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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Signed Language Interpreting in Brazil
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The qualitative research reported here can be seen as a case study. The data, collected by means of a DVD video recording, comprised the translations of six BSL interpreters (six men and six women) of a written text and subsequently orally narrated in Brazilian Portuguese and then translated into BSL. Aspects of possible gender traits in the six interpretations were analyzed by the ELAN transcription system.

The six interpreters are between 20 and 30 years of age, live in Florianópolis, Brazil, and each one has more than 5 years of experience in university-level interpretation.

In the transcriptions and in the analysis we focused on the details and followed all of the legal procedures for video recordings, which were made at the Laboratory of New Technologies (LANTEC) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), with the consent of the participants and of the Ethics Committee on Research at UFSC.

Hence, we investigate gender traits in the chosen interpretations and draw on various insights from cultural studies, gender studies, and translation studies to articulate our findings.

The Development of the Study

As previously mentioned, we videotaped the simultaneous interpretation of a text narrated in spoken Brazilian Portuguese into Brazilian Sign Language. The selected text, “A construção da diferença de gênero” [The Construction of Gender Difference], written by journalist Rosely Sayão, was extracted from the newspaper Folha de São Paulo (July 28, 2005).

Before accepting their participation in the study, the three women and three men interpreters of Brazilian Sign Language were informed of the process that would be followed, including the use of their images and real names in the analyses. So as not to influence their interpretation, we did not share with them either the specific topic we were investigating or the fact that we would be monitoring the signs, expressions, and strategies they used during the recording.

The subjects’ participation in the study and their consent to our requirements were crucial for the development of the research and subsequent approval of the Ethics Committee of the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

The specific procedures for data collection were as follows:

First, in selecting the text to be interpreted, we applied the following criteria: the chosen text had to (1) refer to the topic under investigation, that is, gender; (2) be satisfactorily and quickly understood; (3) contain few idiomatic expressions and metaphors; (4) be appropriate for simultaneous interpretation at the university level; (5) be appropriate to the interpreters’ translational competence and theoretical background; and (6) be relatively short.

The text was also recorded in a DVD-compatible format since it was narrated in spoken Brazilian Portuguese, and the total recording time was 5 minutes and 12 seconds. Later, the data were also transferred to DVDs in a studio at LANTEC.

The next step was to observe and analyze the interpretations so as to locate gender traits in the six interpretations. The selected scenes in which gender traits were identified were then transferred to the ELAN system of sign language for a more detailed analysis and focused segmentation. Following the examination of the selected segments, we drew our conclusions.

Analysis and Description of the Data

Data analysis and description were made possible by the detailed examination of the six interpretations and the selection of the segments for further scrutiny. Here we discuss three text segments that contain linguistic features that required the interpreters to make decisions on gender.

The first scene that shows gender traits concerns the interpretation of the word gender from the title of the text, “The Construction of Gender Difference.” During the interpretation most of the interpreters used literal translation as the translation modality and fingerspelling when referring to this specific word. In the selected example, however, besides fingerspelling (photos 1–4), the woman interpreter, Leticia, also uses explicitation (i.e., contextualizing information) since she complements the information with man (photo 5) and woman (photo 6) to illustrate the concept of “gender.” Together with these signs she also used indicators of explicitation and emphasis, such as facial expression, more specifically the raising of her eyebrows and a movement of her head (photos 1–5).

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4 Photo 5. man Photo 6. woman

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