Monday, 17 December 2012

Issues and Recommendations for Interpreters in Kenya

On my series of talks to upcoming interpreters, I was asked to talk about interpreting in Kenya...

Who is an Interpreter?
Interpreters in Kenya are individuals with good language skills, good relationship with their clients and who have learned how to interpret from one language to another. Many interpreters learn their skills in practical settings, they are usually unpaid volunteers.

Foundations of Interpreting
Interpreting is a relationship, it is a matter of faith and trust.

Language of Interpreters
Interpreting does not have to be word-for-word. It is more important to get the meaning of the message. It is important for the interpreter to understand the language, culture and trends in the cultures represented. 

Recognition of the Interpreters
Recognition should not depend on the level of education and other qualifications but on the language skills and the persons themselves. It is important to note that professional interpreters and 'local' interpreters should have the same recognition when they do the same type of work. - For instance a village chief my get a n official recognition for function as a justice of peace though he may not have studied law.

Interpreter Training
It is always good to get more training.
As an interpreter it is good to keep learning the language, new fields, vocabulary, develop skills on language and culture. Deaf Association, language schools are a great resource for learning.

Ethics of Interpreting - road to professionalism 
Read more here - Code of Ethics

It is also important to have a professional association of interpreters - Most countries in the world today do not have a National Association of sign language interpreters. Following the very successful first WASLI conference in South Africa in 2005, many countries are now discussing the idea of establishing a national association in their own country.

Those are some of the issues and recommendations for interpreters in Kenya or those aspiring to be come interpreters.

Thanks to WASLI, KSLIA, HLID


Friday, 30 November 2012

Iko ninis of Assignments, Payments and Interpreters in Kenya


A word of Advise to Interpreters, Organizations and Deaf Consumers: Iko ninis of Assignments, Payments and Interpreters in Kenya

Earlier this week late in the night I received a call from a friend informing me to urgently call in the morning for she had a job for me. After the call I set a reminder on my iPhone to call her in the morning. I get to call her, get the number of the organizer requiring an interpreter for an AGM....excited I call and am asked for a quote.....I say KES X to a maximum of X (9am-1pm) since it is an AGM and will have unlimited number of speakers, long hours and out of hand program etc so the organizer says I will get back to you.....three days later am informed by one of the Deaf shareholders, why are interpreters being forced on us by KSLRP? why do we get half baked iko ninis? So the event organizer decided to give the job to someone else, cheaper lowest bidder despite the quality and satisfaction of the Deaf consumers, in case you are wondering - I did get another opportunity to volunteer my services for a worthy cause with the Twende Kazi Campaign, it was such a joy interpreting for children from all over and I got to share the stage with Daddy Owen, Emmy Kosgei, Wyre de Love Child, Mis Karuna na having backstage conversations with RK MwanaAbuja it was much worth than the cash I would have endured an AGM to earn...in short want to cut corners on price & quality? expect a service with rough edges.

So what is the right pay for interpreters for the various assignments? 
First I would like to reiterate that currently we are in a free market and the forces of the economies of scale rule the negotiations between the interpreter and the service purchaser. Depending on the complexity of an assignment, duration, audience and nature of assignment there are some considerations that the interpreter needs to think about and a few legalese that the appointing entity must be aware of. 

As a minimum there is general consensus that it would be very difficult and costly to charge interpretations per hour or per minutes worked as it is the practice with translations. From my vast experience working on various assignments I have used the following categories and guidelines to help me come up with rates for any assignments. For the employee and the employer here are some guidelines that would enable categorization of assignments and make rate discussions much easier.

Nature of Assignment

Pro Bono Services - in my opinion these include interpretation services for the larger Deaf community for the common good of the individual or community in general. When interpreters volunteer to interpret for their friends at the shop, in class or with family; interpretations during KNAD events, lobbying and advocacy events, church services, social events or making phone calls on the streets I would consider these pro bono services. Many interpreters and Deaf people develop strong professional relationships from these volunteerism engagements. When we say they are pro bono - it is never free, many times there are hidden costs for instance transportation that are incurred to facilitate this assignments. 

Professional Meetings - these include but not limited interviews, staff meetings, AGMs, political meetings, NGO forums....they are complex in their own right. There are processes procedures and decorum to be observed in these settings. Considering the sensitivity, privacy and accountability associated with these sorts of meetings the interpreter is a third party facilitating communication for the parties and is held in high ethical bar for all the discussions, it is also an engagement that requires a well vast interpreter with the industry/field knowledge and trends. Finding a perfect match remains the assignment of the recruiter but also challenges the interpreters to horn their skills to be specialists and well read professionals. The interpreter would take the same stature as a rapporteur, note taker, secretary or a caterer thus this service should be compensated as well by the convener of the event. 

Social Events/Engagements - weddings, family events, parties, sports events always viewed as non formal for the guests, it is always a working event and professional engagements for interpreters. There is a thin line between this and the pro bono service type however it depends on how the interpreter is approached by the Deaf individual or organization needing the service. In many instances I have negotiated a lower rate given that the social networks allow for the interpreter to be picked or offered transport, meals and the interactions are very informal except in formal parties, weddings or corporate events, . Being human it is only fair for the interpreter to be considerate and cognizant of the other 'benefits' accorded with the job. In many cases these are some of the most easy and fulfilling activities to be involved with. People appreciate your work and you will get a lot of affirmations and instant recognition. A word of caution to interpreters take care of the wine, it impairs your concentration take the drivers rule - accept the drink and ask them to keep it for you for the after party!

