Monday, April 28, 2008

Diane Curhoys, ASL Interpreter

It's always lovely to read a profile of a great interpreter, but it can be downright fascinating when the interpreter happens to work in a diverse array of settings, such as those encompassed in the From Our Lips project, shedding light on the impact interpreters have on our ability to communicate and interact with each other.

Chrissy Casilio's recent report on American Sign Language interpreter Diane Curthoys gives us a glimpse into the life of this professional.

Diane interprets in every mode common for interpreting today: in person, through videoconference and even phone calls, via videophone.

She also interprets for a wide variety of settings.

She works as a medical interpreter, she interprets at her local church and does quite a bit of conference interpreting, having interpreted for many politicians (Al Gore, Howard Dean, Colin Powell and President Clinton, to name a few), and popular comedians, such as Conan O'Brien and Stephen Colbert.

Read more about Diane in Casilio's full article here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

$35 Million Class Action Lawsuit Over Interpreters

The costs of providing interpreting services, especially in public and social settings, are highlighted on a near-daily basis in the news.

But what are the costs of not providing access to competent interpreting services?

In Canada, a recent $35-million class-action lawsuit alleges that incompetent court interpreters were provided, resulting in the miscarriage of justice.

Here is a telling excerpt from a newspaper report on the class action suit:

In the review that followed, Judge Hill found that the courthouse had been using interpreters so poorly qualified they routinely failed the provincial accreditation test and in some instances may not have been able even to read the language they were being paid to translate. One Hindi-speaking woman, for instance, was hired at the Brampton courthouse as a Punjabi-speaking interpreter; the interpreter co-ordinator who assigned her told Judge Hill she considered weekend bail court to be "a game."

Communicating the key information that determines whether a person is sent to jail or will be free on bail... likened to a game?

While those of us in the profession balk at such statements, they are reflective of the tremendous lack of public awareness of the important role interpreters play in society, not to mention the great risks assumed when unqualified individuals do this work.

One would think that a $71 million lawsuit provoked when a healthy young boy became quadriplegic due to an unqualified interpreter would be sufficient to make the public aware of the dangers of using non-professionals for this risky work.

However, decades after that landmark case, hospitals continue to use non-professional interpreters. Things are changing, but progress is slow. Will the same hold true in the Canadian courts? Time will tell, and the outcome of this case may hold some clues as to what will happen next.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Celebrating Dr. King

Today marks four decades that have passed since the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For signers and non-signers alike, a video clip of his "I have a dream" speech, as interpreted into American Sign Language.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Thoughts on Language and Translation

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela

The limits of my language means the limits of my world.
Ludwig Wittgenstein

No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality.
Edward Sapir

Language is the dress of thought.
Samuel Johnson

The original is unfaithful to the translation.
Jorge Luis Borges

Nor ought a genius less than his that writ attempt translation.
John Denham

Western Europe owes its civilization to translators.
Louis Kelly

The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of a tapestry.
Leonardo Sciascia