Term prep in signed language interpreting


The work of signed language interpreters (SLI’s) is not that much different from that of spoken language interpreters. Until one starts to think about some of the tools spoken language interpreters use in the booth, which cannot be used by SLI’s. I’m thinking ‘glossaries’ here…

Term prep in signed language interpreting banner - Group of people using sign language

Signed languages are relatively ‘young’ languages. Consequently, SLI’s are presented with lexical gaps when interpreting between signed and spoken languages. Add to that the fact that, being visual/gestural languages without a written form, signed languages are challenging to turn into dictionaries, let alone (personal) glossaries for interpreters. If someone would want to take a dictionary/glossary to interpreting jobs, they would need a lot of storage space for all the clips of the signs, and besides, it’s simply not possible to watch film clips while interpreting at the same time. So how do we prepare terminology?

One of the key techniques to prepare for a conference-like setting, is to understand the discussed topics as much as possible, in order to be able to paraphrase concepts that do not have existing signs. Neologisms are a way of preventing oneself from fingerspelling whole speeches, but it is extremely important to negotiate these neologisms with the deaf people they are working with. Therefore, the most important preparation strategy is to talk to the deaf person. They are knowledgeable in that particular area, they know which signs (they prefer to) use and they can guide us towards more information. Often, during the interpretation, the active interpreter, their co-interpreter and the deaf person constantly provide each other with feedback and support. Close collaboration between all of them is the key to a successful interpretation!

For more information on preparation techniques of SLI’s (in the Netherlands):

Kauling, E. (2012). Keeping the surprises to a minimum – How Dutch Sign Language Interpreters prepare an assignment based on the materials they receive. (MEd), Hogeschool Utrecht.

Emmy KaulingEmmy Kauling is a sign language interpreter from the Netherlands (working languages: Dutch Sign Language, Dutch, English) and is doing a PhD at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland on signed language interpreting. Her study will focus on the interpretation of professional discourse and how this influences the co-construction of the professional identities of the participants involved.

Post prepared by Pedro RamosTranslator, Social Media and Content Manager, Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg).