Below are a list of commonly asked questions. Please click on the question to find it's answer.
To become an Auslan/English interpreter, you must have demonstrated fluency in both Auslan and English. Many interpreters have native fluency (are children of Deaf adults (CODAs); siblings of Deaf people, etc.) others acquire fluency in Auslan in other ways – most frequently through the completion of a Nationally Accredited Auslan course. It may take many years to obtain fluency in Auslan and you will need to spend considerable time within the Deaf Community, immersed in the language and culture.
To be considered a qualified interpreter, you must possess accreditation from NAATI. There are two ways to gain accreditation:
In Victoria, the TAFE provider is R.M.I.T.
Fluency in Auslan and English are not sufficient on their own to gain NAATI accreditation. You will also need to be able to demonstrate your understanding of:
NAATI is currently reviewing its accreditation procedures and may require that aspiring interpreters complete appropriate courses before sitting NAATI exams.
A process of revalidation has also been instigated for current and prospective interpreters. Visit the NAATI website for more information at www.naati.com.au (Sourced from ASLIA National)
Auslan classes are provided throughout Victoria and range from levels of competency in Auslan to accredited Diploma courses.
ASLIA Vic recommends the following:
ASLIA Vic strongly recommends the use of only NAATI accredited Auslan Interpreters, and strongly advocates against the contracting of non-accredited interpreters. When booking an interpreter always enquire as to level of NAATI accreditation of the interpreter you will be receiving.
Click here for Agencies servicing Victoria.
Auslan is the sign language of the Australian Deaf community. The name Auslan from ‘Australian sign language’ was coined by Trevor Johnston, author of the first Auslan dictionary published in 1989, but the language itself is much older. Auslan has evolved from the sign languages brought to Australia during the nineteenth century from Britain and Ireland. Auslan was recognised by the Australian government as a “community language other than English” and the preferred language of the Deaf community in policy statements in 1987 and 1991.
Each country has their own sign language although there may be some similarities between certain countries. During Deaf International events such as World Federation of The Deaf or Deaflympics a gestural form of language is used known as International Sign.
The major area of concern for Sign Language Interpreters in occupational health and safety terms is overuse injury. Over the past ten to fifteen years, the range of overuse injuries has been collectively referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). The current term which is used in the occupational health field is Occupational Overuse Syndrome (OOS) and in some overseas countries the term is Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD).
The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission (1986), defines overuse injury as:
There are a number of factors which may contribute to the development of OOS:
OOS problems should be fairly simply prevented by: Sound Occupational Health and Safety management of the process of interpreting work, ensuring that workers are educated about and adopt comfortable correct postures when working, and importantly varying the types of jobs, or the way in which they are performed.
When initial symptoms present, the interpreter should immediately seek professional medical advice. A required recuperation period must be set, where entirely different tasks are performed, so that the affected limbs, ligaments and / or muscles are rested. If there is even mild pain, the affected joint or part of the body must be rested immediately. This does not always mean that the interpreter must take time off work: he or she may be given other work to do which involves the use of different muscles.
Supervisors should also undertake training in occupational health and safety. Often supervisors and other interpreters become aware too late that an interpreter is experiencing distress. It is important that early warning signs be noticed and acted upon. Interpreters should be encouraged to report symptoms early. They should feel they are able to report promptly without anxiety-producing procedures and certainly punitive measures should not exist (either covert or overt). ASLIA believes that the only really acceptable health and safety policy for sign language interpreters is one based on prevention, which means dealing with the occupational causes of OOS at the source by modifying the work place and/or work processes to remove those causes or reduce their influence.
The best treatment for OOS is to ensure that it does not arise in the first place. However, in the early stages of OOS, treatment is theoretically simple and effective:
(Sourced from ASLIA National)
If you are unfamiliar with working with interpreters, it is fair to say that you may find the experience awkward and potentially confusing. Be assured that these feelings are normal and that the interpreter will work with you as much as possible to guide you through the experience.
