Sign language interpreting in international conferences & high-level meetings: Pioneering work at Heriot-Watt University

By Jemina Napier

Click here to see blogpost in International Sign

In December 2019, the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland and the Heriot-Watt University BSL team (SIGNS@HWU) had the privilege of hosting a curriculum development meeting to discuss a potential pioneering new Masters programme in Sign Language Interpreting in Conferences and High-Level Meetings, as well as the delivery of a ‘taster’ course in 2020 in order to boost the number of International Sign interpreters currently working in these contexts.

Participants included representatives from key stakeholder Deaf community and sign language interpreting organisations, including the World Federation of the Deaf, World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, European Union of the Deaf, European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters, Overseas Interpreting, the AIIC Sign Language Network and the National Technical Institute of the Deaf-Rochester Institute of Technology; as well as independent experts with experience as deaf and hearing International Sign interpreters and interpreter educators.

Participants at the development meeting, December 2019

The curriculum development project has been part-funded by the Directorate General for Interpretation (SCIC) at the European Commission, with support for staff time from the Heriot-Watt University School of Social Sciences and Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies (LINCS). 

The project has been established in recognition of the increasing demand for sign language interpreters to work at international conferences and high-level meetings, and also to increase the numbers of International Sign interpreters accredited through the WASLI-WFD International Sign interpreter accreditation system.

SCIC recognised Heriot-Watt University as being the ideal university to develop a new Masters programme, as LINCS been offering courses in Conference Interpreting since 1970 and is one of only four UK university departments that have been granted membership of CIUTI, an international body which brings together universities which specialise in translating and interpreter training. LINCS is also a partner with the Magdeburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany and HUMAK University of Applied Sciences in Finland in the delivery of the European Masters in Sign Language Interpreting (EUMASLI). Thus, we will draw together our expertise in training both spoken and signed language interpreters to deliver this pioneering course. It is hoped that the new Masters programme will commence from September 2021

2020 intensive course

The first step in the curriculum development project is to offer an intensive ‘booster’ course in June 2020.

The intensive 5-day course on sign language interpreting in international conferences and high-level meetings (SLIC) for professionally qualified national sign language interpreters focuses on strengthening International Sign skills, enhancing awareness of relevant European and international institutions, as well as practical translingual interpreting skills, working between primarily English and International Sign but also other spoken and signed languages.

This intensive course has three goals:

(1) To prepare interpreters to apply for WASLI-WFD International Sign interpreter accreditation.

(2) To boost the number of International Sign interpreters working internationally, but particularly in Europe to meet needs at the European Commission, the European Parliament, at United Nations Geneva, and also for academic conferences and political meetings.

(3) To trial curriculum content for a potential new Masters programme in Sign Language Interpreting at Conferences to be offered through Heriot-Watt University LINCS.

  • The overall aim of the intensive course is to work towards readiness for applying for accreditation either with WFD-WASLI, or for EU or UN accreditation.
  • Completion of the intensive training course is no guarantee of accreditation or offers of work as an International Sign interpreter

Course content

The final course content and delivery will be finalised once the language combinations of the participants have been confirmed. Overall, using a case study approach, the 5-day course will include discussions and practical sessions on:

  • The International Sign/ multilingual interpreting landscape
  • EU and international organisations
  • Enhancing translingual skills
  • International Sign ‘therapy’
  • Applied interpreting skills
  • Unilateral interpreting
  • Bilateral interpreting
  • Relay interpreting
  • Critical reflective practice
  • One-to-one structured feedback on interpreting
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Professionalism and ethics

Our state-of-the-art digital interpreting and sign language labs will be available exclusively for use by students on this course, as well as access to bespoke visual software for recording and annotating sign language interpreting work.

