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Toward a Deaf Translation Norm

Christopher Stone

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Read chapter one.
Read reviews: The Midwest Book Review, Interpreting, Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.

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The Sixth Volume in the Studies in Interpretation Series

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

       The informants in Stone’s study provide accounts of how they produce a culturally competent interpretation into BSL. It is nice to “meet” the informants. Readers who are bothered by ungrammatical writing might struggle here because Stone has decided not to edit the Deaf informants’ comments. What the reader takes away from this chapter is that the Deaf translators/interpreters are similar to performers on a stage. They have their scripts and they have (occasionally) time to rehearse their performance. This allows them to create a product that is presumably more accessible to Deaf audience members. This of course is not new or surprising information. Scholars of translation/interpreting have long touted the benefits of being able to process information before interpreting. What is new here is that it is Deaf people talking about it rather than non-deaf people expressing what they “think” should occur.

       Stone identifies two specific translation/interpreting features—eye-blinking and head movements—and explains how they differ in the interpreted product of Deaf and non-deaf translators/interpreters. These two prosodic markers enhance cohesion in BSL, according to Stone. Although hearing interpreters have more voluntary blinks than do Deaf translators/interpreters, which Stone suggests is an issue of fluency, he concedes that it could also be a by-product of Deaf interpreters’ frequent reliance on the autocue for prompts. The head movements, used for boundary markers, also differ between Deaf and non-deaf interpreters.

       In the final chapter of the study, Stone explores the ways in which translators/interpreters use enrichment and impoverishment techniques in their work. While there are times when the examples do not explicate the actual enrichment or impoverishment, these times are rare. Most of the examples that Stone uses solidify the reader’s understanding of the process.

       Every piece of research could he improved upon. This is rarely the fault of the researchers, who are often constrained by limitations on time, money, and access. While I think this is a solid piece of research, I believe there is also a significant gap. The premise from which Stone begins his study is that native users of the target language are clearer than non-natives. He does not, however, address whether being a native user of the source language can compensate for not being a native user of the target language. It appears that Stone has accepted this premise without questioning its validity, simply asking us to accept it as fact. While demonstrating that native users of a language produce a message in the target language differently than non-native users, Stone neglects to say whether those differences make the message clearer.

       This is an interesting study that complements the growing scholarship in the field of sign language interpreting. However, its application is not limited to that field. While focused on Deaf translators/interpreters, the book addresses the complicated workings of all kinds of translation/interpreting. The goal of any translator/interpreter is to convey not only words or concepts, but ideas and passion that are present in the source language. To do this, they must strive to be more culturally competent. Stone demonstrates that, at least within this sample, the end product is different and implies that this difference leads to a different understanding of the target-language product. Scholars, students, trainers and practitioners will want to add this book to their libraries and its findings to their professional toolboxes.

Christopher Stone is an associate professor in the Department of Interpretation at Gallaudet University.

Print Edition: ISBN 978-1-56368-418-0, ISSN 1545-7613, 6 x 9 casebound, 216 pages, 16 tables, 25 figures


E-Book: ISBN 978-1-56368-442-5


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