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American Annals of the Deaf

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Interpreting in Legal Settings

Debra Russell and
Sandra Hale, Editors

Now in Paperback!

View the table of contents.
View the list of contributors.
Read chapter two.
Read reviews: The Midwest Book Review, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Interpreting.

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The Fourth Volume in the Studies in Interpretation Series

From Interpreting, the International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting, cont'd.

The fourth chapter, “Guilty or Not Guilty? An Investigation of Deaf Jurors’ Access to Court Proceedings via Sign Language Interpreting,” by Jemina Napier and David Spencer, is a particularly impressive contribution to the volume. Nearly a monograph in length (50 pages, and therefore more than twice as long as any of the other chapters), the paper does an excellent job of reviewing law reform in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, the site of their research project, as well as providing literature review sections on legal interpreting, the nature of legal discourse, interpreting courtroom discourse, interpreting for jurors, and the issue of jurors’ comprehension of legal texts.

Napier and Spencer’s study focuses on deaf jurors’ access to courtroom proceedings as mediated by interpreters. They propose ten research questions centering on the differences between hearing and deaf jurors’ perceptions of their role, their comprehension of the courtroom discourse, and the interpreters’ own perceptions of the interaction (pp. 84—85). Clearly the scope of the study is ambitious, and the methodology very well thought out. ‘The authors designed an experiment, trying to replicate the courtroom experience, using a small sample: twelve would- be jurors, six deaf and six hearing. Napier and Spencer emphasize that the reduced size sample reflects the fact that this was only a pilot study, designed in preparation for a full-blown larger one. Their attention to methodological rigor is impressive.

Their study yields four major findings (pp. 110—111): (1) it is possible to translate legal facts and concepts into Auslan; (2) Auslan interpreting has the capacity to provide deaf jurors with effective access to court proceedings, if certain conditions are met; (3) hearing people also misunderstand court proceedings, even though they are not disadvantaged by hearing loss; and (4) deaf people are willing and able to serve as jurors; like hearing people, they regard it as their civic duty. Napier and Spencer report findings for all of their specific research questions. Some are unexpected; e.g., that the comprehension level of deaf jurors who were provided signed language interpreting was similar to that of hearing jurors, and that the two groups were also similar in their perception that the judge’s summation was complex and repetitive. These and eight other findings (p. 113) make this pilot research effort one that is particularly rich and worthy of replication on a larger scale.

The fifth chapter, “Interpreter Preparation Conversations: Multiple Perspectives” by Debra Russell, addresses the recent trend to use teams of signed language interpreters in a variety of contexts, including the courts. The rationale behind this practice is “The expectation [...] that team interpreters will correct incorrect signed and spoken interpretations and support the actively working interpreter by filling in unheard or miscued speech” (p. 123). Russell’s contribution to the hook is an empirical study that follows up on her previous (2002, 2005) research in Canada on the preparation strategies of interpreters when working as a team, specifically as the)’ prepare lawyers and deaf witnesses to work with them. Using mock trials based on real court cases, the study included lawyers, judges, deaf witnesses, and non-deaf expert witnesses, and involved the videotaping of non-scripted discourse. Russell’s methodology is qualitative, a discourse analytical approach that looks for emerging themes and patterns. Her analysis is based on the performance of four experienced interpreters (three nationally certified), two deaf persons, nine lawyers, and three judges.

Russell’s major finding is that the preparatory conversations among the interpreters and afterwards between them and their clients “were strongly oriented to the needs of the interpreters and overlooked aspects that were seen as crucial to consumers’ (p. 142). For example, the judges felt that they could have benefited from some type of orientation — either in writing or through the prosecutor — before the trial began (p. 143). When interpreters did hold preparatory conversations with consumers, both deaf and non-deaf, it was revealed that “interpreters may in fact overwhelm consumers with details about the specific nature of linguistic and cultural approaches to interpretation, while completely missing the issues of importance for consumers” (p. 145). These are important findings, with significant policy implications.

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Debra Russell is Director of the Western Canadian Centre of Studies in Deafness and is the David Peikoff Chair of Deafness Studies at the University of Alberta, Canada.

Sandra Hale is Associate Professor of Interpreting and Translation at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

ISBN 978-1-56368-550-7, ISSN 1545-7613, 6 x 9 paperback, 204 pages, tables, figures, references, index

$75.00s

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