The course will be delivered primarily by leading sign language, deaf studies and sign language interpreting researchers, educators and practitioners at Heriot-Watt, including:

  • Professor Jemina Napier: Accredited WFD-WASLI International Sign interpreter, AIIC Associate member, Registered Qualified BSL/English interpreter, Accredited Auslan/English interpreter, expertise in research and teaching on sign language interpreting
  • Professor Graham H. Turner: Sign language policy and Interpreting Studies academic, co-founder of the EUMASLI and Heriot-Watt BSL UG programmes, expertise in research and teaching on sign language interpreting and BSL policy
  • Dr Annelies Kusters: Deaf Studies academic, expertise in research and teaching on deaf ethnographies, professional mobilities, translanguaging and International Sign
  • Dr Robert Adam: Accredited WFD-WASLI International Sign interpreter, Registered Qualified BSL-ISL interpreter, Registered Qualified BSL-English translator, expertise in research and teaching on sign language contact and sign language interpreting. (joining Heriot-Watt staff in April 2020)
  • Dr Stacey Webb: Certified ASL/English interpreter, expertise in teaching sign language interpreting and research on sign language interpreting pedagogy
  • Andy Carmichael: Accredited WFD-WASLI International Sign interpreter, AIIC Associate member, Registered Qualified BSL/English interpreter, Accredited Auslan/English interpreter, Chair of the board of Association of Sign Language Interpreters UK (ASLI UK), in-house interpreter at Heriot-Watt, expertise in training and mentoring sign language interpreters
  • Christopher Tester: Accredited WFD-WASLI International Sign interpreter, AIIC Full member, Certified ASL/English interpreter, PhD student at Heriot-Watt, expertise in training sign language interpreters

In addition, further input will come from LINCS academics who are experts in teaching multilingual, spoken language conference interpreting, and external collaborators with expertise in International Sign and International Sign interpreting.

Who is this course for?

  • This intensive course is targeted at sign language interpreters from any country who have not yet achieved WFD-WASLI International Sign interpreter accreditation, or are already accredited but do not feel that they have previously received sufficient training and would like more professional skills development. Priority will be given to applicants who are not yet accredited.
  • Applications are particularly encouraged from interpreters who are deaf, female or from ethnic minorities.
  • A quota of places will be offered to European-based interpreters due to the part funding of the course by the European Commission.

Course dates

Date: 8th-12th June 2020

Venue: Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Campus, Scotland

Applicants for the intensive course must meet the following essential criteria:

  • Hold a national sign language interpreting qualification (or equivalent)
  • Have a minimum of 5 years post-qualification (or equivalent) experience in national sign language interpreting
  • Have extensive experience of national sign language interpreting in conference or high-level meetings (minimum of 50 hours)
  • Evidence of IS conference interpreting experience (minimum of 20 hours)

Applications from deaf or hearing interpreters from countries that do not have established undergraduate sign language interpreting programmes, or professional infrastructure will be considered on a case-by-case basis for the equivalent knowledge and experience.

How to Apply click here to get more information and how to apply

IndyLan Newsletter – January 2020

Welcome to the first newsletter of our Erasmus+ project Mobile Virtual Learning for Indigenous Languages (IndyLan). The 26-month project (2019-2021) is led by Heriot-Watt University and the Coordinator is Dr Katerina Strani from the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies

IndyLan includes 5 partners from 4 countries (UK, Finland, Norway and Spain) and aims to develop a mobile application which will help to learn the languages and cultures associated with the following indigenous languages: Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Basque, Galician and Saami. The project will develop an educational tool designed specifically for users to learn not only some of Europe’s endangered languages but also more about the cultures of the people who speak these languages.

The partners are:

The IndyLan application will help speakers of English, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish to learn Gaelic (designated as ‘definitely endangered’), Scots (‘severely endangered’), Cornish (‘critically endangered’), Basque (‘severely endangered’), Galician (a minority language) and Saami (‘severely endangered’). 


The tool constitutes a gamified language-learning solution in the form of a mobile application. Smartphones have become a popular educational tool and the number of the smartphone and tablet users of all ages is constantly growing in the EU. The application is building on a previous project, Moving Languages, with the key difference that IndyLan will produce one application for all languages, and not multiple language-specific applications as Moving Languages did. IndyLan will contain around 4,000 vocabulary items (both terms and expressions) in about 100 categories. The modes that will be available in the application are: Vocabulary; Phrases; Dialogues; Grammar; Culture; Test. 

The app will be launched at the Final Dissemination Conference in Cornwall in September 2021. It will be available for download globally for free in both iOS and Android. Like all language-learning apps, IndyLan is complementary to other language- and culture courses and can be considered to be part of self-study material.

