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.