximum 20 places in each workshop, so register soon!

Registration deadline: 15th March 2015

For more information about the workshop content, you can send me a personal message through Facebook or email me at j.napier@hw.ac.uk

Interpreting for deaf jurors


http://youtu.be/_7uYtXD_J34 (BSL version)

Jury service in adversarial court systems is an important civic duty and responsibility. Jurors have to understand and weigh up evidence presented, assess the credibility of witnesses and decide on the likelihood of certain events having occurred in the light of their own personal experiences.

There has been increasing interest in whether deaf sign language users should be permitted to serve as jurors. In the USA deaf people have been serving as jurors in criminal trials since 1979. Legal challenges in the UK and Ireland have established that deaf people have the capacity to make decisions as jurors, and can sufficiently comprehend courtroom discourse and jury deliberations through a sign language interpreter (Heffernan, 2010). A deaf woman served on an inquest jury in the UK in 2011, and in Ireland they have increased the pool of potential jurors, but deaf people still cannot serve as jurors in criminal trials in either country (Farrell, 2013).

In early 2014, Gaye Lyons in Australia lost her discrimination case for being turned away from jury service, and may take a complaint to the United Nations. On a positive note, more recently Drisana Levitzke-Gray was the first deaf sign language user in Australia to participate in the jury selection process with an interpreter, although she did not get selected onto the final jury. This month a deaf woman in Scotland has been summoned for jury service and intends to ask for an interpreter.

The sticking point is the long-held common law that there cannot be a non-juror ‘stranger’ (i.e., an interpreter) as a 13th person in the jury room. The main concern has been that interpreters would inappropriately participate in confidential jury deliberations. As interpreters, we know that we are bound by a code of ethics, which requires us to remain impartial and uphold confidentiality.

There is no evidence for the impact that an interpreter may have as 13th person in the jury room on the sanctity of jury deliberations, either negative or positive. The only empirical research on deaf jurors to date has been conducted by Jemina Napier and David Spencer (2006, 2008), which has provided evidence that deaf and hearing jurors equally misunderstood content of jury instructions, and therefore deaf people are not disadvantaged by relying on sign language interpreters; and that legal professionals and sign language interpreters surveyed perceive that with supportive and clear policies and guidelines, and sufficient training for interpreters and court staff/stakeholders, deaf people can successfully serve as jurors (Napier, 2013).

Yet there is a lack of evidence for what actually happens in the jury deliberation room, and whether the assumption that the presence of an interpreter could impact (negatively) on the deliberation process is valid. Currently, Jemina Napier and David Spencer are working with a bigger team of experts in interpreting and law research, including Sandra Hale, Debra Russell and Mehera San Roque, on an Australian Research Council funded project to conduct a case study of a mock- criminal trial and jury deliberations with a deaf juror and interpreters to focus specifically on the analysis of interactions in the jury deliberation room.

The outcomes of this research have the potential to pioneer law reform worldwide, and have an impact on the provision of interpreting services in courts for deaf people. Watch this space…

Author: Jemina Napier

Sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community

Many people will have seen the video of the cute young girl Claire Koch singing Christmas carols and simultaneously signing the songs in American Sign Language for her deaf parents that went viral in December 2013. The general response was the feel good factor – how amazing, considerate and talented this little girl is.

Children like Claire are often referred to as ‘Children of Deaf Adults’ – Codas. This term is typically used as an overarching term for people of any age whose parents are (or were) deaf; sometimes, however, the term Koda (i.e., Kids of Deaf Adults) is used to distinguish between adults and young people.

Apart from her obviously impressive bilingual skills, the video also highlights one aspect of society that is often hidden from public view – the fact that young bilingual children often function as ‘language brokers’ for their parents or family members. What this little girl was doing was ‘brokering’ to help her parents understand a message that they would not otherwise have been able to access.

Language brokering

The term ‘brokering’ (rather than ‘interpreting’) is used specifically in relation to the experience of children assisting their parents with communication as it “focuses attention on the whole cultural meaning of such an event, in which any interpretation is simply a part” (Hall, 2004, p.285). There is a range of research studies that have explored ‘child language brokering’ experiences with immigrant children in different countries, that reveal how children will often broker for their parents in a range of contexts, and may feel empowered and at other times burdened (Orellana, Dorner & Pulido, 2003) by the experience.

Professional sign language interpreters have, until relatively recently, traditionally been Codas (Napier, McKee & Goswell, 2010), and some will have brokered from a young age. Since the introduction of professional sign language interpreting services, people often assume that children no longer need to interpret for their deaf parents. However, based on anecdotal observation, and Jemina Napier’s preliminary research (in press) with deaf and hearing people that have deaf parents, this is not the case. Napier’s international survey of 240 deaf and hearing Codas revealed that their experience mirrors those of spoken language child brokers: many of them had brokered from as early as 4 or 5 years old, and they felt their brokering experiences contributed to their positive self-esteem.

