By NABS Interpreter, Michael Egan
I was both surprised and honoured to be awarded NABS (National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service) sponsorship to enable a rural interpreter to attend the 2013 ASLIA National Conference (ANC) in Sydney.
My thanks to NABS for their generosity, and to the ASLIA Executive Committee for facilitating all the required arrangements in order for me to attend the ANC.
Having read the line up of speakers I was eager to attend and if there was any disappointment it was that the program was one day only.
It was fitting that the keynote speaker Dr Christopher Stone commenced his potted history of sign language interpreting by pointing out that sign language use by Australian indigenous peoples dates back some 40,000 years.
His research, using mostly archived English church and court documents, found the first record of interpreting was at a wedding in 1575, and Fanny Lazarus was the first recorded interpreter in 1776.
Deaf people were among convicts transported from Great Britain to colonial Australia. From 1928 interpreting in this country developed mostly via welfare agencies until Auslan was accepted under the NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters) umbrella in 1982 and followed by the establishment of interpreter training courses. Interpreting was at that stage a recognised profession.
Dr Stone urged us to consider the meaning of being professional interpreters given that Deaf people now have greater access to civil society and our roles “All in one day” being so varied in terms of settings and skills required.
The career of each interpreter is different depending on whether they work in rural or urban settings, schools, universities, courts, corporate settings, medical etc.
Dr Stone suggested that to meet the challenges of developing appropriate varied skill sets interpreters must engage with the Deaf community to find out what they need/expect from interpreters.
Does our opinion of our roles and expertise match our clients’ opinion of our performance? We cannot grow professionally without the support of the Deaf community and that of our colleagues.
Dr Stone pointed out “tension” between interpreter registration requirements versus the notion of the varied high quality skills interpreters now need in such a wide variety of settings.
I found the Australian Communication Exchange Video Relay Service (ACE VRS) presentation by Tony Bennetts, Chief Information Officer, and Merie Spring, Quality Assurance consultant, exciting in terms of rapidly developing VRS technology and valuable in outlining the specific skills interpreters need to be effective practitioners.
ACE has as its goal the design and production of a single mobile device which can be used by Deaf and hearing impaired people to meet all their communication needs including video phone calls, Skype with captions that can be used to access the National Relay Service. This all-purpose device will be affordable and easily portable, rather like a smart phone.
Tony stated that Australia is at the forefront of communication technology worldwide and that unlike the USA and other countries has the advantage of having only one provider.
From her involvement in ACE VRS quality assurance Merie Spring was able to share with us the rapid development and use of VRS, the training and monitoring of interpreters working in this area and the specific skills needed.
In addition to high level interpreting skills and Auslan/English language competencies VRS interpreters must be skilled in telephone protocol, be able to problem solve, remain calm and confident under pressure and be able to multi-task.
Unlike other jobs, the nature of VRS work does not allow for preparation because interpreters cannot predict who the next caller will be, the subject of the call or the specialised terminology which will be required.
VRS interpreters must therefore commit to ongoing learning to build a knowledge bank covering wide range of topics. To maintain high standards in VRS interpreting at ACE interpreters are regularly monitored by external interpreters.
Julie Judd, Lori A Whynot and Therese Lewis gave a highly informative presentation on consequence based ethics through reflective practice based on the Dean and Pollard Demand Control Schema.
They spoke of the success of recent structured sessions aimed at giving interpreters tools to help them manage the complex demands of their work. Space does not permit further details of this presentation but I suggest interpreters would very much benefit by accessing the work of these presenters and the work of Dean and Pollard.
On behalf of another interpreter in Bendigo I have purchased a DVD of the 2013 conference which we will make available to other interpreters in our area.
Once again my sincere thanks to NABS for giving me this excellent professional development opportunity and the chance to catch up with friends and colleagues.
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