Language exchanges made simple

LINCS is glad to announce that this academic year (2019-20), a Language Tandem app will be running after the huge success and very positive feedback received last year. This app is intended to get Heriot-Watt students (and staff, if they so wish) in touch so that they can practice their languages.

Language Tandem App – what is it?

Language Tandem App is designed and developed for and by Heriot-Watt University students under the guidance José M Conde and Liz Thoday (LINCS) and Santiago Chumbe (MACS).  

The app aims to help language learners find conversation partners. Think Tinder, but with languages!

How does it work?

It’s very easy. You just need to sign up with your Heriot-Watt University email account. The first page you encounter should look something like this:

To sign up you’ll need your HWU credentials, and once you’re in, you’ll need to create a profile. We recommend that you create a profile that represents who you are. Don’t be shy, let others know what your interests are, it could be anything from football to manga. Once you find someone that matches your profile, say hi to them, get a conversation started and in no time you could be meeting socially to practice your foreign language.


“I found the app very useful, I was able to speak with my match in the foreign language I am studying (Spanish) and they spoke to me in English to improve, giving each other feedback as we went along.”
(anonymous feedback)

The idea is for students meet regularly and practice English for, say, 30 minutes, and another language (there are many to choose from!) for another 30 minutes. This is a brilliant opportunity for people who need an extra little bit of conversation practice, and for this reason, we’ve created a platform where you’re in control, you decide who you want to meet up with, and you decide what languages you want to practice!


“Very useful as it is a great way to find people that are able to help you and want to chat in a casual setting”  (anonymous feedback)

DESIGNS Project : Wrapping up

By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier 

May 2019 

In this blogpost, Jemina Napier and Audrey Cameron provide an update on the work that has been done on the DESIGNS project (promoting access in employment for deaf sign language users in Europe) since our last blog/vlog in October 2018.

The project is coming to an end on 30 June and most of the work in the past 6 months has been focusing on developing training materials, running pilot workshops for employers, sign language interpreters and deaf people and disseminating the project data:

Training – workshops

2018.11.08    Employers’ workshop in partnership with Vercida in South Bank                                           University

2018.12.07    Sign language interpreters’ workshop in Antwerp, Belgium – DESIGNS team

2019.03.05    Masterclass workshop for deaf people, sign language interpreters and employers – in partnership with Deaf Action and Deaf2Work in Deaf Action, Edinburgh

2019.03.27    Employers’ workshop in Heriot-Watt University

2019.04.27    EDSU & CDY’s ‘Studying your way into employment’ seminar in Prague, Czech

Dissemination

2019.02.23    Deaf Spaces in the Workplace conference in York St. John’s University, York – organised by Dr Dai O’Brien and other speakers were Dr Nicola Nunn of UCLAN and Mette Sommer of Heriot-Watt University https://youtu.be/mKWhTV29CP8

2019.03.05    EdSign lecture in University of Edinburgh

2019.04.09    Employment of sign language users in Europe – Policy & Practice Implications at European Parliament – hosted by Helga Stevens – to present project research findings – Adam Kosa MEP  and the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (developing EU strategy for employment for disabled people). 

Up to the end of June, we are continuing to finalise the training materials and filming case studies for the DESIGNS project website.  The next update is due in June where we will introduce the finalised material.

Below is an English translation of the update that is presented in BSL.

Hello! (both)

Jemina: We’re here to give you an update on the DESIGNS Project, which is to do with deaf employment and interpreting. The last project update was November last year, so we thought it was high time we let you know what we’ve been doing over the last 6 months.

Audrey: … yes, we’ve got a lot to tell you.

Jemina: We’ve got a number of things to cover so we’ll alternate between us. So, the first thing to say is that we’ve been out there delivering a lot of training sessions – sorry I need to refer to my notes here to remind me of everything we’ve done…..  Audrey and I went down to London to run a training session for employers in partnership with an organisation called Vercida, who encourages employers of large organisations to recruit disabled people and embrace diversity; when larger organisations are looking for advice about how develop a more diverse workforce, Vercida are the people they go which also makes them a perfect fit for fits perfectly this project.  Vercida helped us find three employers but we were hoping to have more but really this session was more of a pilot.

As part of the DESIGNS Project, we interviewed employers, deaf sign language users and interpreters and we shared our research findings with those employers so that if they were looking to recruit deaf people they would have an idea of what it’s like and we could see that they found that really useful. From the evaluation at the end there were clearly things they hadn’t known about deaf people and interpreters, so they definitely found the session helpful.

We used that session to help us to develop another Master Class that we delivered here in Edinburgh in partnership with Deaf Action, which is a local deaf community organisation based in Edinburgh. We developed and ran this in conjunction with their employment service and interpreting service and some other people from here at Heriot Watt…

Audrey: … and from Deaf2Work…

Jemina: … yes Tony Barlow, who is a deaf employment consultant has a company called Deaf2Work so we all worked in conjunction with one another deliver this Master Class. What was really interesting was that we had a group of employers (some of whom had experience of working with deaf people and some who didn’t); a group of interpreters and a group of deaf people.  We started the day together and then spit into our respective groups and we tailored the content accordingly. Then we all came back together to watch a role play of an interview involving an interpreter, a deaf person and an employer and that was fascinating and generated a lot of valuable discussion.

Interpreters’ session
Employers’ session
Deaf participants’ session

… Audrey and I were also involved in delivering a training workshop with the rest of the consortium over in Antwerp for a group of about 40 sign language interpreters from all over Europe (both deaf and hearing) with some having travelled some considerable distance to get there. We presented a lot of the findings from the DESIGNS Project plus again using roleplays, we gave to them an idea what it’s like interpreting for job interviews. That was really interesting and a good experience…

Audrey: … a lot of them wanted to know how to work with deaf people at job interviews which was clearly a worry for them and I think the training was really useful in that respect.

Jemina: So altogether that’s 4 training events we’ve delivered and even more recently Audrey went to the EDSU The European Deaf Students conference in Prague…

Audrey: … yes…

Jemina … and ran a workshop on the DESIGNS Project at which she talked about deaf employment, creating a CV and the barriers deaf people face around employment. This was for students all of whom are currently studying at University level and starting to think about their career path… that was a two hour workshop…

Audrey: … two and a half hours

Jemina: … so another two and a half hours linked to the DESIGNS Project which is good. That’s those 4 different training workshops covered. Ok, now I’ll hand over to you Audrey…

Credit to EDSU

Audrey:   Jemina and I have not just been focusing on training; we’ve also been out there disseminating the data and the findings from the DESIGNS Project. Since November we’ve attended a number of events. The first was in York at St John’s University, which was organised by Dai O’Brien who’s been doing research on what employment for deaf people is like in Higher Education. I, along with Mette Sommer (who is a PhD student here at Heriot Watt) and Nicola Nunn for UCLAN also gave presentations and incorporated our experiences of working in that environment with interpreters. That was a good conference and there were a lot of people there…

Jemina:… and lots of questions and a great deal of interest in the project.

Audrey:   Jemina and I have not just been focusing on training; we’ve also been out there disseminating the data and the findings from the DESIGNS Project. Since November we’ve attended a number of events. The first was in York at St John’s University, which was organised by Dai O’Brien who’s been doing research on what employment for deaf people is like in Higher Education. I, along with Mette Sommer (who is a PhD student here at Heriot Watt) and Nicola Nunn for UCLAN also gave presentations and incorporated our experiences of working in that environment with interpreters. That was a good conference and there were a lot of people there…

Jemina:… and lots of questions and a great deal of interest in the project.

Audrey: … they were very keen to have the training pack that will help people get into work and that’s one of the aims for the project …

The second dissemination event was back in March where we’d been invited to present at one of the ‘EdSign’ series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh which are run by four universities – Queen Margaret University, Heriot Watt and Edinburgh… that’s only three isn’t it Jemina?! … sorry it’s three not four! So as I said they invite different speakers to come along and we presented for a couple of hours… or was it an hour?

Jemina: … about an hour…

Audrey: … for a hour and that went well. It was also live streamed; we’ll put the link up so you can watch our presentation if you’re interested. 