Our vision is for the IndyLan app to contribute to endangered language learning and revitalisation so that these languages remain alive and relevant in contemporary societies and economies. 

News and updates

Our kick-off meeting took place in Edinburgh on 07-08 October 2019. 

Partners met at Heriot-Watt University‘s Riccarton campus and discussed the project’s timeline, milestones and deadlines. They agreed on the project logo and on the design of the website. Each partner gave an overview of their contribution. The project evaluation procedures were also finalised, and the procedure of appointing an external evaluator was agreed upon. The external evaluator for the project will be Dr Philip McDermott, Senior Lecturer, School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences, University of Ulster. The full agenda of the meeting can be found here.

(L-R) – Áile Jávo (Saami Council), Mark Trevethan (Cornwall Council), Katerina Strani (HWU), Veronica Gelfgren (Learnmera Oy), Naroa Bengoetxea (Asociación Moviéndote)

The first Intellectual Output is a short needs analysis, which will be published in early February. The 2nd Intellectual Output will be the application itself, which will be ready in beta version by April 2021. The 3rd Intellectual Output will be the pilot testing of the app which will be carried out by remote users as well as participants in our multiplier events in all partner countries in the summer of 2021. The app will be launched at the Final Dissemination Conference in Cornwall in September 2021. It will be available for download globally for free in both iOS and Android.

Discussing the budget
A long but productive day!
Discussing the vocabulary and going through more than 4,000 terms!
Finished! Now time for the partner dinner.
(L-R): Katerina Strani (HWU), Veronica Gelfren (Learnmera Oy), Mark Trevethan (Cornwall Council), Naroa Bengoetxea (Asociación Moviéndote), Áile Jávo (Saami Council)
The IndyLan project partners with our Intercultural Research Centre Directors Ullrich Kockel and Máiréad Nic Craith

Our project website will soon be available, so stay tuned!

Next project meeting:

10-11 June 2020

Karasjok, (Sápmi) Norway

Hosted by the Saami Council Headquarters

 Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IndylanApp

 Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectIndyLan

For any questions or comments, please contact the project coordinator:

Dr Katerina Strani

Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies

Henry Prais Building

Heriot-Watt University

Edinburgh EH14 4AS

UK

Tel: +44 131 451 4216

A.Strani@hw.ac.uk

The INCS in LINCS 2019-2020

LINCS stands for Languages and INterCultural Studies and our core purpose is to create multilingual, multicultural, global citizens. To achieve this, the “INCS” in LINCS also specialises in Cultural Studies such as living cultural heritage, intercultural dialogue, migrant identities and intercultural communication. 

Our Cultural Studies section manages the cultural studies courses and programmes we deliver. Courses include Global Heritage, Cross-Cultural perspectives on Society, Intercultural perspectives on Sustainable Development, as well as the Global Courses (taught in all HWU campuses) Intercultural Issues in Business and Management (Undergraduate – also offered as part of Graduate Apprenticeship programmes), and Intercultural Communication in the Workplace (Postgraduate). It also manages our MSc Cultural Heritages programme family, which includes our MSc in Cultural Heritage Management with Tourism. Cultural Studies staff and students are also members of our Intercultural Research Centre (IRC).

People 

Staff

Katerina Strani is the Head of the Cultural Studies section. She has a background in Languages and Political Theory and her PhD thesis (2011) focused on communicative rationality in the public sphere. Her research is interdisciplinary, and she is interested in how multilingualism and multiculturalism shape contemporary society and politics at all levels. Following an EU-funded project on hate speech and racism (RADAR), Katerina has developed a keen research interest in race relations and the language of racism. She has published papers on these topics, as well as intercultural dialogue from the perspective of belonging and heritage, discourses of Europeanness and hate communication. She has led EU-funded projects in intercultural training for educators, mobile tools for refugees and newly-arrived migrants as well as for learning indigenous languages, and has participated in a GRCF-funded project on digital tools for Rohingya refugees in SE Asia.

Katerina teaches International Politics, Society and Institutions in Contemporary Europe, Intercultural Issues in Business and Management and Conference Interpreting. She is a Chartered Linguist, a Member of the Political Studies Association, the International Communication Association and the University Association of Contemporary European Studies. For a list of publications and funded projects, please click here.