Educational Assignments - This is one of the most tasking and most misunderstood area of all the interpreter settings. It is a demanding assignment as you climb up the academic ladder. It is difficult to find an interpreter comfortable and qualified to interpret at all levels or at a variety of levels. Inclusive education in Kenya has not reached the level where interpreters are employed to work in inclusive classes. Many a times to reduce costs and to avoid complications some employers employ a teacher/interpreter - they however remain teachers and never transition to interpreters. Remunerations in this setting need to be commensurate with teachers, teaching aids and guides within the educational systems to avoid the inequalities. 

I am lumping Medical/Legal Assignments  together because many times interpreters fear these jobs due to the jargon however thankfully they are not as regular unless of course you work in a court or hospital. There are however established rules and procedure of who can do what within the courts and hospitals, key issue for the interpreter is to know the field and work on their confidence.

Rates, Payments, Fees

From previous dialogue and precedence it has been generally agreed that rates can be set based on prevailing market rates, in comparison with existing prices for similar work and qualifications. From my tenure as Chair of KSLIA we struggled with setting the minimum rate for interpretation and come up with a guidance - for the first 2 and half hours to be billed at kes 2500 - 3000 with the consequent hours billed at 500 shillings. Many organizations, government agencies have taken a blanket 2500 shillings per day without any considerations to the other factors. There are organizations that pay a 'consultants' rate at anything between 5000 shillings to 15000 shillings per day depending on their scales of pay for other consultants in other fields. These inequalities are very huge and are a source of frustrations for interpreters and employers. 

It is worth noting that such issues of pay should be regulated and set by a body that would continually monitor market trends, economy, inflation, taxation and cost of living and doing business. With this absent it is harder and harder to settle on a standard figure. For instance it would cost an interpreter as follows to interpret a 3 hour staff meeting, interview or ngo forum

Transport to meeting venue 1200.00
Refreshment - water etc 200.00
Professional Fee 3100.00
Withholding  tax (less) 500.00
Total Cost to Employer 5000.00
Total Net to Interpreter 4500.00
or for a full day meeting, AGM or wedding function

Transport to meeting venue 1200.00
Refreshment - water, lunch etc 600.00
Professional Fee 6500.00
Withholding  tax (less) 800.00
Total Cost to Employer 9100.00
Total Net to Interpreter 8300.00


From the above example, it is possible to see how a employer or interpreter could remunerate an interpreter's professional service. There are a few hidden costs such as stationary, telephone calls to coordinate the assignment etc that would get the cost slightly higher. 

Final word to my Deaf friends reading this - Get your eyes, hands off my pocket. Interpreters have a right to a just wage as you have a right to get a good, quality service.

For Employers this is a guide and a conversation starter not a commandment. Engage and negotiate a competitive rate.

My fellow interpreter - do not kill yourself ask for a just wage and provide quality service matching the pay and do not be a jua kali iko nini interpreter. Your quality, professional service will earn you the best package negotiate, negotiate negotiate.

There are those who have hated me already at this point, but this info needs to be discussed and agreed upon. 

This is the iko nini of assignments and payments for interpreters in Kenya.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Case of Agenda Kenya VI Interpretation


The Case of Agenda Kenya VI Interpretation

Since most of my Deaf friends are not able to air their views and comments on this issue I will briefly take a moment and set the record straight about interpreting English into Kenyan Sign Language just so we are clear.

In Kenya interpreters are often, in many cases volunteers, family members or social workers or even teachers who at a certain level have 'mastered' some sign language and have found themselves in an interpreting situation.

Family members - children of Deaf adults (CODA), siblings with Deaf family members often become interpreters automatically since sign language is either their first language (mother tongue) or the only form of communication in the family settings. This category of interpreters are often fluent and rarely take up interpreting as a career save for a few who make it.

Within this category is the spouses of Deaf individuals. These are hearing individuals who have out of interest, hard work, love or life in general have learnt sign language to communicate with their spouses and the larger deaf community. They do interpret however very few are trained to interpret those who are become great interpreters - the language is part of their daily lives.

Volunteers - often a self motivated lot, they learn the language and are available for the Deaf community for interpretation services in non formal settings - family gatherings, church, social events, weddings etc due to the freelancing nature of their engagement they become an asset as a pool of ready to be interpreters. Those who transition from this pool into professional interpreting have a solid foundation of what interpreting is. 

Teachers, social workers, therapists and 'helpers' are the most problematic and challenge for any interpreter trainer and consumer. The teacher/interpreter got into interpreting by pure accident. The mind and will is to train and will always carry and wear the teaching hat while interpreting. They will tend to explain, 'help' the 'poor' deaf people understand the complex english jargon. The social worker or helper too with good intention and benevolence would like to help....compassion without wisdom does to your mind what bad habits do to your character! These professionals bring medical and rehabilitation perspective - important and good however not all Deaf people will ever use hearing aids, speak or use cochlear. Sign language is not their favorite forte and they would rather have tangible results thus we have ill advised policies like having the teachers speaking and signing at the same time as they teach, removal of Kiswahili and music for the Deaf students in Kenya or examining Kenyan Sign Language (a visual language) being written/glossed for children when not even linguists can do that at phd level.

