Cormac Leonard’s EFSLI Report, 2012 Conference (Part 2)

Guten morgen!

Here’s part 2 of my report from EFSLI.

First of all, the costume ball was fantastic – definitely a visual spectacle at the Palais Auersperg, where participants dressed in all kinds of fabulous gowns and getups. Former and current efsli board members were remembered and honoured. It was certainly a hedonistic night to match those of the Austrian Emperor’s court in the eighteenth century! I got talking to British, Italian, German, American and Australian terps and once again was amazed at the differences – and similarities – between us. While many partied long into the wee hours of the night, I wended my way homeward at a respectable enough 2am!

I think it only fair to say that I missed the first presentation on Sunday morning – hey, this international networking takes a lot out of a person, recharging is needed!! – but Patricia Bruck’s “Power and Responsibility in Interpreting Situations: The Views of Austrian Deaf Customers” received good feedback from those present.

Deb Russell’s presentation ” Interpreting Decisions and Power: Legal Discourse or Legal Discord?” (co written with Risa Shaw) looked at Deaf/hearing interpreter teams in legal settings – the interplay of power and teamwork in these situations and how that power can sometimes be misused. Alongside the outlining of the ‘dream team”s configuration and the ideal teamwork and preparation needed for these assignments, points were raised in Q&A about the ever growing issue of money – what to do when courts will not pay for a second hearing interpreter, let alone a Deaf interpreter(s) added to the team? Deb felt that we as interpreters needed to use the language of the courts to influence decisions to bring in Deaf interpreters – to stress accuracy, comfort, lessening the risk of retrials etc. when such a configuration was used as best practice. She also mentioned the power hearing interpreters have to ‘gatekeep’ in recommending – or not recommending – that Deaf interpreters be brought in to a situation to begin with.

Following a break there was a plenary session where participants could make contributions in International Sign, English, or OGS (Austrian Sign Language). The results of the parallel sessions from the previous day were given by rapporteurs. Christopher Tester reported that his group had discussed team work’s advantages; 1 + 1 = far more than 2! Working with a colleague brought something far more valuable and advanced to the situation.

Ingeborg Skaten’s group had gone over issues relating to our profession, such as – who gets to define our work? If we do not, how are we a profession? Can a profession exist in the first place without a national association? In these cases, it may be problematic to call ourselves (on a pan-European basis) a ‘profession’ when these features were often missing for member countries. Yet Ingeborg raised the point that we do have a collective identity and were in many ways, if not a profession, then certainly a ‘family’ – sharing common experiences, practices and skills. Zane Hema, in his usual charismatic and incisive style, reported back on his group’s work on Codes of Ethics co-existing with the interpreter’s own judgements as a person, and the power management aspect of this.

There then followed an open discussion which was wide ranging. There was much talk of the relationship between Deaf and hearing interpreters, a subject which seemed to dominate the conference; Zane Hema and Chris Stone pointed to the long and illustrious history of Deaf interpreters and made the point that this long expertise as well as the common experience within Deaf communities of interpreting for each other, regardless of qualifications, was a resource we needed to use. Verena Krausneker made a lovely analogy towards the end of proceedings; to date hearing interpreters have been sitting in their own compartments of an old fashioned train. Now, Deaf interpreters are asking to take their seat in the compartment. Hearing interpreters sometimes grumble at having to share their space; others may welcome the company. Others still may talk eagerly to their new travel companions… whereas some may even leave the train together and find a house to share domestic bliss together!

The issue of signing at such efsli conferences was also raised; some participants objected to the use of speech among participants, but other interpreters were quick to point out that their knowledge of IS was often zero and therefore it was difficult to begin. On a personal note, I found it lovely to try my best to communicate in IS, and it’s a rewarding experience, but I can empathise with the point that without some knowledge of it, it’s hard to confidently begin that conversation. EFSLI would do well to produce some kind of beginner’s ‘survival guide’ to IS for attendees, so that those arriving would be able to have some toehold – and through networking and socialising, be able to climb up the IS ‘ladder’.

After this discussion was wrapped up, Darja from Slovenia presented on the 2013 efsli conference, to be held in Ljubjana. I was charmed by her hilarious presentation – and am certainly now aware that she is in fact not the only Slovenian in the world, and that her country is shaped ‘like a chicken’! The conference will focus on technology and its relationship to interpreting. See here for more details:

Overall I had a fantastic time in Vienna and was impressed by a well-run conference. As always I was blown away by the work of the Deaf/hearing interpreting teams working with International Sign, but praise is also due to the team of OGS interpreters working from English, into German, then into Austrian Sign.

Right, time to sightsee and buy pressies for everyone. Auf Wiedersehen!

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