In brief, it is important that you know that interpreters work by a professional Code of Ethics that hold several principles as their key tenets. These include confidentiality, impartiality and faithfulness of interpretation. This means that the interpreter will interpret, to the best of his or her ability, all which is said by all parties in an interpreted interaction. Interpreters will not add their own thoughts or opinions as a part of this process.
When working with interpreters, remember to look at the Deaf person and speak directly to him or her. Doing so is facilitated by having the interpreter sit next to you, the hearing person. As well, this seating arrangement benefits the Deaf person who can look between the interpreter and yourself.
When interpreting, the interpreter will work in the first person (that is, “I want to ask …” not “He said he wants to ask …”) and this too can sometimes be confusing at first. This is done so that the parties have a more direct connection and to help maintain “ownership” of the communication with yourself and the Deaf person.
It is helpful to the interpreter to have access to basic information about the purpose of the interpreted event. This assists an interpreter to prepare for the language that requires interpretation. This is important as one-to-one or word-for-word equivalence rarely exists between any two languages. This means that it is necessary for the interpreter to understand the content of what is said in order to convey the meaning through the interpretation process as faithfully as possible. This is why the interpreter will sometimes ask for clarification before rendering the interpretation.
A Deaf interpreter (DI) is a bi-lingual Deaf person who has specialist language transfer skills that have been recognised through a formal testing process. A Deaf interpreter is able to take standard Auslan and interpret this into a highly visual form of communication that uses a range of strategies to convey meaning to a Deaf client who is not using standard Auslan.
Deaf people who do not use standard Auslan may be from overseas or they may be an Australian born Deaf person who, through circumstances beyond their control, has been unable to develop fluent Auslan. In such circumstances, using a Deaf interpreter – in conjunction with an Auslan/English interpreter – has been found to be an effective way to facilitate communication and provide communication access.
Deaf interpreters are often used in medical and legal settings. ASLIA Victoria supports the use of Deaf interpreters and is able to provide further advice on their use, should you require. Please feel free to contact us.
There are ultimately two main reasons why it is industry standard to book two Auslan/English interpreters; one that has specific impacts for the clients – both Deaf and hearing – and one that relates specifically to the Auslan/English interpreters.
Interpreting between any two languages – even between two spoken languages – is a cognitively taxing and demanding task. Both through anecdotal evidence as well as empirical research, it has been shown that the longer an interpreter undertakes the task of interpreting without sufficient rest periods, the more the actual interpretation begins to falter and the more interpreting errors will occur. So, for clients, the quality of service (i.e. the quality of interpreting) deteriorates when an interpreter works for extended periods on his or her own and this deterioration is directly related to the increasing fatigue experienced by the interpreter as he or she expends the high level of concentration required to undertake the task of interpreting.
For Auslan/English interpreters, the task of interpreting is not only cognitively taxing, it is also physically so. The occurrence of Occupational Overuse Syndrome (also called Repetitive Strain Injury and Cumulative Trauma Disorder) in sign language interpreters around the world is well documented. Under Occupational Health and Safety legislation in Australia, employers of Auslan/English interpreters limit the amount of time an interpreter is allowed to work continuously as a sole interpreter
These two reasons – but particularly the second – are why, in most instances, it is necessary to engage two interpreters for assignments that exceed one hour in length. It is only when sufficient rest breaks can be guaranteed that an Auslan/English interpreter will work as a sole interpreter for periods greater than one hour.
In some schools – often primary – a decision is made to employ a teacher’s aide/communicator rather than an interpreter. This can be for a number of reasons that may include the particular communication needs of the deaf child (e.g. s/he communicates more with lipreading and speech than with Auslan, s/he uses Signed English, etc.). Even if the teacher’s aide has had Auslan training, rarely would they have NAATI accreditation, either Para-professional or Interpreter levels.
It is important to be clear that a NAATI accredited, Auslan/English interpreter has specialised training and national recognition of interpreting capacity that a teacher’s aide/communicator does not possess. This is not to minimise nor diminish the skills required to be a teacher’s aide/communicator for a deaf student. Rather, it is to highlight that the skill set for each role is different and should not be confused.
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