Given this understanding I have held the opinion that not all users of sign language are interpreters. This is true of other languages too. Not all Swahili speakers can interpret it fluently - as you listen to bulletins in Kenyan media houses you will hear statements that make you cringe at the word for word translations that almost equal machine translations.

Agenda Kenya Season 6 is a program of MEDEVA has come under critical focus for interpreters and Deaf community. I have to be careful here since my criticism will be based on the interpretation and hope that the reader will take note of those and not circumvent this voice into something negative.

Agenda Kenya - Kenya’s first and most impartial audience-based political talk show with a weekly audience of around 1.2 million. The talk show has been broadcast on KTN, Radio Citizen, KBC TV and Radio, NTV and Radio Simba. The show was voted ‘the best TV talk show in Kenya’ during the 2009 Kalasha TV and Film Awards, an initiative of Kenya Film Commission.

Complaints and Possible Corrective action
  1. Choice and engagement of interpreters - it is difficult to get and retain the best interpreters. MEDEVA has struggled with this and as an interpreter and employer I empathize. It is not as hard as it sounds. - Work with KNAD and KSLIA as the authority to vet, critic and evaluate interpreters. KISE is not an authority in interpreting same for KSLRP 
  2. Quality of Interpreter services - As you produce professional work, the interpretation has to match the other facets without which there is a loss to the media house and to the Deaf consumer not able to have accesses to the info being shared.
  3. Criticism of interpreter services - when interpreters fluency, ability or interpretation - it is never about jealousy or vendetta. KSLIA has had several complaints of masqueraders who claim to be interpreters taking advantage of the situations to benefit themselves. Competition in any service provision is healthy and should be encouraged to get the best, to get quality and to encourage growth.
  4. Poor interpretation or misinterpretation is unprofessional and a violation of the rights of a Deaf Kenyans' right to full access to information. It vexes to see a pool of over 200 qualified interpreters not being put to use while a few 'bad' interpreters are utilized. Perfection and fluency is never possible however there is a margin of error tolerable esp when one interpreter is made to interpret four speakers having a debate on political issues. 
  5. Dialogue is key to getting the best service. Engage the interpreters, Deaf community - we believe that nothing for us without us still applies and should be echoed so loud especially as we set precedence in frontiers like full access to information for persons with disabilities.Thus my criticism is to enable MEDEVA be the best and to remain number one in this area.
Many instances the Deaf community and interpreters have gotten wrong representations from the so called 'qualified' Interpreters willing to speak on our behalf and purport to know what interpreting is. It is about time we put a stop to 'iko nini interpreters' aka jua kali interpreters 

Language interpretation is the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between users of different languages. The process is described by both the words interpreting and interpretation. In professional parlance, interpreting denotes the facilitating of communication from one language form into its equivalent, or approximate equivalent, in another language form; while interpretation denotes the actual product of this work, that is, the message thus rendered into speech, sign language, writing, non-manual signals, or other language form. This important distinction is observed in order to avoid confusion.
An interpreter is a person who converts a thought or expression in a source language into an expression with a comparable meaning in a target language either simultaneously in "real time" or consecutively after one party has finished speaking. The interpreter's function is to convey every semantic element (tone and register) and every intention and feeling of the message that the source-language speaker is directing to target-language recipients. 

Armchair Critic's View: The Case of Television Programs Interpreting

Armchair Critic's View: The Case of Television Programs Interpreting 

Television program interpreting is among the oldest and most 'professional' forms of Sign-Voice interpretation in Kenya. It is probably second to church service interpreting. For those who remember programs like Joy Bringers - it had two or three interpreters in the tiny box to the right bottom of the screen. The parliamentary debates have been the longest televised interpretation for the Deaf in Kenya. This too has gone through a lot of transitions and changes with various interpreters offering their services. I almost forgot the Sign News by KTN in the late 90s - it was a welcome relief to have news round up followed by the language lessons. KBC crowned it all with the Kiswahili Kitukuzwe show that had some Kenyan Sign Language to it.

Those were the days.

Then come the UNDP, Ford Foundation, Uraia sponsored talk shows - Agenda Kenya and the likes. It is almost impossible to think about interpreting on television without thinking about Agenda Kenya. Many programs have tried to emulate the good small box used by KBC for the interpreter and it almost seems to be the standard even in this digital age. 

One of the greatest challenges for television program interpreting is the restrictive small box. Many of the editors I have talked with seem to think that it is the standard and would not think of the strain for the viewer. Others do not care they do willing ling splash the text over the interpreters' face and rarely pay attention to the rule of captioning.

For the interpreter many time you are alone with at least two to three people speaking at the same time. Worse so when they decide to air music - one of the hardest things to interpret while seated is music and many broadcasters do not realize that it is virtually impossible to do strapped in a studio chair with lighting and heat.

There is never a moment to get the scripts in time for the interpreter to gloss through and many time you are closed up in a small room boiling from the lighting, trying to battle claustrophobic thoughts. The few media professionals who understand translations and interpreting challenges will look out for your good and make some adjustments.  

With this background I wish to point out several key notes for any interpreter, broadcaster and media houses  that would help them become better service providers.

