Not Quite Utopia. Insights on interpreting from Deaf leaders on three continents
Bontempo, Karen × Haug, Tobias Leeson, Lorraine Napier, Jemina Nicodemus, Brenda van den Bogaerde, Beppie Vermeerbergen, Myriam #
EFSLI Conference edition:2014 location:Antwerp, Belgium date:13-14 September 2014
This paper presents preliminary findings from a cross-linguistic international study that sought to investigate the perceptions of Deaf leaders on the question of interpretation asymmetry; namely the presumption that interpreters are stronger working into their signed language than their spoken language.
Sixteen Deaf leaders with extensive experience of working with interpreters were recruited. They hailed from Australia, Belgium, England, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland, Switzerland, and the United States. They were interviewed regarding their experiences, wishes and desires when working with interpreters who participate in the co-construction and representation of their professional identities in the hearing world. Points of discussion included the linguistic and cultural competency of interpreters, balanced bilingualism, academic training, gendered constructions of identity, the performance of expertise and the relationships that hold between interpreting and social justice for Deaf communities.
This paper provides a rare insight into the collaboration, mentoring and support that Deaf leaders offer their preferred interpreters as they develop their practice as well as considering the obstacles that sub-optimal interpreting places in the way of attempts to secure full participation and citizenship. We also evaluate the trade-offs that Deaf leaders make when working with interpreters, trade offs that (as they say) they have the standing to implement, but which “grassroots” Deaf community members infrequently have knowledge or power to decide on. In considering these issues, we ask how we can improve on provision and become responsible, responsive partners to Deaf communities as they negotiate intercultural interpreted spaces.