In 2001 Irma Sluis received her BA degree as a Dutch Sign Language Interpreter. In September 2011 she finalized her MA in the European Master in Sign Language Interpreting (www.eumasli.eu). She has taken several independent research projects. Her latest research is co-authored with Maya de Wit on the quality of sign language interpreters from the perspective of deaf sign language users. Since 2010 Irma has designed and organized workshops and trainings for sign language interpreters in the Netherlands. She does this in cooperation and consultation with deaf sign language users and other experts in the field.
An effort to make a cultural bridge in sign-to-voice interpreting
The Deaf consumer’s perception appears to be a valuable tool to improve the quality of sign-to voice interpreting. In a study conducted in the Netherlands in 2011, the Deaf consumer’s perspective on this topic was investigated. In several staged and monitored settings sign language interpreters and Deaf consumers jointly explored the process and quality of sign-to-voice interpreting. Deaf people were invited to share their experiences, and interpreters and consumers could work together to improve the interpreting process. Presentations in sign language were live interpreted and all spoken language interpretation was made visible via live text on screen. Following the interpretation, Deaf presenters and interpreters discussed the interpreting process and choices under guidance of a Deaf moderator. This close cooperation and exchange of knowledge increased the Deaf consumers’ insight and understanding of the prerequisites and challenges of the interpreting process. As a result, creating a mutual understanding between all stakeholders and setting the stage to bring sign-to-voice interpreting to a higher level.
The Dutch study started from a long-standing discussion in the Deaf and interpreting community on the quality of interpreting from a sign to a spoken language. Earlier studies show that when interpreting from a sign to a spoken language the level of interpreting appears to be of lesser quality than when working from a spoken into a sign language (Erlenkamp, 2010, Hermans, van Dijk & Christoffels,2007 ). In the Netherlands the general notion is that interpreting into spoken language, which in most cases is the native language of interpreters, is the direction with the interpreters’ least proficiency and preference (Sluis, 2010).
Interestingly, in the field of spoken language interpreting the opposite is shown with interpreted utterances into an interpreters’ native language being more accurate and experienced as easier to fulfill by the interpreter (Marschark, 2005; Seleskovitch, 1989; Visson, 1999).
In this presentation a theoretical framework in combination with the results of the study will be presented. In addition, notable insights and recommendations from the study’s stakeholders will be shared on how to further improve the cooperation and quality of sign language interpreters in regards to sign-to-voice interpreting.