Sophie Pointurier Pournin


Sophie Pointurier Pournin is a French sign-language interpreter. She is also the director of the ESIT Sign Language Interpreting Master (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3) where she teaches theory and practice. She has a PhD in translation studies under the supervision of Professor Daniel Gile. Her research interests include empirical studies in translation studies, simultaneous interpreting process and interpreting tactics, conference and community interpreting.

Cognitive challenges in sign to voice interpreting

For the majority of our colleagues working between two or three spoken languages, interpreting into their A language (first/native language) is seen as a norm, simply because this direction in the translation process is generally perceived as being the most adapted for the task. Why is it then that for Sign Language interpreters, working into the A language is a particular challenge, or at least it is experienced as such by the majority? We will try to analyze the key aspects of this particular point seen from the perspective of the translation studies. This presentation will focus on some cognitive, linguistic and sociological aspects of the interpretation process from a visual into a spoken language. At start we will see the specific cognitive challenges of an interpretation from SL into a spoken language using Giles’ Efforts Model of simultaneous interpreting (Reception, short-term Memory, Production and Coordination Efforts) as a conceptual framework. Is there a particular element or a relevant factor in the process of translating from a visual language into a spoken language that would be likely to raise technical difficulties? Then, we will draw a list of the social and linguistic challenges which are usually underestimated and which could have a major impact in the translation process from B to A. Finally, we will discuss the training of sign language interpreters and will take as an example the one we know best: ESIT in Paris (a conference interpreting school where sign language is a language combination among others). We will discuss how the students feel about sign to voice interpretation exercise by analyzing the responses to a survey given to all the students of the LSF (French Sign Language) Interpreting Master. Is there anything we could improve from the outset regarding the challenge of interpreting from sign to voice?