Interpreter
  1. Request for a contract, read, understand and sign it, know your roles and responsibility - just as the the anchor, editor, reporters have distinct job description so the Interpreter should have a signed contract.
  2. Get the script of the program, questions, comments, names of guests and topics of interest about the program you are about to interpret. Ask, Insist and Obtain these from the producer of the program.
  3. Negotiate your pay before your sit in front of the camera. Any discussions after the recording will not be to your advantage.
  4. Wear comfortable, appropriate clothes, jewelry and work with the make up artists - forget the flashy anchor they only sit and talk, you will move a lot, you will sweat, you will be thirsty do not let anyone else determine for you the comfort you need to do your job.
  5. Know your content - practice names, places, events as you get your script familiarize yourself with themes in the program.
  6. Get a bottle of cold water - yes they will say no food and drink to the studio, insist it is good for you to have it. If not the producer will have to deal with a fainting interpreter which is not good for the show. Be gentle but firm.
  7. Work in teams of two or more. It is standard practice to have at least two interpreters to work in intervals of 15-20 minutes on tasks that are 2 hours or more. This enables the interpreters to refresh, to provide quality and for health reasons - your brain does not concentrate interpreting for long periods maximum 30 minutes and fatigue, misinterpretation and blank mind syndrome kicks in and you are done. Give each other feedback - debrief before and after sessions.
  8. It is appropriate for a balance of male/female balance in interpreting settings where the speakers are varied. For instance for the best fit and match for a male president would be a male interpreter same for a female minister would be best interpreted for by a female interpreter - this carries the spirit and heart of the message. It is however never possible in real life - as it is we have more female interpreters than male ones. 
  9. Know your code of ethics and practice it. Remember the basics - keep time, dress, diligence, keep secrets, forget as soon as you interpret resolve conflicts as soon as possible and your client is King/Queen.
  10. Keep learning. Read, watch, hear and learn accents, technology, acronyms, jargon, politics, religion, law, business, current affairs....
Broadcaster and Media House
  1. Develop and follow your policy on contracting interpreters. Contracts, rates, taxes, insurance, fees etc should never be a surprise. 
  2. Read and be familiar with the PWD Act 2003 the revised and current provisions, clauses on disability in the bill of rights.
  3. Your clients are key consumers of your service - listen to their feedback and meet expectations.
  4. Verify your pick of interpreter(s) work with the Kenya National Association of the Deaf, Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association, Kenya Sign Language Research Project to vet, 'qualify' your selection, to provide quality checks and feedback.
  5. Know that Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) is a language with its own syntax, grammar and phonology. Beware of interpreters using foreign signed languages, signed exact English or word for word renditions. Refer to 4 above for guidance.
  6. Break from tradition - empower your editors and producers to allow for the interpreter to be visible bigger, clearer each time on the screen. The tiny box is restrictive and old. Technology has given ability to split screens, cue and Tx works better now than they did 10 years ago. Do not cover the interpreter with text, if using closed captioning make it clear and readable. FYI most (Deaf) children learn English and other languages better as they see it over and over again and can associate the words and the images thus you achieve two goals inform and educate at  the same time.
  7. Work with the interpreter during the editing process. Enable your editors to know when to insert adverts, scrolling texts, transitions etc 
  8.  Encourage feedback on interpretation services - criticism, comments and recommendations make  television programs better and accessible.
  9. Employ a multi discipline interpreter (s) for the media house if possible - it is rare to find an interpreter who is able to interpret medical, legal and religious interpreting all in one person most interpreters are comfortable in two or three settings or fields. Just as you have political editors, medical journalists, legal or medical reporters interpreters too have a specialization.
  10. ASK ask ask ask the consumer, the interpreters when stuck. 

In Kenya interpreters are often, in many cases volunteers, family members or social workers or even teachers who at a certain level have mastered some sign language and have found themselves in an interpreting situation. Using my own example and experience - I began interpreting as a volunteer at a church then slowly I transitioned into a professional interpreter with a lot of peer education and exchange, self learning and support from a few Deaf friends. 


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Interpreter Services in Kenya - A Critical Analysis of Interpreter Services for the Deaf in Kenya

Interpreter Services in Kenya - A Critical Analysis of Interpreter Services for the Deaf in Kenya

"....the Deaf in Kenya are ‘a special linguistic minority….special because (the approximately 700-800,000 Deaf Kenyans) by nature of their disability cannot operate effectively in any of the spoken majority languages (English and Kiswahili)’.  This predicament brings us to the whys of the clamor for recognition of the language and thereby ‘legalization’ and use of KSL." Professor Okoth Okombo of the University of Nairobi linguistics department 

On behalf of the Deaf community in Kenya, the Kenya National Association of the Deaf – KNAD – a non-governmental organization registered in 1987 with the government of Kenya under the Registrar of Societies Act of 1968 rule 4 representing approximately 600-800,000 Deaf people in Kenya; I address this topic wearing three hats as a Hearing Kenyan, Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) User and finally as an Interpreter. These three qualifications among others gives me enough reference point and authority to speak on this issue.

It is estimated that Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) is the first and preferred language of between 700-800,000 people in the Kenya. The Kenyan Deaf community consists of individuals who come from ALL the 42 tribes of Kenya and are united by a common language – KSL, a shared culture, tradition and history; KSL is fundamental to their self-esteem and social well being. Deaf Kenyans regardless of tribe, gender or religion uses KSL as a medium of communication and for official transaction of business, school, religious activities and social interactions. KNAD believes that official recognition of KSL would bring clear benefits to many thousands of Deaf people in terms of improved access to information and essential services. 

