Interpreting is a highly complex process requiring a high degree of linguistic, cognitive and technical skills to receive a message in one language and deliver it in another. An interpreter may deliver the interpreting in simultaneous or consecutive mode.
The profession of Auslan/English interpreting is a highly specialised field. Simply knowing both languages (Auslan and English) does not qualify a person as an interpreter. The interpreting task is complex. Interpreting demands enormous concentration and requires the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct the linguistic elements of two languages simultaneously, rapidly and accurately. Interpreters work as part of a multi-disciplinary, professional team. Some interpreters choose to specialise, obtaining specific competencies relating to a specialist area such as in the medical, legal, educational, employment or community sectors.
The Sign Language SpectrumThe professional sign language interpreter must be able to adjust to a broad range of Deaf consumer preferences and/or needs for interpretation. The sign language field is a complex one. Within the community, there is a vast signing spectrum. This spectrum may include, but is not limited to:
• Australian Sign Language (Auslan) - a majority of Deaf individuals use Auslan as their preferred mode of communication. Auslan is the recognised language of the Deaf Community in Australia. Based on distinct spatial movements called 'signs', this visual-gestural form includes shapes made by hands and arms, with meaning emphasised by non-manual features such as eye and mouth movement, and changes in facial expression and body posture. Auslan has a grammar that is not based on spoken English and has many signs without an English equivalent. Whilst some signs can be directly related to an English word, they are expressed through a different grammatical structure. Auslan is not universal - it is unique to Australia.
• signing in English - some Deaf people may prefer a form of signing that more closely follows the grammar and structure of spoken English commonly referred to as signing in English. Although signers may still use Auslan lexicon, they may choose - often depending on the context - to use English grammatical structures.
• Signed English - in addition, some sign language users might use a system called Signed English. This system is predominately used in the educational context and therefore many school-aged Deaf students will be familiar with the system. Signed English is a manual representation of spoken English and attempts to reproduce faithfully the spoken word in sign language. Many signs are 'borrowed' from Auslan, however there are also many artificial or contrived signs included in the lexicon. There is some controversy in relation to the use and success of this system.
• Indigenous Sign Language - Deaf people from an Indigenous background may use a dialect or even a variation of standard Australian Sign Language. For example, Deaf people from Far North Queensland may use Torres Strait Islander Sign language, Aboriginal Sign language or a mixture of both.
A professional interpreter is expected to understand the variations and be flexible enough to work within this wide spectrum.
On occasion, a Deaf (Relay) Interpreter may also be required to work in tandem with an Auslan/English interpreter. This person may be a person fluent in a language other than English or Auslan (e.g. an Indigenous Sign Language, a foreign sign language) or have specialised skills in 'unpacking' Auslan and delivering a modified form for Deaf clients that may have special or minimal language needs.
Often it may be necessary to have two or more interpreters working simultaneously in order to satisfy the preferences and needs of a varied audience, for highly demanding contexts or for workplace health and safety requirements. (For more information refer to the ASLIA OH&S policy) here .
Interpreters should always be aware of and sensitive to ethnic/cultural and linguistic issues.
For more information on Deaf (relay) interpreting, visit the Deaf (Relay) Interpreters section, or click here