Link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtBj16gxjQw&feature=youtu.be

… and thirdly we were recently at the European Parliament – Helga Stevens who is deaf and an MEP hosted an event at which she invited us to share the our findings from the DESIGNS Project. We were able to present these to MEPs and the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion came along to listen and I think he soon realised the need to deliver better access to employment and that was good… that was in April.

Jemina: Really that was the last ‘official’ event of the DESIGNS Project because now we’re starting the process of bringing things to a close and finishing off.

We held the last project meeting the day before the event at the European Parliament. All the other project partners gathered together to work out what we still had left to do and to make sure we tidied up any loose ends and then the next day we were at the parliament.

Audrey: But we’re not finished just yet. The report still has to be written and we are filming case studies with employers, deaf people and interpreters for the website and what else…? And then working on the training pack which will also be put up on the website. Then, when absolutely everything is done we’re going to have another Facebook livestream where we’ll be showing you what resources we’ve got and that will be soon – when do you think that will be Jemina?

Jemina: … probably later in the year. Here at Heriot Watt, the project officially ends at the of June; after that we’ll have a few things to tidy up and unfortunately that’ll mean Audrey and I will no longer be working with one another on the project… but who knows maybe we’ll get to work again on something in the future… we’ll see… 

Audrey: But this project has been so worthwhile doing…

Jemina: There will also be more information coming out in BSL – for example, there will be a BSL version of the summary of the research report and summaries of some of the training materials Audrey mentioned so we’ll be back with more information about those another time.

Bye!

Sign language researchers talk research!

By Jemina Napier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Translating and Interpreting in Modern Times: The Impact of Technology

by Lucas Pira

On Wednesday 3rd October, to celebrate International Translation Day, the Heriot-Watt Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) hosted a symposium on a topic that will dominate the translation and interpreting conversation for years to come: technology. CTISS director, Jemina Napier, and Head of French Section, Fanny Chouc, organised an event that featured three interesting and insightful presentations by Rebecca Elder, Robert Skinner and Sarah Fisher, on the place of technology in the daily life of a translator or interpreter.

Rebecca Elder, a recent HWU graduate and now freelance translator, showed us how she uses technology for work purposes. She also gave us an insight into the way she works and provided some helpful tips for starting a career as a Freelance translator by tackling seven specific challenges.  To the question, “Is technology a friend or foe?” Rebecca stated she does not think technology will replace translators anytime soon but new tasks such as post editing of machine translation will have to be taken into consideration. She also underlined the importance of having a CAT tool before moving on to discuss how to technology can help establish a presence on the market and overcome a lack of experience, or what is popularly referred to as “impostor syndrome”. Rebecca’s presentation was an invaluable source of information, giving precious advice, derived from her own experiences, on how to begin a career as a freelance translator.

Robert Skinner, a current PHD student at HWU and professional BSL interpreter, discussed video-mediated interpreting for non-emergency calls to the police. BSL interpreters have long been at the forefront of technology, but even so, Robert revealed how interpreters and users still face a number of challenges with Video Relay Services and Video Remote Interpreting. BSL interpreters working remotely, for example, have to think about how they introduce themselves to the user. He gave us an example of an Italian interpreter who practically assumed the role of a Police officer. Interpreters also have to think about how they communicate with the police and deaf users at the same time, often forced to speak two languages simultaneously.

Our final speaker, Sarah Fisher, a former HWU MSc student & professional conference interpreter, talked about conference interpreters’ perceptions of the impact of technology on their work. Her research focusses on the use of technology in the booth among interpreters and on the sociocultural impact technology has on the profession.  Sarah has conducted numerous interviews with practicing interpreters, revealing an overall increase in the use of technology in this field. Nowadays, interpreters bring their laptops to facilitate their task, and they also make the most of social media, both as a way to build their own profiles and to stay connected to other interpreting professionals. According to her data, however, conference interpreters value these tools as back up rather than as something that will replace the traditional pen-and-paper toolkit.

Most interestingly, conference interpreters seem to have a keen sense of the sociocultural aspects of technology and the negative impact it has on the profession. Sarah revealed that there is a growing sense that technology has a negative impact on the visibility of interpreting professionals, who worry that they’ll be viewed as just “a voice that could be anywhere, that could be anyone.” Perhaps this is why technology is such an important area, and one that needs to be discussed further and in broader terms, because some of the perceived challenges translators and interpreters face in this new technological age can only be overcome by viewing technology as an ally rather than an enemy.