As a country we have already made a significant commitment to protect the rights and improve services of the Kenyan Deaf people by the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act of 2003, Kenya has also ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 18th May 2008. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and secures Deaf people’s linguistic rights. The most significant achievement for Deaf people is that article 2 which defines sign languages as national languages, more to say, they are considered equal to spoken national languages. The key to the achievement of Deaf people’s basic rights in Kenya is to respect the right to use Kenyan Sign Language.

strongly believes that recognition of Kenyan Sign Language in the new Constitution, under the following articles 
Article 7(b) the state shall promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign languageBraille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities. 
Article 27
(4) The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.

Article 44
(1) Every person has the right to use the language, and to participate in the cultural life, of the person’s choice.
(2) A person belonging to a cultural or linguistic community has the right, with other members of that community--
(a) to enjoy the person’s culture and use the person’s language; or
(b) to form, join and maintain cultural and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.

Article 49
(1) An arrested person has the right--
(a) to be informed promptly, in language that the person understands, of--
(i) the reason for the arrest;
(ii) the right to remain silent; and
(iii) the consequences of not remaining silent.
(c) to communicate with an advocate, and other persons whose assistance is necessary;

Article 50
(2) Every accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right--
(m) to have the assistance of an interpreter without payment if the accused person cannot understand the language used at the trial.
(3) If this Article requires information to be given to a person, the information shall be given in language that the person understands.
(7) In the interest of justice, a court may allow an intermediary to assist a complainant or an accused person to communicate with the court.

Article 54
(1) A person with any disability is entitled--
(a) to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning;
(b) to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person;
(c) to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
(d) to use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
(e) to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
(2) The State shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities.

Article 56
The State shall put in place affirmative action programs designed to ensure that minorities and marginalized groups--
(d) develop their cultural values, languages and practices

Article 120
(1) The official languages of Parliament shall be Kiswahili, English and Kenyan Sign language, and the business of Parliament may be conducted in English, Kiswahili and Kenyan Sign language.
(2) In case of a conflict between different language versions of an Act of Parliament, the version signed by the President shall prevail.
Article 259
(2) If there is a conflict between different language versions of this Constitution, the English language version prevails. 
specifying it as one of the national and official languages to which 700 – 800,000 Kenyans use in their everyday lives in their homes, churches, mosques, schools, in commerce, in courts, meetings, social events and official business it will uphold our national values and principles of Chapter 3 of the draft will promote the participation of the Kenyan Deaf people in public affairs, to share in the devolution of power and ensuring full participation of the Deaf - men, women, youth and children persons with disabilities, a marginalized  socio-linguistic minority community in the political, social and economic life of the nation of Kenya. 


With these developments demand for qualified Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) interpreters is rapidly growing and is impacting the deaf community. Current indications are that Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) will be the new emerging language in Kenya. The new constitution  gives KSL preeminence on the clauses addressing issues of persons with disabilities as a language of communication for the Deaf in Kenya. The Kenya National Examination Council in January 2010 issued a circular making KSL an examinable subject in equal stature with English and Kiswahili. There is also an increasing number of students in Tertiary and Universities requiring the services of qualified, certified and competent interpreters. Kenya and the region is also budding with international conferences and forums involving the Deaf citizens thus widening the opportunities for interpreters.

Current training programs are unable to keep up with the increased demand for highly-trained interpreters with a nationwide interpreter shortage as the result. The Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA), the national professional associations of sign language interpreters, Kenya National Association of the Deaf – KNAD, Global Deaf Connections and the Ministry of Education have also recognized the insufficient numbers of interpreters available to meet the market’s demand. The issues identified have been the lack of interpreter training programs, although some colleges, universities and private companies with interpreter training programs are aware of the need for improved quality and availability of training, many are simply unaware of the extent of the interpreter shortage in the community.

The Deaf Aid project Kenya Registry of Interpreters and Transliterates for the Deaf (KRITD) in its white paper declared a “national interpreter crisis in the quantity, quality and qualifications of interpreters.” This white paper identifies how stakeholders can collaborate to marshal resources to increase and improve interpreter training programs to help meet the urgent demand to train larger numbers of new interpreters and upgrade the qualifications of existing interpreters. The Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD Act 2003) requires public institutions to provide “qualified readers or interpreters and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities” The major need is in public schools and higher education, but health care providers, hospitals, courts, public safety and other government offices are also seeing increased demand.

Simultaneously, Deaf consumers of interpreting services have become more informed and are demanding higher quality interpreting services that meet their individual needs. Consumers and consumer organizations have expressed interest in being substantively involved in the identification, development, and delivery of the educational opportunities provided through these proposed areas of intervention. 

In order to train qualified interpreters to better meet the demand from consumers and consumer organizations, interpreter educators must be sufficient in number and be knowledgeable of current best practices. I suggest that the interpreter community in Kenya needs to embrace a three Cs that would change this profession.