Email: A.Strani@hw.ac.uk Twitter: @KaterinaStrani 

Máiréad Nic Craith is Professor of European Culture and Heritage. Máiréad’s academic career began with a lectureship at the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies, funded as a result of the Irish Government’s commitment to the Anglo- Irish Agreement. Subsequently, she was Director of the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages at the University of Ulster, set up in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement to undertake cross-community research, teaching and outreach activities. During that time, she collaborated with government and charitable organisations, such as the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, Derry City Council, Diversity 21, the Ulster American Folk Park, and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. Collaborative projects included a commissioned report for Fermanagh District Council on cultural and linguistic policy. She led a report on African migration in Northern Ireland commissioned by the Community Relations Council, and organised a symposium on peace agreements and (mis)communication (in honour of the Nobel laureate John Hume). In 2007, she was invited by the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Washington, to prepare a brief relating to culture and language issues in Northern Ireland. Since her arrival to Heriot-Watt University in 2012, Mairead has developed links with national organisations such as the National Library of Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland, and international organisations such as POLIN (Museum of the History of Polish Jews). Having collaborated with organisations such as the UN in Geneva, the Scottish-Polish Heritage Project in Edinburgh and the Community Relations Council in Belfast, she is deeply committed to enhancing awareness of the potential of heritage to make a positive contribution to society (see her TEDx talk on Intangible Heritage 2015). From 2016- 2019, she was involved in a HORIZON 2020 European-wide collaborative research project on cultural heritage and social identity and cohesion. For a complete list of Máiréad’s publications, please click here.

Email: M.NicCraith@hw.ac.uk Twitter: @mairead_nc 

Ullrich Kockel is Professor of Cultural Ecology and Sustainability at HWU, as well as Emeritus Professor of Ethnology at the University of Ulster and Visiting Professor in Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas. He has a diverse academic and professional background, switching from a career in industrial management (Shell) to academic positions in Economics, Political Science, Sociology, and later Irish Studies and Ethnology. In 2003 he was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences and in 2012 he was elected to the Royal Irish Academy. 

Ullrich’s overarching research interest is in sustainable local and regional development, especially the appraisal, planning and management of heritage and other cultural resources, approached from an interdisciplinary perspective rooted in anthropology, cultural ecology and political economy. He has conducted fieldwork and led projects throughout Europe. He is currently leading a work package in a €2.5m Horizon2020 project, CoHERE, on cultural forms and expressions of identity in Europe. For a complete list of Ullrich’s publications, please click here

Email: U.Kockel@hw.ac.uk Twitter: @KockelU

Kerstin Pfeiffer is the Director of Undergraduate Teaching Programmes in LINCS. Her academic background is in literature and history, and her PhD work focused on new theoretical approaches to medieval biblical drama. She is secretary for and co-founder of the BASE (Bodies, Affects, Senses and Emotions) working group at the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore (SIEF) and was the School of Social Sciences representative on Subject Panel B (Design, Visual Arts, Architecture, Creative Writing, Film, Drama & Theatre Studies, Cultural Policy (Policy, Arts Management & Creative Industries), Music, Television Studies) of the Scottish Graduate School for the Arts and Humanities for 3 years.

Kerstin’s current research interests lie in the area of theatre and performance studies and particularly in the investigation of the afterlives of older dramatic forms and the role of drama in shaping, maintaining and challenging notions of identity and community. She has published on these topics and presented her research at many international conferences. For a list of Kerstin’s publications, please click here.

Email: K.Pfeiffer@hw.ac.uk Twitter: @DrKPfeiffer 

Claudia V. Angelelli is Professor and Chair in Multilingualism and Communication. She is also Professor Emerita at San Diego State University and Visiting Professor at Beijing University of Foreign Studies. Her research sits at the intersection of sociolinguistics, applied linguistics and translation and interpreting studies. She designed the first empirically-driven language proficiency and interpreter readiness tests for The California Endowment and Hablamos Juntos (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). She has been PI in research projects in Argentina, Australia, the European Union, and the United States. She has also led ISO 13611: Standards on Community Interpreting and co-authored The California Standards for Health Care Interpreters. Ethical Principles, Protocols, and Guidance on Interpreter Roles and Interventions. She teaches Intercultural Communication in the Workplace and Translation and Interpreting Studies. For a full list of publications, please click here

Email: C.Angelelli@hw.ac.uk

John Cleary is Associate Professor and Director of Studies for Exchange Programmes. With a background in Applied Linguistics, English and TESOL, John teaches British Culture & Society, Film Studies, Introduction to Languages and Intercultural Studies, and Society and Institutions in Contemporary Europe. He has coordinated many projects on internationalisation, pedagogy and intercultural communication in Europe, Turkmenistan and South-East Asia. For a list of John’s publications, please click here.

