On November 17th 2017, The Slovenian Association of Teachers of the Deaf has carried out an international consultation on the topic of a Deaf interpreter, which was attended by speakers from four countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania and Hungary. A powerful international participation of the speakers and participants has confirmed the need to develop a professional field of deaf interpreters, who also take on the role of a translator.
This consultation presented new researches and good practice examples in Slovenia and abroad. For most people, the word combination “Deaf interpreter” – the emphasis on the capital first letter to mark a cultural linguistic minority – is unknown. History shows us, that deaf acted in this role since a Deaf community came to an existence.
A study about Deaf interpreters in Europe, which was published in 2016 by the Danish Deaf Association, has shown an unenviable state in Slovenia. Deaf interpreters officially do not exist, there is no appropriate education or appropriate work conditions, although the need is growing and deaf people are doing this job in the form of volunteering. Germany is one of the most progressive countries, a country that has highly trained deaf interpreters with PhDs.
A Deaf interpreter has many functions in this role, which cover the needs of translating and content writing, translating from one sign language into another and more. It covers the demands of all generations, from youngest children to elders; it works in all environments, from kindergarten to school, in public institutions, financial businesses, health institutions, police, court and it is a very important part in lifelong learning and activities into late years.
A deaf interpreter is a deaf person, who actively masters the Slovene sign language or more sign languages (each country has its own sign language), has high language competencies and enjoys trust among deaf users of sign language. The work of the Deaf interpreter demands a well-planned team work with hearing interpreters, who have extra knowledge and experience with team cooperation. The work of a Deaf interpreter also demands a technical support while working; a video camera, screen, lap top, Velotype system and support interpreter for sign language.
In Slovenia, the occupational profile “Interpreter” is acquired when completing national vocational qualification, where the entry conditions are discriminatory and prevent the deaf to enter the labour market as Slovene sign language interpreters. The Act on the Use of Slovene sign Language was implemented on November 14th 2002.
Tanja Potočnik Höngisman did a research, which shows, that the majority of users want the Deaf interpreters’ services, because it is easier to understand information. Also, the Deaf interpreters work for deafblind people at the Združenje gluhoslepih Slovenije DLAN, where they use different ways of communication. Good practice examples are also seen at Zavod za gluhe in naglušne Ljubljana, where four deaf teachers also work as interpreters and the reaction of the students is very positive, which was shown to us by Marjetka Kulovec and Bojan Mord. The 24ur TV show is being broadcasted live with a Deaf interpreter, which is an extremely tough challenge for Tipk TV, who receives positive reactions from deaf viewers.
Dr. Tapolczai Gergely, Vice President of European Union of the Deaf and Hungarian parliamentarian, has emphasized the meaning of human rights and equality on the labour
market. Dr. Sanja Tarczay from Croatia, the president of the European Deafblind Union, has emphasized the importance of quality work, which is being carried out by the trained Deaf interpreters and that the deaf can do anything. Nuša Lapanja and Natalija Javnornik from Združenje gluhoslepih Slovenija DLAN presented the work of the Deaf interpreter for the deafblind. Ieva Silaeva Peciulyte from Lithuania presented the functions of the interpreters’ centre, where Deaf interpreters also work. The important role of team work was also emphasized by long-term Deaf interpreter Arunas Bražinskas from Lithuania, who was also present at the two-day workshop, where he presented good and bad practice examples of team cooperation between deaf and hearing interpreters. Jasna Bauman presented the results of the European research and compared them to Slovenia.
The international consult with the welcoming address, was supported by Dr. Zoran Stančič from EU House, Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković, Janko Plesec from Društvo gluhoslepih Slovenije DLAN, Mladen Veršič from Zveza društev gluhih in naglušnih Slovenije in Dr. Marko Stabej from Faculty of Arts.
At the end of the consultation, the following conclusions were made:
- Conditions for acquiring NVQ “Interpreter of Slovene sign language” have to be updated; entry conditions, demanding healthy hearing and speaking, must be removed. Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training must also check all the documents for acquiring different vocational qualifications and remove all discriminatory entry conditions.
- Maximal technical support must be ensured in the line of work of the Deaf interpreter, especially if it involves a bigger event: camera, screen, Velotype system and all this must also be included in working conditions of a Deaf interpreter. These solutions must be ensured with the country’s help. We must also train personnel to work in Velotype system.
- We need to update services of a support interpreter (support service for disabled), which now only include 30 hours monthly and expand them from 40 to 50 hours per week. This area is being regulated by the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
- The Slovenian Association of Teachers of the Deaf promises that it will, with the help of Zavod združenja tolmačov za slovenski znakovni jezik, Zavod za gluhe in naglušne Ljubljana and other organizations, speed up the renewal of NVQ for Deaf interpreters entering the labour market and monitoring the developments on this matter.
Consult conclusions are being forwarded to the following addresses: Government of the Republic of Slovenia; Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity; Ministry of Education, Science and Sport; Municipality of Ljubljana; Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training; Zavod za gluhe in naglušne Ljubljana, Zavod združenje tolmačev za slovenski znakovni jezik; Faculty of Arts Ljubljana; Združenje gluhoslepih Slovenije DLAN; Zveza društev gluhih in naglušnih Slovenije; European Union of the Deaf; European Deafblind Union; EFSLI; University of Hamburg; Danish Deaf Association; The Finnish Association of the Deaf; Humak University in Finland; Polytechnic Institute of Coimbra in Spain.
The Slovenian Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Ljubljana, 29. 11. 2017