Between 28 and 31 May 2018 the Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies (LINCS) is hosting the 2018 General Assembly and Conference of CIUTI, the 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. LINCS is a long-standing member of CIUTI and one of only three UK members. The theme of the Conference is Translation and interpreting in an era of demographic and technological change. In addition to CIUTI delegates from around the world, LINCS will also be hosting a visit by Mrs Florika Fink-Hooijer, the Head of the Directorate General for Interpretation at the European Commission, who is coming to speak to colleagues involved with the delivery of conference interpreting programmes and to view the excellent interpreting facilities available to LINCS students.
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!
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
@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)
Links to project team & partners:
Links to deaf artists:
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 Ireland, Lithuania 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