Email: J.A.Cleary@hw.ac.uk

PhD students

Chiara Cocco – Cc80@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: Festivals and folklore through the lens of affect and emotions: the case study of Sant’Efisio in Sardinia, supervised by Máiréad Nic Craith and Kerstin Pfeiffer

Chiara’s research explores the relationship between cultural heritage performance and collective identity construction. Drawing upon previous studies and theories which analysed national and cultural identity construction in sites of heritage and memory (Knudsen, 2011; Arnold-de Simine, 2013; Wight, 2016), in this research the focus shifts from museums to ceremonies. The thesis suggests that dynamic heritage avenues, such as folklore and festivals, could be also considered “places” of identity construction. It also explores the dynamics of identity construction and representation in festivals, through the lens of emotion and affect (Smith, 2006). For this purpose, the research adopts the Festival of Sant’Efisio in Sardinia as its case study, mainly because of its popularity among Sardinian population and visitors, and its longevity (it has been celebrated in the island every year since 1656). Moreover, as a Sardinian woman who has been living in Scotland for over five years, Chiara considers this festival as part of her cultural heritage and Sardinian belonging. Her research is, therefore, also a means through which she can keep connected to her original home despite the physical distance. Twitter: @ChiaraCocco88 

Jos Collins – jc120@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: Living Tradition and Cultural Revival: Scottish Folk Drama in the 21st Century, supervised by Kerstin PfeifferGary WestNeill Martin and Donald Smith.

Jos’s research project results from a partnership between the IRC, Celtic and Scottish Studies (University of Edinburgh) and Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland (TRACS, Scottish Storytelling Centre). It examines the reasons behind the resurgence of interest in this old art form and folk custom and its cultural implications. It seeks to investigate the motivations for participants and what these can tell us about modern attitudes to concepts like tradition and authenticity. The main aim of the project is to explore the place of revived folk drama in contemporary Scottish society through the following objectives: to produce a survey of Scottish folk drama activities today; to examine community-led performances and related activities ethnographically; to evaluate the motivations and aspirations of participants and organisers and to assess their contribution to aspects of local identity, ideas of tradition, and community dynamics; to investigate how folk drama as a living practice contributes to developing conceptualisations of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Scotland; and to contribute to the newly emerging ‘Creative Ethnology’ movement led by the three institutions involved. 

Naomi Harvey – neh1@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: Collecting and preserving access to Intangible Cultural Heritage within the digital environment: Evaluating New Models for Scotland, supervised by Máiréad Nic Craith and Ullrich Kockel. Co-supervision from heritage specialists is provided by Alistair Bell, Sound Curator, National Library of Scotland and Scotland’s Sounds Project Manager, and Dr Hugh Hagan, National Records of Scotland, whose expertise includes oral history and community heritage. 

This research is funded by the AHRC through the Scottish Cultural Heritage Consortium Scholarship, 2016-19. It critically examines issues surrounding digital preservation and access to ICH in Scotland, through the case study of Scotland’s Sounds. The project will examine how Scotland’s Sounds can ensure the sustainability of ICH sound collections, encompassing issues of: (1) collecting sound in a digital environment (2) digital access and preservation of sound material; (3) sustainable relationships between creators, community organisations and public institutions. The aim is to provide a theoretically informed critical analysis of the opportunities and challenges that advances in digital technology present for heritage organisations seeking to enhance the value, profile and understanding of ICH. Twitter: @ArchiveGnome

Lucy Lannigan – lml5@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: ‘Sustainable Communities and Cultural Heritage Management: A closer look at the Isle of Skye’, supervised by Ullrich Kockel and Kerstin Pfeiffer