Sign language interpreting in employment settings: Dissemination and training DESIGNS project update October 2018

By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier

Link to version in BSL to be embedded in the website: https://youtu.be/8hJKNgOVbjc

In this blogpost, Jemina Napier and Audrey Cameron provide an update on the work that has been done on the DESIGNS project (promoting access in employment for deaf people) since our last blog/vlog in May 2018.

 

The past 5 months, work has focused on analysis of the interview data and writing the project report for the European Commission and also disseminating the project data:

  1. Facebook livestream event in June 2018 with 1,800 viewers
  2. efsli conference in Croatia in September 2018 – where the theme was Interpreters working in employment”.
  3. Association of Sign Language Interpreters (ASLI)’s webinar in September 2018

 

We are now working on developing training materials for employers and sign language interpreters working with deaf people.  There will be two workshops, one in November and another in December:

  1.  Employers’ workshop in partnership with Vercida
  2. Sign language interpreters’ workshop in partnership with Deaf Action

The next update is due in the New Year.

Below is an English translation of the update that was presented in BSL.

Audrey:  We just wanted to update you about some of the exciting work we have been doing on the DESIGNS project over the past 5 months.  We have both been busy attending events and letting people know about the project.  The report for the European Commission is almost completed and then, after it has formally been presented to them, it will be made available for people to look at.

Jemina:  Do you remember back in May, Audrey and I were talking about some of the things we had planned?  Well, one of those was a Facebook livestream event, which we did the following month, with Mette Sommer, and Emmy Kauling; Audrey and I talked about the research we are doing here as part of the DESIGNS project and the other two explained about the research they were doing which is about also about deaf people and employment. Amazingly, we got 1,800 views, with people either watching it live, or afterwards when it had been uploaded.  So, if you haven’t yet seen it and you’re interested, go to Heriot Watt ‘Life in LINCS’ Facebook page and you’ll see the uploaded video there… wow, when I think about it, one thousand eight hundred views, that’s a lot!

Audrey:  I do think that livestreaming is a good way of connecting with the Deaf community and keeping people informed.  Whereas in the past, we would need a room and invite people along, this way we can let everybody throughout the whole of the UK know what is going on all at the same time.  The other advantage with livestreaming are the questions that people post, which we were then able to respond live and in real time.

Jemina:  That’s right, people typed in their comments and they would then pop up – we relayed their questions to everyone in BSL and were able to respond; it is really interactive.

Audrey:  What was also good about it was that we had our PowerPoint slides displayed behind us, so that people watching could see the information we were referring to, so hopefully we will line up a few more of those in the coming months.

After the live stream event I went to Croatia for the Efsli (the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters) conference in Dubrovnik – where the theme was ‘Interpreters working in Employment’ which is obviously the focus of the DESIGNS project.  I went to represent the team here in the UK and my colleagues from both Germany and Ireland were also there, along with 300 delegates, most of whom were interpreters from all over Europe.  It was fascinating – at the very start of the conference we all took our seats and then the question was asked ‘Who here is from England?’ and they would stand up and everyone would wave. There were loads of different countries represented, I’d say about 30, not just in Europe but from around the world, from Australia, America, Canada, Mexico… it was great for us being able to present the data from this project to so many people; for some it was probably something to bear in mind if they’re looking to improve things in back in their own countries; for others it might have been a reminder that they’d had similar experiences in the past.

Jemina:  You gave a presentation at the conference…

Audrey:  … yes, along with Christian Rathmann. We had about half an hour to talk about the project.  There was one presentation by two designated interpreters from Austria working with a deaf pharmacist.  They talked about what it was like – that was good.

What else? This year was the first time they had interpreters from Russia at the conference – there was a booth at the back of the room with an interpreter plugged in with a head mic working into Russian, so that was something a bit different.  The presentation from Russia was amazing. They showed a film of all these factories in Russia which have many deaf people working in them and who then all live nearby.  There were also photos and apparently, the ratio of interpreters to deaf people is one in fifty. The conference was good and over the two days, there were many references made to deaf employment.

