Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

Europe: Amazing and Disturbing

by • February 14th, 2012

The rainbow ghouls in this painting, "Object III" by Jiri Petrbok, depict the irony of celebrating destruction.

One of the miracles of Europe is the amazing way communication is made possible among users of different languages in the European Parliament. While I do critique some of the outcomes of the transmission model of interpreting, particularly how the success of simultaneous interpretation generates the illusion of speaking in one shared language (which means erasing the differences of separate and unique languages and the worldviews they inspire), the fact that the system works is testimony to what humans can achieve with intercultural cooperation.

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The kindness of interpreters

by • August 16th, 2010


Region 1 Conference
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
Albany NY

Rene Pellerin froze in motion when the interpreter placed her hand on his back. While telling his story, he had been rotating gradually toward his right, giving the camera his profile and making it difficult for those in the audience to his left to read his signing clearly. Rene thanked Regan for saving him from talking to a wall. The laughter from the audience was rich with appreciation.

Rene shared several anecdotes from his personal life and professional career with the State of Vermont. Rene uses normal, everyday events that anyone can relate to in order  to draw us into his experience as a Deaf person gradually becoming blind. His detailed explanations take full advantage of the linguistic capacity of signed languages to put you in your body. For instance, when Rene described his train ride to college, he included walking through the carriages to get a drink from the cafe car. I didn’t just remember my own struggles with those dang doors, trying to balance against the rocking motion, and how many cars they can string together – I re-felt the embodied sensations that generate those memories.

You can perhaps imagine

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Rights & Responsibilities of Simultaneous Interpreters

by • August 14th, 2010

photo


Region 1 Conference
Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
Albany NY

Laughing our way to a healthy profession

I attend conferences in several different fields. No one laughs as often or as loud as sign language interpreters. Robyn Dean’s workshop, “I don’t think we’re supposed to be talking about this….” Case Conferencing and Supervision for Interpreters, was punctuated with humor a dozen times an hour, and occasionally we would hear outbursts from the neighboring workshop group as they took Steps to Feel More Comfortable Interpreting the Twelve Steps. Having a sense of humor is prerequisite for survival in this field, especially being able to make fun of oneself and teasing colleagues in affectionate ways. In the open comment time after Keynote Presenter Lewis Merkin’s small group activity about the passions we bring to the profession, Betty Colonomos commented on the health of growing pains: instead of staying stuck in comparative judgment, we’ve become more cooperative with each other time, allowing the recognition of each other’s humanity. Her reflection reminded me of Robyn’s definition of “responsibility” as the act of continuing in conversation. Instead of being stopped from communicating because of an unanticipated reaction, to be response-able means finding a way to respond

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two talks at Heriot Watt

by • March 10th, 2009

for the
Centre for Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland, Heriot Watt University & the Translation Studies Graduate Programme, University of Edinburgh

Fishing for Culture and Missing Language:
Interpretation and Organizational Creativity

Culture(s) and discourse(s) are among the most unmanageable elements of international business. “You can’t model panic.” Patterns of cultural interaction and, especially, the range of interpretations of these patterns, have profound effects on the design and implementation of business plans. For instance, are differences of language a problem or a benefit? Do the homogenizing effects of using English as the language of international management outweigh the constant adaptation required by working multilingually? Discourses about simultaneous interpretation (SI) at the European Parliament (with its 23 working languages) pit danger and loss against loss and resignation. “Loss” of fluency and clarity worries professional interpreters at the European Parliament (EP) and “loss” of direct contact between interlocutors (users of interpreting services, in this case Members of the EP) seem – counterintuitively – to express anxieties about multilingualism and the possibilities for control. Understood as a practice of intercultural communication, the tensions made evident when simultaneous interpretation is used are a vital source of creativity typically overlooked because of conditioned (monolingual) preferences for using a

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babel

by • December 4th, 2006

Uttered in at least five languages (Arabic, Spanish, English, Japanese Sign Language, and Japanese), this film plays with the stereotype that different languages are a problem. As we follow the stories of four families, one realizes the source of confusion is not “in” the language; rather, it is the challenge of interpreting language in the context of a given person’s life story.
The relationships and connections among members of these families range from the incidental to the intimate. “May I speak with you, sir?” inquires a police officer? “There’s been an incident.” “I have raised these children, fed them breakfast, lunch, and dinner their entire lives, can’t you tell me if they are alright?” “That’s none of your concern,” replies the immigration officer.
There are two threads linking these families, two factors that bind them together tight: violence and the law. More specifically, a rifle and the institution of law enforcement, with the manipulations of politics hovering in the background. Acts of innocence and practicality unfold in scenarios of accident and opportunism. Babel exposes the vise of circumstance and consequence: in Morocco suspects are brutalized by military police, in Japan interviews are civil and police

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voices and home

by • August 11th, 2006

sea reaches.JPG.jpg

“A voice belongs first to a body, then to a language” (52).
Negar told me about an Iranian saying, that learning another language adds a new person to your self. Yes, new capacities, new zones of expression and perception, yet what Berger says is also true, the voice &emdash; in its emotion-inducing physicality [my qualification] &emdash; remains the same. This use of the word “voice” is different than Blommaert’s conceptualization of “voice” as the operationalization of intersubjective, discursive power. The intersubjective part is the part between real individuals engaged in real time (face-to-face synchronic time or asynchronous technologically-mediated time &emdash; as in the turn-taking among myself, Yasser, Jeff, Amanda, and . . . you? wink! Why not?!!)
The discursive part is the larger framework of relationships in which each of us is embedded and all of us partake. Every time we speak (via our physically-embodied voice or through written text), each utterance spins forward along a dialectical trajectory as an outgrowth of previous exposure and knowledge. Simultaneously, each utterance opens onto a potential new vista, an unknown dark zone. “Dark” because not yet lived: unexperienced, and therefore unknown. (Thanks Negar; and original thanks to

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virgin experience

by • September 29th, 2004

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in an all-signing environment; my eyes are rusty! We had a characteristically Deaf start at my first ever Interpreter Trainers convention, the keynote began only 50 minutes past the scheduled time. I, in my introvert fashion, found a seat to plant myself while most folks schmoozed. Anna R. knows how to work a crowd! I exchanged greetings with lots of people from Allies

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