With a focus on local communities, this thesis will analyse the sustainability of communities on the Isle of Skye and how concerns over growing tourism have affected the cultural heritage of this island. The aim is to provide practical advice and analysis in order to better manage the relationship between local communities and the tourism industry, in relation to sustainability and cultural heritage management. The theoretical framework will focus on the link between sustainability and cultural heritage management, discussing how we can develop and nurture the future sustainability of communities on the Isle of Skye in terms of heritage and culture. Emphasis will also be placed on external factors such as social and traditional media, as well as the Bridge to Skye, detailing how this has impacted the local communities, tourism industry, overall economy and daily lives of the islanders. This thesis will address the necessity in taking measures to ensure that tourism growth can be effectively managed in the present and subsequent future, in relation to sustainability, to ensure that the cultural heritage of the island is preserved and that the relationships fostered between the local communities and the tourism industry remain positive.

Alastair Mackie – am279@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: ‘Becoming a smaller part of a larger whole: changing perceptions of European identity in the Scottish independence movement’, supervised by Katerina Strani and Ullrich Kockel.

This thesis explores how the perception and understanding of European identity has changed in Scotland since 2014. Is the adaptation of European identity for the purposes of supporting independence merely a political, strategic use of collective identity, or has the debate on EU membership resulted in a wider transformation of the role of Europe in identity formation in Scotland? By means of ethnographic fieldwork, this project aims form a better understanding of the function of Europe within the identity formation of people in Scotland since the Brexit referendum. The thesis aims to link the ethnological study of European identity to concepts of vulnerability and shelter from small state studies. If Scotland were to become an independent state it would be considered a small state in Europe. Due to their size, small states have less resources than larger states, making them more vulnerable to their external environment. Small states may seek ‘shelter’ with larger states or international organisations to counteract their vulnerability. The thesis will ask how perceived vulnerability influences the formation of European identity and whether European identity offers a form of shelter by being conceptualised as a support for Scottish independence. Twitter: @asbmackie

Catherine McCullagh – cjm5@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: ‘Curating Heritage for Sustainable Communities in Highly Vulnerable Environments: The Case of Scotland’s Northern Isles’, supervised by Ullrich KockelDonna Heddle and Ian Tait.

Catherine is undertaking practice-based research with people in the archipelagos of Orkney and Shetland. Her research is funded through an SGSAH ARC Studentship. The research practice is a project to co-curate a virtual museum of the Northern Isles, and is funded by Museums Galleries Scotland, the Hugh Fraser Foundation and Shetland Museum and Archives. Catherine’s interests include creative ethnology; exploring the radical politics of co-curation as a mode for communities mobilising shared authority and cultural democracy towards more socially just and sustainable futures; collaborative deliberation of value formation and social learning for sustainable development; identity-work; and developing new ways of knowing and working through praxis. For more information on Catherine’s background and research, click here. Twitter: @kittyjmac and @NorthernNousts

Marc Romano – mhr7@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: Brexit and Heritage Futures in Scotland: The Auld Alliance – Establishing a Counter-Heritage, supervised by Katerina Strani and Máiréad Nic Craith

As one of the longest relationships in the history, the Auld Alliance challenges the recent Brexit discourse, which seeks to establish a new geography outside of Europe. In its pursuit of a separatist utopia free from bonds of European policy, Brexit offers a fictionalised geography that denies Scotland’s seven centuries of European cultural belonging. Marc’s PhD research is an exploration of the Auld Alliance as a re-reading of Scotland’s heritage discourse with a view to establishing a counter-heritage (to that which lies in the wings post-Brexit), one that establishes an identity that cannot readily disentangle itself from European culture. In a country where almost 20% of its population are in fact from foreign origin and in which 5% of the total population came from European Union, such political discourse endangers its multicultural stability. Perhaps it is reflection of why Scotland voted to remain at 63%.  