Jemina:  After the conference and all those presentations, I recently delivered a training webinar for ASLI, the interpreting association here in the UK.  I gave a presentation and facilitated a discussion online and I think we had about 40 participants watching.  I explained to them all about the DESIGNS project and picked out some themes from a Europe-wide perspective. Then we focussed in on the UK and I explained how we’d interviewed deaf people, employers and interpreters, so I was talking to them about BSL interpreters and what we’d found here in the UK.  It was interesting – there were lots of questions; they were looking for any tips we might have that could help improve things, because they are all too aware of the barriers.  Whilst the government makes money available via ATW that does not mean that interpreters are automatically provided and everything goes smoothly, so it was interesting to have that discussion with them, and the feedback from the session was good as well.

Audrey: … and that’s why we’re looking to arrange further training sessions like that including a session in November for employers, because of them don’t know how to recruit deaf people or how to work with interpreters. We are doing that in partnership with Vercida…

Jemina: … Yes, they provide a platform to support employers to recruit disabled people across the board; they have really supported us a lot with this project, helping us to make contact with employers.

Audrey:  We are also going to work in with them to set the training for employers and when we have something, we feel works well, we will make it available online and then it will be shared with everyone…

Jemina: … that will act as a pilot. Then we will be doing training for interpreters here in Scotland in partnership with Deaf Action in Edinburgh, where they have an employment service and an interpreting service.  The training will be more practical, as opposed to the Asli webinar, which had more of a presentational style, sharing the data and the findings and etc. This will be much more ‘hands on’ for working interpreters.  We are hoping to have about 20 interpreters at the session in December.

Audrey:   We will be taking all the data we have gathered from the interviews we have conducted and sharing that with employers and interpreters.

Our next whole team project meeting is in Antwerp in Belgium in December where we will be discussing next steps.

Jemina:  Plus as a project team we’ll delivering training in partnership with efsli for interpreters from all over Europe and those who train interpreters; that will build on what we’ve done so far and we’ll do that while we’re there in Antwerp. Then a week later, we will both be delivering training here in the UK.

So that’s pretty much everything we are doing…

Audrey:  I am looking forward to it. The training is important if we are to start removing the barriers that deaf people face trying to find employment and it is why we are setting that up for employers and interpreters. The training for deaf people will be starting next year, isn’t that right?

Jemina:  Yes, exciting times, so keep an eye out for further updates!

 

*Thanks to Ramon Woolfe for sharing his photos taken at the efsli event.

On audio-recorded presentations, Australian accents, and translated deaf selves

By: Annelies Kusters and Jemina Napier

International Sign version: https://vimeo.com/289892708

This blogpost was originally posted on the Mobile Deaf website on Friday 14th September 2018. See: http://mobiledeaf.org.uk/on-audio/

Annelies:

What do people think when they see a signing person on stage, and hear a simultaneous interpretation?

On Thursday 6 September, I gave a keynote presentation at BAAL titled “Sign multilingual and translingual practices and ideologies”. It was the first presentation of the conference and a number of people tweeted. One of the tweets read:

I wasn’t using a pre-recorded audio-file from which I was interpreting myself. I am a deaf scholar. I presented in British Sign Language and was interpreted into spoken English by Jemina Napier. This is the typical practice for deaf academics presenting at conferences.

My deaf colleagues, the team of interpreters and I initially laughed at the misunderstanding, and the Tweeter also realised his mistake quickly, writing:

However, rather than just waving it away as the umpteenth ignorant comment about deaf people, another funny anecdote to share with my friends, this also made me think. I am in a pivotal moment in my academic career in that I’m becoming more visible. Did it even occur to the Tweeter that I was deaf, and that me signing my presentation in British Sign Language was not an attempt at being innovative but simply the best option at hand (sic) for me? In other words: why not assume immediately that this signing person on stage in a mainstream conference is most probably deaf? Do people not think that deaf people can be academics who can get invited as keynote presenters in this kind of conferences?

Example two. During one of the breaks at the same BAAL conference, another scholar from another British university approached me. He said he had seen me on the screen: the hall where the keynote happened was full and he was watching the livestream in another room. Apparently he initially thought I was speaking and signing at the same time, and was puzzled about my Australian accent. Only later, he realised that I was working with an interpreter (and if I would have an accent in English, a language I do write but not speak, it would certainly not sound Australian!).