  1. Certification - the need to transform the learning methodology of interpreters. Currently any otieno, kariuki, musyoki, njeri, kalekye and nasimuyu goes into a church for the Deaf, school or a local training program and by three months they are declared a trained interpreter after learning basic sign language. There is more to learning a language than a 3 month course on vocabulary, signs and finger spelling. The Kenya Sign Language Research Project at the University of Nairobi needs to be transformed into a Deaf Studies Institute or its slumbering sister the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) could pick up that role. There is a curriculum at Kenya Institute of Education (KIE), there are examining bodies and quality assurance standards worldwide that can ensure we have professionals in this field. Teachers, Plumbers, Lawyers, Accountants etc have certification processes that qualify one to be in the cohort. Interpreters have no other option - get trained, get certified. I have held the position that we need to take the KIE curriculum, train an initial Core Trainers, Replicate this over the 47 Counties and develop a certification program through the various levels of tertiary education - certificates, diplomas and degrees. However since our academicians respect degrees and schools KNAD would partner with various universities to offer training for Deaf Studies, Deaf Education, Interpreting and Linguistics. 
  2. Continuing Education - Skill upgrade is important it is a core component of 1 above. 
  3. Conflict Resolution - KNAD (the Deaf) KSLIA (Interpreters) and Government of Kenya (public) would have a forum to deal with professional tort issues with this third pillar. Since human interpretation will never be perfect and standardized there are ethical issues to be considered in this consumer/service provider dispute resolution mechanism.
To address these issues and to contribute toward the education and training of a sufficient number of qualified interpreters to meet the communications needs of individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and individuals who are Deaf-blind, there needs to be a move to provide legislation in the form of a Kenya Sign Language Bill or Kenya Language policy that will govern the issues described above. Since these are a far off, in the immediate future the three Cs remain a good foundation for KNAD, KSLIA and other stakeholders need to critically think about.

As we debate the almost 800,000 Deaf Kenyans go about life not fully getting the information about  voter registration, insecurity in Baragoi/Tana Delta or a lecture at the university hall or classroom or during the 9 o'clock bulletin - you may ask but they could read the papers? due to the poor quality of teaching methods in the schools for the Deaf literacy remain low. That is a discussion for another day - however it touches heavily on the access to information to persons with disabilities and the Deaf are not the only ones affected

the best languages for passing on information in Kenya include not only the official and national languages but also the various indigenous languages, braille for the blind and sign language for the Deaf. Okombo 2001

Monday, 26 November 2012

What is it like to be a professional interpreter?

Someone asked me the other day What is it like to be a professional interpreter?

my response was exhilarating, frustrating, and often extremely rewarding! 


Interpreting is misunderstood profession. It's grating, after a while, to deal with people who think they can do your job just because they speak 2+ languages (fluently). That's just one of the preconditions, nothing more. It's grating to deal with outsiders who want to "test" you, either because they're worried about how good you'll be if they hire you (fine, get some references from other interpreters, or from other customers, or ask me how interpreters are actually tested), or because they want to make some sort of conversational point ("So, you're an interpreter! Interpret this, then: ..."). Patience is one thing you do need. Read more here

it is fun I have been able to 

1. earn good money interpreting
2. travel to many places
3. meet various people cultures
4. learn various languages and skills
5. develop some great friendships and professional contacts
6. fulfillment 
7. opportunities
8. the challenges are worth the tackle 
9. frustrations go away when a client says thanks, good job, can I hire you next time
10. relaxation after a job well done is rewarding

So there you have it. Go on become an interpreter it is worth your while.




Monday, 15 October 2012

Deaf Kenyans - Rewriting the history of the Deaf in Kenya Series I



Little information exists about the Kenyan Deaf community prior to 1960. It is however known that in 1958 concerned hearing Kenyans established the Kenya Society for Deaf Children (KSDC). In the late 1960s’ and early 70s’ Deaf people from Nyangoma and Mumias who were believed to be first generation of educated Deaf people in the Deaf schools came to Nairobi to look for jobs and better life.

This is justified when Alan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan paid visit to Kenya and had to say this on Kenya deaf community in their book. In addition, graduates of the schools have been mingling for some three – four decades now in cities such as Nairobi, where there are reportedly several hundred Deaf adults. The numbers of deaf people are known to be large in Nairobi and while in Nairobi, they went to Kenya Society for the Deaf Children (KSDC) for social services, since there was no national association of the deaf to cater for their rights that time. KSDC was the only organization for the Deaf though it’s aim was to focus on improving education of deaf children by establishing schools and looking for donors to sponsor needy Deaf children, in addition to that KSDC was also offering in-services-training program for the teachers for the deaf, but not to advocate and serve the deaf adults who by then were facing serious discrimination at employments and other institutions due to their deafness.

Since then several organizations have sprung up offering a myriad of services and opportunities to the growing Deaf population in Kenya. Central to this was the formation of Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) a national non-governmental organization was formed and managed by Deaf people in 1986 and registered in 1987 under the Societies Act; KNAD is an ordinary member of the World Federation of the Deaf. Ann Oginga (the former KSDC director) flew to Sweden and met with the Swedish Federation of the Deaf (SDR) regarding Kenyan issues and brought to the SDR’s attention to the current plight of Deaf adults in their post-primary life. She then enlisted SDR’s assistance into investigating the new social crisis of the Deaf in Kenya. Uldis Ozolins from SDR came to Kenya and met Solomon Kayia through the Association of Nairobi Deaf Sports. Some Deaf people attend athletic tournaments to play, of course, but they and many more are there for another reason: to be with other members of the DEAFWORLD (frequently impossible during the work day) and to see old friends who have become separated after graduation or marriage or a move to a new job. 

