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Issues and Recommendations for Interpreters in Kenya

On my series of talks to upcoming interpreters, I was asked to talk about interpreting in Kenya...
Who is an Interpreter? Interpreters in Kenya are individuals with good language skills, good relationship with their clients and who have learned how to interpret from one language to another. Many interpreters learn their skills in practical settings, they are usually unpaid volunteers.
Foundations of Interpreting Interpreting is a relationship, it is a matter of faith and trust.
Language of Interpreters Interpreting does not have to be word-for-word. It is more important to get the meaning of the message. It is important for the interpreter to understand the language, culture and trends in the cultures represented. 
Recognition of the Interpreters Recognition should not depend on the level of education and other qualifications but on the language skills and the persons themselves. It is important to note that professional interpreters and 'local' interpreters should have the same recog…

Iko ninis of Assignments, Payments and Interpreters in Kenya

A word of Advise to Interpreters, Organizations and Deaf Consumers: Iko ninis of Assignments, Payments and Interpreters in Kenya

Earlier this week late in the night I received a call from a friend informing me to urgently call in the morning for she had a job for me. After the call I set a reminder on my iPhone to call her in the morning. I get to call her, get the number of the organizer requiring an interpreter for an AGM....excited I call and am asked for a quote.....I say KES X to a maximum of X (9am-1pm) since it is an AGM and will have unlimited number of speakers, long hours and out of hand program etc so the organizer says I will get back to you.....three days later am informed by one of the Deaf shareholders, why are interpreters being forced on us by KSLRP? why do we get half baked iko ninis? So the event organizer decided to give the job to someone else, cheaper lowest bidder despite the quality and satisfaction of the Deaf consumers, in case you are wondering - I did get an…

The Case of Agenda Kenya VI Interpretation

The Case of Agenda Kenya VI Interpretation
Since most of my Deaf friends are not able to air their views and comments on this issue I will briefly take a moment and set the record straight about interpreting English into Kenyan Sign Language just so we are clear.
In Kenya interpreters are often, in many cases volunteers, family members or social workers or even teachers who at a certain level have 'mastered' some sign language and have found themselves in an interpreting situation.
Family members - children of Deaf adults (CODA), siblings with Deaf family members often become interpreters automatically since sign language is either their first language (mother tongue) or the only form of communication in the family settings. This category of interpreters are often fluent and rarely take up interpreting as a career save for a few who make it.
Within this category is the spouses of Deaf individuals. These are hearing individuals who have out of interest, hard work, love or life in g…

Armchair Critic's View: The Case of Television Programs Interpreting

Armchair Critic's View: The Case of Television Programs Interpreting 
Television program interpreting is among the oldest and most 'professional' forms of Sign-Voice interpretation in Kenya. It is probably second to church service interpreting. For those who remember programs like Joy Bringers - it had two or three interpreters in the tiny box to the right bottom of the screen. The parliamentary debates have been the longest televised interpretation for the Deaf in Kenya. This too has gone through a lot of transitions and changes with various interpreters offering their services. I almost forgot the Sign News by KTN in the late 90s - it was a welcome relief to have news round up followed by the language lessons. KBC crowned it all with the Kiswahili Kitukuzwe show that had some Kenyan Sign Language to it.
Those were the days.
Then come the UNDP, Ford Foundation, Uraia sponsored talk shows - Agenda Kenya and the likes. It is almost impossible to think about interpreting on …

Interpreter Services in Kenya - A Critical Analysis of Interpreter Services for the Deaf in Kenya

Interpreter Services in Kenya - A Critical Analysis of Interpreter Services for the Deaf in Kenya
"....the Deaf in Kenya are ‘a special linguistic minority….special because (the approximately 700-800,000 Deaf Kenyans) by nature of their disability cannot operate effectively in any of the spoken majority languages (English and Kiswahili)’.  This predicament brings us to the whys of the clamor for recognition of the language and thereby ‘legalization’ and use of KSL." Professor Okoth Okombo of the University of Nairobi linguistics department
On behalf of the Deaf community in Kenya, the Kenya National Association of the Deaf – KNAD – a non-governmental organization registered in 1987 with the government of Kenya under the Registrar of Societies Act of 1968 rule 4 representing approximately 600-800,000 Deaf people in Kenya; I address this topic wearing three hats as a Hearing Kenyan, Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) User and finally as an Interpreter. These three qualifications among o…

What is it like to be a professional interpreter?

Someone asked me the other day What is it like to be a professional interpreter?

my response was exhilarating, frustrating, and often extremely rewarding! 


Interpreting is misunderstood profession. It's grating, after a while, to deal with people who think they can do your job just because they speak 2+ languages (fluently). That's just one of the preconditions, nothing more. It's grating to deal with outsiders who want to "test" you, either because they're worried about how good you'll be if they hire you (fine, get some references from other interpreters, or from other customers, or ask me how interpreters are actually tested), or because they want to make some sort of conversational point ("So, you're an interpreter! Interpret this, then: ..."). Patience is one thing you do need. Read more here

it is fun I have been able to 

1. earn good money interpreting
2. travel to many places
3. meet various people cultures
4. learn various languages and s…

Deaf Kenyans - Rewriting the history of the Deaf in Kenya Series I

Little information exists about the Kenyan Deaf community prior to 1960. It is however known that in 1958 concerned hearing Kenyans established the Kenya Society for Deaf Children (KSDC). In the late 1960s’ and early 70s’ Deaf people from Nyangoma and Mumias who were believed to be first generation of educated Deaf people in the Deaf schools came to Nairobi to look for jobs and better life.
This is justified when Alan Lane, Robert Hoffmeister, and Ben Bahan paid visit to Kenya and had to say this on Kenya deaf community in their book. In addition, graduates of the schools have been mingling for some three – four decades now in cities such as Nairobi, where there are reportedly several hundred Deaf adults. The numbers of deaf people are known to be large in Nairobi and while in Nairobi, they went to Kenya Society for the Deaf Children (KSDC) for social services, since there was no national association of the deaf to cater for their rights that time. KSDC was the only organization for…

Kenyan Sign Language - Beyond Constitutional Recognition Part I

The case for official recognition of KSL There are no official figures for the number of KSL users in the Kenya, although it is estimated that there are between 600,000 and 800,000 people whose first and preferred language is KSL. There are as many Deaf KSL-users as there are speakers of some indigenous languages, and more people (Deaf and hearing) use KSL than either Swahili according to Ethnologue Report. Linguists have established that KSL is a language in its own right and is as complex and sophisticated as any spoken language.
Like all linguistic minorities, members of the Deaf community have different degrees of access to the majority language of the wider community. Since KSL is more accessible to many Deaf people than spoken languages such as English, official recognition of KSL is especially important. BSL is the foundation for the self-esteem, educational achievement and social well being of the Kenya's Deaf community. However, that community exists within a wider society …