Example three. After another applied linguistics conference where I gave a keynote earlier this year, the TLANG closing event, someone wrote about my keynote presentation “Her keynote was an especially engaging end to the day as it was impressively and seamlessly presented in both sign language and spoken English.“ (https://channelviewpublications.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/communication-in-the-multilingual-city-the-tlang-conference/)

At that conference, I was interpreted into English by Christopher Stone. A simultaneous interpretation is not a simultaneous presentation1.

Example four. I taught in a summer school in Denmark a few years ago. I was teaching in International Sign and two interpreters were interpreting into spoken English. Several students thought that the interpreters were the teachers, and that I was the interpreter. And this was on (already) day three of the five day summer school. Go figure.

DESIGNS project update May 2018: Access in employment for in deaf people

By Audrey Cameron & Jemina Napier

 

In this blogpost Audrey Cameron and Jemina Napier provide an update on the work that’s been done on the DESIGNS Project (promoting access in employment for deaf people) since our last blog/vlog post in  December 2017.

Interviews with interpreters working in employment settings and employers have now been completed and analysis of the data has begun. We will be presenting some of the early findings at the next DESIGNS community information event in Berlin in June. On the 14th June, from 6:30pm, we’ll be live streaming another information sharing event via Facebook with presentations from Audrey Cameron, Jemina Napier and PhD students Emmy Kauling and Mette Sommer.

We are grateful to Vercida and to members of the DESIGNS project advisory group for helping us identify employers willing to participate in the research and our thanks also go to those employers who agreed to be interviewed about their experiences of working with deaf sign language users.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to all those who have given up their time to contribute to the project.

The DESIGNS project runs until June 2019 – the next update is due after the summer.

Below is a transcript of the update in BSL.

 

Jemina: We’re here today to give you a bit of an update on the work the two of us have been doing on the DESIGNS Project since December – was it December?

Audrey: … before Christmas, yes…

Jemina: … so we want to tell you what we’ve been doing over the past 4…?

Audrey: … I think it’s been 5…

Jemina: … 5 months.

Audrey: Well, the time has really flown by since it all started over 6 months ago.

So let me update you on a few things. As mentioned in a previous blogpost, we’ve been interviewing people from three different groups – deaf people, interpreters and employers. Well that’s now been done and we’ve collected some amazing data – it’s good isn’t it, Jemina?

Jemina: Yes – there’s a lot of it!

Audrey: The next thing is to do the analysis and start identifying the key themes – whether they’re the same amongst all three groups, what the difficulties or positives have been; what the differences might be, so that’s what we’re working on at the moment.

Jemina: We will be giving you more information about what we’ve found as we go on and at the end of this Vlog we’ll be telling you about one way you can find out more about those findings!

Audrey: Yes!

We want to thank both our Advisory Group and Vercida for helping us to identify employers who were willing to be interviewed for the project – without them it would have been difficult for us to find them and ask about their experiences, so again thanks to them.

Jemina: Yes… we’ve also had an Advisory Group meeting, do you want to talk about that?

Audrey: Last January we had a meeting with, was it 6 Members of the advisory group? It felt a bit strange, we had the meeting online so they all appeared in boxes on the screen and we were signing to one another via Skype, but it worked well and we have another meeting like that in June. The Advisory Group members are from all over the UK, which why we have to use Skype, but like I say, it was good meeting.

Jemina: The Advisory Group members all have experience of working with deaf people in employment or working in an advisory capacity with disabled people in employment and we specifically invited them on to the group to help us get a UK wide perspective.

Audrey: Yes and that’s been really good.

