Report from Seminar on Interpreters Training Srewsbury,
UK 26-30th Oct. 96.

Impressions by Lex Grandia.

In Poitier a small group came together talking about interpreter services. They organised a meeting, a workshop, in Portugal in 1994. A state of the art document was produced and the working group started to gather basic material . In 1995 the working group wrote a policy statement which was distributed.They wanted to have another workshop, sharing information and gathering materials. The Royal National Institute of the Blind hosted this seminar in its wonderful 16th century building, Condover Hall, UK. RNIB and EDbN supported the meeting.

Since May last year I am a member of this committee and as such I attended this seminar. Here I will give my impressions.

There was a lot of material on the table in this workshop. Sharing information means: learning from each other, discussing the different approaches of interpreter services in the different countries (volunteers, intervenors, guides, communicators, contact

persons, professional interpreters).

It is felt, that if we want a unified interpreters system in Europe in the future, we have to start looking at the education and training of interpreters. There were lists of literature, reports and training programmes from the UK, Iceland, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Czeck Republic.

Each country has its own background and history, so a lot of questions could not be answered now. Here are some questions, the 27 participants had to deal with: First there is the criteria for starting a training to become an interpreter.

Are there no age criteria like in Sweden, Holland and the UK?

Do you have to be 20 years old, like in Spain?

Or is the training on a university level like in Iceland, Belgium and Denmark?

Is the training a part-time education or full-time ?

Who is responsible for the training,the organisation of the deaf, the organisation of the blind, a deafblind organisation or the university?

A part of the training program

for interpeters of deaf people

Is it the best way, like most of the countries do, that the training of interpreters for deafblind people is a part of the training for sign language interpreters for deaf people?

Interpreters for deaf people learn a lot about interpreting, professional attitudes and sign language already. It sounds logical to add interpretation for deafblind people during or at the end of the course. The amount of hours for deafblind people in the


training programmes is various, but in most cases to small.

Program run by Organisation of the Blind

It is, by the way, interesting to see, that in Spain the interpreter training takes place under the responsibility of the organisation of the blind, so that vision problems and blindness have a very important role.

An Independant Special Training Program

Or should we have an independent special training programme, knowing that deafblindness is a unique disability, and the situation of interpreters for deafblind people is totally different:

If some researches made in the past years are still valid, then not more than 10 % of the deafblind population has a sign language background.

Another 10 % has a spoken language as background and uses some way of tactile communication.

The remaining 80 % has been hearing and sighted for most of their life.

The only problem is, that we did not find most of that 80 % yet. How do we deal with that?

The training programmes

I made a list of what a European skilled interpreter has to deal with, after hearing the different training programmes. Here it comes:

The deafblind population

Statistics, definitions of deafblindness, deafblind children, deafblind adults, causes and consequences of deafblindness, eye conditions and their consequences, hearing conditions and their consequences, psychology of deafblindness, role of the deafblind organisations, orientation in the disability world,the situation of deafblind people in other countries, quality of life of deafblind people,


Communication, communication methods: sign language, hands-on, tactile communication methods, keyboard interpreting,other tactilemethods like writing in the hand,speech interpretation, communication theories, can we learn to predict needs of the individual, light conditions, background noises, what does the deafblind person want to know, Mobility training, how to be a guide and to be guided, technical devices, hearing aids, loop systems, lamps, computers, listening technics and memorisation, (re)production, speech culture: How do men and women express themselves, what is the effect of voices, intonation, body language, environment description.

Analysing situations

Who are the players, goal of each speaker, role of persons, why are they here.

The meaning of the first and the second language, grammar of the spoken language from your own country, grammar of sign language, English as an Interational language , unbiased interpretation, theories of interpreting.

The work as interpreter

What does it mean to be an interpreter, professional attitudes, conflict resolution, ethics, power and oppression. language as a weapon,social dynamics, role of interpreters, scheduling, working conditions, ergonomics, the deafblind persons as a consumer and his expectations, the public, oppressing your own needs and expectations, health and safety ,also personal safety, stress management, relaxing technics, massage, working in isolation,self evaluation, knowing where to get professional support. To obtain all the qualifications on this list theory is not enough, but also a lot of practice. It is necessary to use deafblind people as teachers and test persons during the training, I think.

The consumers

Many times I heard: ?Deafblind people need the best interpreters?. That sounds logical if you think about how important it is, that a deafblind person gets the right information to make conclusions and decisions him/herself.

Before the seminar I made a small investigation, using the text telephone for deafblind people in Denmark and speaking with deafblind representatives of EDbN. I asked them among other things: Who is the best interpreter?

The most frequent answer was: ?The one you live with or the one who knows you the best?.

Some deafblind people like to change interpreters from time to time. It gives another point of view. Most found , that a good training is necessary.

All want to have the right to choose their own interpreters, because ?we have a close relation?.

Some want to have a person with a warm personality, with a deep human understanding, with self knowledge and a clear character.

?I want to know everything my interpreter sees and hears, but I want to be her friend in the time she is not working. I know exactly the difference?,

said 5 of them.

The other 17 reactions I had expressed the view that

It is difficult to answer this question, because nobody listens to what deafblind people say, so we have to live with what we get.

In the seminar some people spoke about having a consumers? training programme.

The idea was to teach deafblind people how to use their interpreter. I can understand, that teachers want to teach, but I think that before developing a training for interpreters we need to know more about what deafblind people need and want.

Maybe we need more support from the social and psychological side, to help deafblind people express their needs and deafblind organisations carry them out.

For instance nobody speaks about the working conditions of deafblind people themselves!

European Deafblind Network (EDbN),

A-Z to Deafblindness