On July 10th I delivered the opening keynote at the online conference organised by the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters. The theme of the conference was What have we learnt from 2020-2021.
The Boston Northeastern University has launched a series of videos to practice critical thinking and ethical reasoning in signed language interpreting. The “Unfolding Scenarios” project is aimed at deaf and hearing signed language interpreters, interpreter students, and educators. It offers twelve situations (scenarios) in which interpreters are expected to make certain decisions (decision points). The materials help interpreters to assess the situation and to reflect about the way(s) they would handle it. For some of the decision points sample response are offered from a deaf and a hearing interpreter’s perspective.
The series consists of two modules.
On the one hand the twelve scenarios of interpreting situations (five from the perspective of a deaf interpreter and seven from a hearing interpreter’s point of view). Each video describes an interpreting situation within a specific setting, such as for instance medical setting, (mental) health care, education, etc. Within these fictional scenarios various decision points are introduced and the interpreter is encouraged to think about what he/she would do. Interpreters and students can use these twelve scenarios to critically reflect about how they would proceed within the given situation. Additionally, they can help to analyse the decision-making process and their choice architecture. All videos are in American Sign Language and transcripts in English are available.
On the other hand the series also includes sample reflections and responses from a deaf and a hearing interpreter. These are available for four scenarios. Each interpreter responds to the decision point individually and afterwards they discuss their decision-making process together. These sample reflections are offered in American Sign Language and unfortunately there are no English transcripts available. There is however a Learners Handbook in written English to assist the independent learner.
These (free) materials are amazing resources for signed language interpreters, students, signed language interpreter users, and educators (there is even a Curriculum Guide). Whereas the practical use of the videos allow interpreters – and all involved in interpreted mediated settings – to literally “stop and think” about certain decision points, the more fundamental rationale underlying the Unfolding Scenarios project helps to understand what interpreting is and what it is interpreters do: they make decisions.
Whereas my research focuses on the linguistic choices signed language interpreters make, this project demonstrates – amongst other things – that decision-making is an inherent part of the interpreting process. Indeed, the nature of interpreting is strategic on many levels.
Hopefully these materials will be an inspiration for other regions to produce similar videos in their own signed language and culture.