International Sign Conference Interpreting

Monday 30 October 2023, 12:30 pm
PhD student
M.C. de Wit-van Schagen
prof. dr. O. Crasborn, prof. dr. J. Napier (Heriot Watt University Edinburgh
Faculty of Arts

There is a high demand for International Sign (IS) interpretation at international organizations such as the UN and the EU. Little is known about how interpreters learn and interpret IS at high-level conference type events. IS is different from national sign languages, for example NGT, as it does not have a formal status nor a conventionalized lexicon and grammar. 
I studied the perspectives of IS conference interpreters on their practices, including their profiles and competences. To date there is no formal training for IS conference interpreters and as a result novices can only acquire the required skills by gaining access to a community of experienced practitioners. 
The study shows that the high standards of the international organizations require signed language interpreters, like their spoken-language peers, to complete a formal training in conference interpreting. Furthermore, the international organizations should foster the development of in-house mentoring programs, so that IS conference interpreters can master their conference interpreting skills in authentic settings. The design of such a program must be carried out in close collaboration with representatives of international deaf and interpreter organizations. 

Maya de Wit-van Schagen is a sign language interpreter, trainer, researcher, and consultant. Her working languages are Dutch Sign Language (NGT), International Sign (IS), American Sign Language (ASL) and Dutch, English and German. Maya is an RID certified ASL interpreter, has a bachelor’s degree in Dutch Sign Language (NGT) interpreting, and a master’s degree from the first European Master of Sign Language Interpreting (EUMASLI) program. Her main research interests are in signed language conference interpreting, including professional practices and working conditions. Maya conducted her research at the Radboud University as an external PhD candidate.