Sunday, 30 November 2008

I'm Not at Liberty to Divulge that Information

In the unlikely event that I ever manage to qualify as a BSL Interpreter, I have just realised that my blogging career will be over before it’s even really begun. I suppose it’s obvious that Sign Language Interpreters are bound by a strict code of conduct to protect the confidentiality of their Deaf clients. I hadn’t realised quite how strict. I’ve been doing some background reading for my course - "Encounters with Reality: 1001 Interpreter Scenarios" by Brenda E. Cartwright.

If you have an interpreting assignment, you’re not allowed to divulge who the client was, the nature of the assignment, where it was held or any information that you've translated. You’re not supposed to say anything. At all. Ever. You’re apparently not even allowed to tell your partner why you’re leaving the house or how long you’ll be gone. It’s worse than being a spy. If I’m ever cut to pieces by a mad axe murderer, my husband is unlikely to raise the alarm for weeks anyway, so with this added cloak of secrecy, I’m doomed.

The Cat Complaints Commission

The Injured Party

I have come to the conclusion that my cat finds me unsatisfactory in every respect. As a caregiver, feeder, companion and playmate, I suck. If it were possible, I believe she would have no second thoughts about having me hauled up in front of some sort of Cat Complaints Committee or Ombudscat. How this would work, I have no idea. But there I would be, head hung in shame, standing handcuffed in front of a panel consisting of a bullet-headed, battle-scarred tabby, a very superior and dissatisfied Siamese, and a kindly but disappointed ginger cat. The list of charges would be very long indeed. The chair cat would point out the most serious of them by tapping decisively on a piece of paper with a precise foreclaw. They would be unanimous in finding me guilty. My cat would coldly avert her gaze as I was led away and we would never see each other again.

I think my husband agrees with the cat, but at least he has the ability to voice his complaints.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

I'm never going to be able to do this

Translation Worries

Since I’ve been learning British Sign Language, every time I watch TV or catch sight of people having a conversation, I’ve been driving myself mad trying to decode people’s hand gestures. Now we’re studying translation theory at college, I’ve found a new way of driving myself to distraction. As I watch TV or listen to the radio I’m constantly wondering how I would translate particular phrases into BSL.

As a fan of Derren Brown, it has crossed my mind whether there would be any special challenges in translating any of his work. His TV and stage shows are mostly delivered in deceptively simple everyday language. However, consider the following two videos:

In the first he gets a volunteer to successfully name the subject of a caricature painting covered by a cloth:

In the second, Simon Pegg is apparently influenced to change his mind about the birthday present he wants:

As a lay person I would have no idea whether the actual words he uses are key to achieving the effect or if they are a clever “cover story” for a slightly more mundane magic trick. If the former is the case, the phrases used would be rather difficult to translate into a signed or foreign spoken language such that they still achieved the same effect. The translator would surely need some sort of "inside information" about how such effects are achieved. Even if the latter is true, the second video is full of bicycle puns like “handlebar none” and “recycle the same two tyred bottles of wine” which I would struggle to translate into BSL.

It occurred to me that Derren’s shows must have been dubbed into foreign languages, because they have been sold abroad. Does anyone from Derren’s team have to be involved in the translation process? Is it ever necessary to reveal magical techniques in order to effect a proper translation? Or would they always favour keeping magic confidentiality over a more effective trick for the Deaf/foreign audience?

Stan Boardman Hates Germans

al Correctness

I've been learning British Sign Language for nearly two years now, and have just started on a three year course to become a sign language interpreter.

As far as I can see, BSL is a very direct language and has little patience with circumlocution and political correctness. I'm told that in medical settings the Deaf are likely to be totally direct in their use of very graphic signs to denote bodily functions in comparison with the hearing and their shamefaced euphemisms.

Until fairly recently, political correctness and BSL had not made each other's acquaintance. Nowadays though, Signs like gay (limp wrist), Chinese (pulling at the outer corners of the eyes with the forefingers), Africa (washing the face) and Indian (thumb tip between the brows) are rapidly being phased out.

However, signs linked to Germany seem to have been overlooked. The sign for German or Germany still resembles a World War 1 style spiked helmet. I still can't quite get used to the sign for Hitler being two fingers of the left hand held below the nose to resemble a small moustache, accompanied by a Nazi salute with the right hand, a sign that any schoolboy of yesteryear would have recognised instantly. I've seen this sign used by sign language interpreters in a number of completely solemn situations and always wonder what the hearing members of the audience make of it.

This brings me to my worry of the day. When there is a sign language interpreter present in any setting, and the speaker says something rude, it is almost inevitable that all the heads of the hearing section of the audience will instantly snap round to watch how the interpreter will sign it. For example, the sign denoting an embryo being implanted during IVF is eye-wateringly graphic. I just can't see myself ever being able to keep a straight face.

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