Jemina: As part of this project we arrange regular Community Information Events to let people know what’s happening in the project and to explain what’s involved. That’s really important, especially for the Deaf Community but anyone who’s interested, is welcome to come along. So far last year we had two of these – the very first one was in Dublin; the second was here in Edinburgh at Heriot Watt University, that was June last year, and then last January we had one in Bruges in Belgium. The fourth will be in Berlin when the whole project team will come together and we’ll have another community information event which usually includes presentations about what’s going on in the project plus a number of other things. You can still see last year’s event in Edinburgh – it was live streamed and recorded, so if you want to go back you can take a look at it. We also did something in Edinburgh at Deaf Action and thank you to them for hosting that. We had staff there from HW and PhD students who gave presentations about their research topics. Our fourth year students got an opportunity to practise their interpreting skills – they’re in their final year and nearly at the end of the course, so they got in some practise – Audrey, you gave a presentation about the DESIGNS Project.

Audrey: It was good – members of the deaf community were asking questions and will be keen to know more once we’ve finished the project – so that’s exciting.

Jemina: So what’s the plan for the next few months?

Audrey: Next it’s Liverpool for the Deaf Business Academy awards event where I’ve been invited to deliver a presentation about this project and as part that there’s an award ceremony for the best businesses – I’m looking forward to that, so that’s Liverpool in June. Then in September there’s the EFSLI (European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters) conference and I’ll be presenting along with our other partners in the project from Germany and Ireland, so that’ll be good. We’re also doing an ASLI webinar where Jemina will be presenting online to interpreters – that’s in September and we’ll let you know more about that nearer the time.

Jemina: Oh, and one exciting thing to mention that we’ve got planned, is for this June on the 14th, we’ll be having a live streamed Community Information Event. It’ll be here but we’ve decided, rather than have people come to us, we’ll live stream it so that’ll give people from around the UK more of an opportunity to see it. It’s on the 14th June at 6:30pm in the evening. There’s already a Facebook Event/invitation page so you can click on that to let us know if you want to join in. We’ll be live streaming via Facebook with four presenters, the two of us will be revealing some of the findings from the DESIGNS Project from the interviews with interpreters, deaf people and employers and what they said the main themes were, so we’ll be going in to more depth about the findings. Plus we have two other people – one is a PhD student, Emmy Kauling – her PhD is linked to deaf professionals working with interpreters, which is a perfect fit for the DESIGNS Project. The other is a PhD student, Mette Sommer who is deaf and she’s doing research into deaf people who set up their own businesses, how they felt about it, what their experiences have been like and what motivated them to go it alone? And again that’s a perfect fit with the DESIGNS Project, which is why we asked her to give a presentation. So the four of us will be presenting for about 15 minutes each and then you’ll have an opportunity to ask questions via Twitter, or you can watch via FB and the send in comments/questions and we’ll both respond so I hope you’ll join us and be watching on June 14th.

Audrey: We do want your feedback on the 14th – what you think of the findings; also maybe you can add something extra from your own experience that we could explore further with you.

Jemina: This project runs up until June of next year 2019 which means as we go on there will be further updates like this one, letting you know what’s happening. Plus as part of the project there’s an expectation that we’ll produce more training resources for interpreters, deaf people and employers which means there will be more happening right through until the June when we finish.

We want to say a huge thanks to the Advisory Group and Vercida and others who helped us find people to participate in this research project and also a big thanks to everyone who agreed to be interviewed either as part of a group, or one to one – we’ve been so touched by the time they’ve taken to tell about their experiences – it’s been really valuable and much appreciated, so thank you to you all!

Audrey: I’m sure this will help us to make big changes to employment for deaf people – fingers crossed!

Deaf Artists commissioned on Translating the Deaf Self project

manchester heriotwatt

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTRODUCING THE ARTISTS

CS

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

RT

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

LS

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

RLH

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

 

Want to know more?

Twitter @UoMSORD    @HW_CTISS    @deafexplorer

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Deaf ExplorerAHRC

 

Links to project team & partners:

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

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

https://deafexplorer.com

http://www.deafaction.org.uk

http://www.deafplus.org

https://royaldeaf.org.uk

http://www.manchesterdeafcentre.com

 

 

Links to deaf artists:

https://www.rubbena.com

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

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

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

 

 

Signing up a storm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what’s the story in 2018?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can there be a happy ending to this story?

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

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

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

Professor Graham H. Turner

LINCS post-graduate researchers hold first symposium

 

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

Incredibly insightful and thought-provoking presentations.

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

The papers delivered on the day were as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Richardson

LINCS PGR Representative