Deaf people were more interested in sporting activities as that was the only social events that was available apart from deaf clubs. So it made it easier to reach deaf community. With Solomon’s assistance, Uldis discovered more information about the Deaf in Kenya. Solomon led Uldis on a fact finding mission to deaf schools in Kenya. Armed with the information, Uldis returned to Sweden and met with the board of SDR showed the board his experiences and information he got from Kenya about Kenya Deaf Community. The board in turn met with KSDC on the findings and resolutions. KSDC agreed to serve as a bridge between Sweden Deaf and Kenya Deaf regarding communication. In these meetings and events there were hearing individuals friends of the Deaf, family members, social workers etc who learnt Kenyan Sign Language and aided the Deaf in their communications with the rest of the world.

Today?? Join us in Series II looking at today

Kenyan Sign Language - Beyond Constitutional Recognition Part I


The case for official recognition of KSL
There are no official figures for the number of KSL users in the Kenya, although it is estimated that there are between 600,000 and 800,000 people whose first and preferred language is KSL. There are as many Deaf KSL-users as there are speakers of some indigenous languages, and more people (Deaf and hearing) use KSL than either Swahili according to Ethnologue Report. Linguists have established that KSL is a language in its own right and is as complex and sophisticated as any spoken language.

Like all linguistic minorities, members of the Deaf community have different degrees of access to the majority language of the wider community. Since KSL is more accessible to many Deaf people than spoken languages such as English, official recognition of KSL is especially important. BSL is the foundation for the self-esteem, educational achievement and social well being of the Kenya's Deaf community. However, that community exists within a wider society of hearing people. Consequently, Deaf people who use KSL experience high levels of social exclusion, particularly in the following areas:

Access to information and services
Deaf people face many barriers when using public and private services. This is frequently due to a lack of awareness of the needs of Deaf people on the part of service providers, and insufficient communication support. Deaf people with visual impairments (for example those with Usher syndrome) or other disabilities are especially disadvantaged.

Because English is often their second language, Deaf KSL users do not always have full access to written information. Service providers therefore need to use interpreters wherever necessary and to make information available in KSL formats, for instance on video or CD-ROM.
  
Interpreting
Kenya Sign Language Interpreters Association (KSLIA) was set up by a group of 20 local interpreters after training by the first Deaf Education US Peace Corps Volunteers in September 2000. Prior to this training there were several short term trainings conducted by KSLRP/KNAD dating back to 1980s and 1990s.

KSLIA is an indigenous initiative evolving and strengthening the face of the Interpreting profession in Kenya. KSLIA hopes to improve and elevate the standards of Interpreting in Kenya through the following objectives:

  1. 1.       To secure official recognition by the Government of S.L Interpreters profession
  2. 2.       Encourage and promote initiatives in improving the standards of SL interpreting and interpreter training and pay scale of interpreters depending with their level and skills of interpretation through certification.
  3. 3.       Cooperation with other recognized bodies concerned in the welfare of the deaf and in provision of S.L Interpreters throughout the world.
  4. 4.       Awareness creation on Deafness and SL. Interpreters through publication of information materials
  5. 5.       To collect and raise funds for the achievement of goals and objectives through membership fee, subscription, contribution, gifts or donations, commissions and payments, fund raising whether in money or otherwise from both members and non members.
  6. 6.       To maintain and administer a registry of S.L Interpreters in Kenya, enforce a code of ethics and mediate conflict between the Interpreters and their clients.

KSLIA is working towards the establishment of a training program and a certification process for its membership. [KSLIA] envisions its role in a three pronged approach - the three C's - Certification of members, Continuing education for the practicing Interpreters and Conflict resolution through enforcement of the Code of Ethics. Between 2006 - 2009 Global Deaf Connection, Deaf Aid, and KSLIA have jointly organized a series of trainings aimed at developing a process to provide training, certification and continued professional development for Kenyan Interpreters.

A KSL/spoken language interpreter provides a vital link between Deaf and hearing people. However, there is currently a serious shortage. As of year 2000 there were only 50 practicing interpreters and 100 trainee interpreters registered by the Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Association – KSLIA and the Kenyan Sign Language Research Project – KSLRP.

The Persons with Disabilities Act 2003 requires businesses and service-providers to make their services accessible to Deaf people. However due to lack of gazette notification of these laws into policy has greatly contributed to the marginalization of the Deaf community in Kenya. The growth of demand for interpreters has not been matched by increased supply. This is a major obstacle to Deaf people's social inclusion.


Education
In education, the use and teaching of KSL within a bilingual (KSL/English) learning environment is essential for some deaf children and adults. The early acquisition of language is vital to the learning process and for some deaf children KSL will be more accessible than spoken languages.

The Framework of Action accompanying UNESCO's Salamanca Statement on Special Needs Education, to which Britain is a signatory, states that:

The importance of sign language as the medium of communication among the deaf...should be recognized and provision made to ensure that all deaf persons have access to education in their national sign language. Framework for Action (1994), para 21

The United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 1993, similarly state that:

Consideration should be given to the use of sign language in the education of the deaf children, in their families and communities. Sign language interpretation services should also be provided to facilitate the communication between deaf persons and others. Rule 5, Accessibility
However, in Kenya, educational provision for deaf children varies greatly between education authorities, with some not offering bilingual programs and very few schools or resource bases for deaf children offering any formal teaching of KSL. A lack of access to KSL learning can adversely affect the language development of some deaf children and so impede their subsequent learning.

