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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Toward a Deaf Translation Norm

Christopher Stone

Chapter One
Interpreting and Translation

This research examines the differences between Deaf and hearing translators/interpreters (T/Is), and the analysis falls into two main categories: analyzing the target language (TL) as a stand-alone piece of linguistic data and comparing the source language (SL) and the TL as translated or interpreted data. A variety of literature addresses both of these points, and this study explores them from the perspective of translation studies, interpreting studies, and relevance theory.

The terms “interpreting” and “translation” are not synonymous within the translation and interpreting field. Extensive research has been undertaken within translation studies, and only in recent years has interpreting studies attempted to establish itself as an equal (Pöchhacker 2004). Interpreting is often seen as a field within the area of translation, confirmed by the preface of a prominent interpreting studies reader: “The idea of devoting a separate volume to Interpreting Studies, rather than relegating it to a subsection of Lawrence Venuti’s Translation Studies Reader, was not immediately evident, but was readily espoused in consultations with Advisory Editor Mona Baker” (Pöchhacker and Shlesinger 2002, ix).

While translation and interpreting are concerned with the rendering of one language into another, differences exist due to the form and time constraints. Frishberg (1990, 18) identifies the difference saying translation refers to written texts and interpretation refers to the “live and immediate transmission” of discourse, either spoken or signed. In both cases the source or original language or text (SL) is translated or interpreted into a target language or text (TL).

In the UK Deaf T/Is translate to camera (TV news, Web sites, etc.) working from an autocue of written English. This falls between the Frishberg distinction of the form of the SL and TL for interpreting since the SL is written, but the TL is not. An alternative distinction is one of time: the decision making process in translation is usually one subject to review, revision, and a longer time, whereas for interpreting it is instantaneous. Kade (cited and translated in Pöchhacker 2004, 11) defines interpreting as, “a form of Translation in which a first and final rendition in another language is produced on the basis of a one-time presentation of an utterance in a source language” (emphasis in Pöchhacker).

Within broadcast news, scripts are often given the day before the broadcast to the T/Is. This gives the T/Is an opportunity to read and re-read the SL, resulting in a greater than one-time presentation of the SL text before rendering it into BSL. The T/Is can read and ascertain the intention of the whole text; in interpreting, the SL utterance is broken into short units for rendering (Shlesinger 1995, 194).

BSL has no written form, and since no way exists of editing a recorded form of the language (although sections of a longer text could be re-filmed), a performance or presentation element very similar to interpreting remains. Even though we can compare the SL with the TL product, investigating the reasoning behind the translation itself provides one way of exploring competency. If the TL BSL is a translation, we can analyze the level of preparedness by looking at prosodic features. The process of the translation or interpretation can also be examined by think-aloud protocols to see whether the T/Is physically rehearse the TL product before creating the final TL live.


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