Ozge Yalinay – oy30@hw.ac.uk

Thesis topic: Interpreting Istanbul Grand Bazaar as a traditional marketplace: contemporary cultural discourse, supervised by Babak Taheri and Máiréad Nic Craith This research is intrigued by work of cultural discourse scholars, including Foucault, Said and Bakhtin, whose theory of cultural consumption space provides with the conceptual vocabularies such as ‘orientalism’ and the ‘third space’. These spaces are unusual, anti-structured and exceptional. Framed within such notions, the material and imaginary landscape of Istanbul Bazaar offers such venue for cultural consumption experience in non-Western context. The primary aim of this study is to bring together contemporary cultural discourse in a traditional marketplace, with particular focus on the Istanbul Bazaar, testing the usefulness of such theory as an interpretive framework in a specific exceptional space in non-Western context. More specifically, this study aims to offer insight into an understanding of Western consumers’ journey and experience, examining the dynamic process that flows from pre-visit to post-visit. The mixed-method approach is used to collect data from both visitors and locals in order to answer the aim of this study. The qualitative approach is applied using observation, netnography and interviews, while the quantitative approach is applied using questionnaires. For a list of Ozge’s publications, please click here.

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

 

Moving Languages project finished!

by Katerina Strani

We are very pleased to announce that our EU-funded Moving Languages project has now come to an end! The 27-month project (2016-2018), led by Learnmera Oy in Finland with LINCS at Heriot-Watt as a partner, developed a free mobile application designed to help new migrants learn the host language(s) and familiarise themselves with culture-specific vocabulary and concepts. A user-friendly, versatile and comprehensive app, it also aims to encourage people to learn other languages and promote understanding between cultures.

The Moving Languages app provides a gamified language- and culture-learning tool. It contains 4000+ illustrated vocabulary items for easy concept recognition, grammar exercises, flashcards, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, culture, administration, health and immigration tabs, dialogues with audio, audio spelling and comprehension tests and many other features. The app covers topics that are essential during the first steps of living in the host country. 

Users can learn English, Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Finnish (main languages) from 20 support languages widely spoken by refugees/migrants in partner countries:

Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Estonian, French, Hungarian, Kurdish (Sorani), Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Somali, Tigrinya, Turkish, Ukranian, and Urdu

They can also use the main languages as support languages if they wishes. This means that if you download the English app, you can learn English from 25 languages in total.

 

We launched the app at an event held in June 2018 and held our final meeting in Bilbao on 4th October 2018 to finalise the app and the project. It has been a pleasure to work with our international partners in this project and to engage with users who have tried our app.

The project may have ended, but our apps will be available for free for the next 3 years, so please download them, try them, and send us your feedback!

You can download the English app here:

iOS https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/moving-languages-uk/id1389806713?mt=8

Android https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ml.english

To download the Spanish, German, Italian, Finnish and Swedish language apps, please click here.

For a step-by-step guide on how to use the app, please click here

For more information, contact the UK coordinator, Dr Katerina Strani A.Strani@hw.ac.uk or the project coordinator Veronica Gelfgren Veronica@learnmera.com

Website: http://www.movinglanguages.eu/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/movinglanguages/

LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8580234

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/movinglanguages/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MovLanguages

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.

Prestigious international event hosted by LINCS

The Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies recently hosted the 2018 AGM of CIUTI (Conférence internationale permanente d’instituts universitaires de traducteurs et interprètes), the old­est and most pres­ti­gious inter­na­tional asso­ci­a­tion of uni­ver­sity insti­tutes with trans­la­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion pro­grammes in the world. Delegates attended from 49 member institutions and interpreting was provided in English, French and German. The AGM was followed by the first ever CIUTI academic conference which was centred on the theme of Translation and interpreting in an era of demographic and technological change. There were a total of 30 papers on the programme, as well as panels and a workshop. All were very well received, with the President of FIT, the International Federation of Translators, describing Heriot-Watt as a “true centre of excellence for training translators and interpreters for the future”.

The CIUTI event coincided with a visit from the Head of the Directorate General for Interpretation (SCIC) at the European Commission, Mrs Florika Fink-Hooijer, and Ms Cathy Pearson, also from SCIC. They met with staff members in LINCS and toured the excellent interpreting facilities in the Henry Prais Building. Discussions focused on possibilities for enhanced cooperation between Heriot-Watt and the European Commission; one strand of this will be Pedagogical Assistance where Cathy Pearson will return to Heriot-Watt in September to deliver interpreting classes to the new cohort of MSc interpreting students.

 

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

Award for human rights scholarship for deaf juror research

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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