Parents of deaf children also receive greatly varying amounts of information and training in KSL, depending on the area they live in. However, this level of support remains the exception rather than the rule. Many parents are denied the choice of a bilingual method of education for their deaf children. Most schools in Kenya have for years insisted on the oral and or total communication mode of instruction.

Teaching and learning KSL
Demand for KSL courses has increased dramatically in the last decade. More and more people are learning the language - more than 2000 people took basic level course in KSL since 1998. However, there is a major shortage of trained and qualified KSL tutors and assessors. There is a KSL dictionary, interactive self teaching CD, the Kenya National Examinations Council, Kenya Institute of Special/Education – KIE/KISE have in last couple of years been developing curriculum and examination materials for KSL which are set to be used beginning 2010.
  
The legal status of KSL
Article 7
(b) promote the development and use of indigenous languages, Kenyan Sign languageBraille and other communication formats and technologies accessible to persons with disabilities.

Article 27
(4) The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, colour, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.

Article 44
(1) Every person has the right to use the language, and to participate in the cultural life, of the person’s choice.
(2) A person belonging to a cultural or linguistic community has the right, with other members of that community--
(a) to enjoy the person’s culture and use the person’s language; or
(b) to form, join and maintain cultural and linguistic associations and other organs of civil society.

Article 49
(1) An arrested person has the right--
(a) to be informed promptly, in language that the person understands, of--
(i) the reason for the arrest;
(ii) the right to remain silent; and
(iii) the consequences of not remaining silent.
(c) to communicate with an advocate, and other persons whose assistance is necessary;

Article 50
(2) Every accused person has the right to a fair trial, which includes the right--
(m) to have the assistance of an interpreter without payment if the accused person cannot understand the language used at the trial.
(3) If this Article requires information to be given to a person, the information shall be given in language that the person understands.
(7) In the interest of justice, a court may allow an intermediary to assist a complainant or an accused person to communicate with the court.

Article 54
(1) A person with any disability is entitled--
(a) to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning;
(b) to access educational institutions and facilities for persons with disabilities that are integrated into society to the extent compatible with the interests of the person;
(c) to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
(d) to use Sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
(e) to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the person’s disability.
(2) The State shall ensure the progressive implementation of the principle that at least five percent of the members of the public in elective and appointive bodies are persons with disabilities.

Article 56
The State shall put in place affirmative action programs designed to ensure that minorities and marginalized groups--
(d) develop their cultural values, languages and practices

Article 120
(1) The official languages of Parliament shall be Kiswahili, English and Kenyan Sign language, and the business of Parliament may be conducted in English, Kiswahili and Kenyan Sign language.
(2) In case of a conflict between different language versions of an Act of Parliament, the version signed by the President shall prevail.

Article 259
(2) If there is a conflict between different language versions of this Constitution, the English language version prevails.

Quoting Professor Okoth Okombo of the University of Nairobi linguistics department the Deaf in Kenya are ‘a special linguistic minority….special because (the approximately 700-800,000 Deaf Kenyans) by nature of their disability cannot operate effectively in any of the spoken majority languages (English and Kiswahili)’.  This predicament brings us to the whys of the clamor for recognition of the language and thereby ‘legalization’ and use of KSL. One of the main pillars of language rights is the UN’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration (of human rights) without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The freedom for private individuals to use a minority language in private correspondence or communications, including in private business or commercial correspondence, by telephone, electronic means; to have private displays such as outdoor commercial signs and posters, commercial signs, etc. of a private nature; the freedom to print in a minority language; the freedom to use a minority language in the conduct of private business and economic activities; even the right to create and operate private schools teaching in a minority language are all language rights. But their very nature is anchored, they originate, from existing human rights. (Varennes 2001: 5)

Failure to guarantee such uses of language amounts to a breach of an individual’s language rights. At another level, language rights can be explained by distinguishing language use in public. This includes the use of a language that an individual understands well both in court proceedings and court documents as universally recognised in international law as a basic “linguistic” right based on a fundamental human right (Varennes 2001: 6). The language uses at this level are also understood to include uses by public authorities: … such as public education using a minority language as a medium of instruction, public radio and television broadcasting in a minority language, use of minority language by public officials in the provision of services to the public (and therefore a major source of employment for individuals within the civil service) etc. (Varennes 2001: 6)

As Okombo (2001: 14–17) argues, the best languages for passing on information in Africa include not only the official and national languages but also the various indigenous languages, braille for the blind and sign language for the Deaf. The braille and sign language users are considered a disadvantaged minority whose language rights must be catered for. Okombo argues that it is not enough to use sign language in Kenya; rather, a local variety of the sign language, namely, Kenyan sign language is the most ideal language to use.

In addition, to the best of my knowledge, only the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) and Kenyatta University have programmes training teachers for the handicapped. It is noted that members of the deaf community join school having learnt Kenyan sign language at home (Adoyo 2002). But at school they are subjected to either American sign English or sign exact English. The sequel of this practice is that the Deaf do not learn much. As if that is not enough, their blind counterparts have no reference materials published in braille. Thus blind people depend on the goodwill of their seeing colleagues to read for them. In this scenario, how sensitive are language planners to the language and democratic rights of the handicapped?

 Kenya is now ripe for a Kenyan Sign Language Act to streamline the issues above. 

In part two we will discuss the hows and the whens......



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