Claire’s father was quick to clarify in a Vlog post that they do not expect their 5-year old daughter to interpret for them, and that there was in fact a professional interpreter present at the Christmas concert, but their daughter wanted her parents to watch her directly.

For many years, deaf people have asserted their right to a professional interpreter and assured themselves and others that they do not ask their children to interpret for them. Perhaps not, but the video of Claire supports Napier’s research in revealing that Codas still broker for their parents, and they may not have been asked – they volunteer.

Desire to help

The developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello and his colleagues have produced various articles (e.g., 20112013) that indicate that toddlers and young children have a natural instinct to want to help others, and they go to great lengths to cooperate with adults. This may explain why Codas still offer to broker for their deaf parents, even when it is not required of them: the children know that their parents cannot hear what is being said, so it is a natural instinct for them to want to help their parents to understand by signing for them.

Professional signed language interpreters have traditionally ‘evolved’ from the Deaf community (Cokely, 2005), but since the introduction of formal interpreter training programs anyone can choose to be a sign language interpreter (Stone, 2008) and be ‘schooled’ into the profession. Fewer Codas seem to be choosing to work as professional interpreters, or we are experiencing attrition from interpreter education programs as Codas do not complete the course of study, meaning that fewer interpreters come from the Deaf community (Cokely, 2005). So what happens to the earlier ‘desire to help’ that can be seen in young Kodas?

There are still huge supply and demand imbalances in the signed language interpreting sector worldwide, so more people need to be attracted to the profession, regardless of whether they are Codas or not. Many Codas still continue to broker for their parents when they are adults, even if other professional interpreters are available, because it is the only legitimate option due to the family member being the only professional interpreter that can understand the deaf person, for example, due to onset of dementia (Major, 2013).

Plus Codas who work as professional interpreters still feel undervalued in terms of what they bring to the profession, and want to have it recognized that although they may have grown up doing language brokering, they have still worked hard to develop their professional interpreting skills (Williamson, 2012), and can “bring value” to the profession (Colonomos, 2013), but should not be automatically valorised.

Thus it is vital to explore the nature of language brokering that is performed by Codas for several reasons:

(i)  to gain a clearer picture of the interpreting needs of the Deaf community, to account for interpreting demand that may currently be ‘masked’ by the fact that supply is met by children rather than professional interpreters;

(ii) to ascertain how the Coda brokering experience can be harnessed into positive linguistic and social competence, and mentor Codas into becoming professional interpreters and translators (such as Angelelli 2010 suggests for young spoken language bilinguals); and

(iii)  to draw parallels with the experience of immigrant children to inform community interpreting policy and practice more generally for all languages in the UK, Europe and internationally.

Although Napier’s initial survey study was useful for “sketching the broad contours of the [brokering] practice” (Orellana, 2010, p.51), more research is needed to further contribute to the body of child language brokering research and explore “how adults narrate their experiences as child language brokers, and how their perspectives on their language brokering experience change as they grow from children into adults” (Bauer, 2010, p.127). Furthermore, it is also necessary to explore the language brokering experiences from the young Codas themselves, and deaf parents’ and other stakeholders perceptions of their language brokering experiences (as Cirillo & Torresi, 2010 did in Italy regarding institutional expectations with spoken language brokers). Thus further replication of spoken CLB research is needed.

The next step will be to replicate the work of Valdes et al (2003) with Latino children, and conduct a qualitative, ethnographic study involving interviews, focus groups, non-participant observations and simulated interpreting tasks to observe ‘language brokering in action’ (Orellana, 2009, 2010). This approach will enable us to examine sign language brokering experiences of Codas in more depth, and from different perspectives, and build upon the findings of Napier’s survey study.

2014 and beyond

Therefore as of 2014, Jemina Napier and her research team in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies at Heriot-Watt University will begin the next phase of research to explore sign language brokering experiences in the Deaf community. The research will build on the initial survey study, and involve focus groups with deaf parents, Codas/ Kodas, sign language interpreters and hearing service providers.

The research team includes people that represent each of the key stakeholder groups: (1) Professor Jemina Napier, who is a Coda and interpreter; (2) Clare Canton is a deaf parent of three hearing Codas and a qualified deaf interpreter, who is a PhD student on the project; and (3) Yvonne Waddell, who is a hearing (non-Coda) qualified interpreter and is also a PhD student on the project. See: http://lifeinlincs.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/whos-who-in-bsl-at-heriot-watt-university/ for a profile of each member of the research team, and also the BSL teaching and research team at Heriot-Watt University.

It is envisaged that the project will be carried out in collaboration with key organisations who represent the Deaf, sign language interpreting and Coda communities. It is vital to carry out this project in collaboration with the Deaf community, deaf parents and sign language interpreters in order to ensure that the communities can directly benefit from the research findings.

To see a summary of this article in International Sign click here

For more information, or to participate in the project, please contact Jemina Napier:

Email – j.napier@hw.ac.uk

Facebook – Jemina Napier

Twitter – @JeminaNapier

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.