My two cents to KTN and Standard Media Group

My two cents to KTN and Standard Media Group

Feedback on the Sign Language News casting Initiative

First and foremost the initiative is commendable, it is a second time KTN has initiated an inclusive approach to its news programming. Signed News in the 1990s was a breath of fresh air for the Deaf community, in those days they had to wait for parliamentary debates and Joy Bringers on KBC to enjoy news in native Kenyan Sign Language. The past week has been a welcome relief, with news in Kenyan Sign Language at prime time; however there has been several issues come up over the week. According to both researchers and interpreters, interpreting for live TV broadcasts is almost unanimously regarded as more stressful than other forms of interpreting (Strolz 1997; Kurz 2002), the main reason being that interpreting for a mass audience entails a much bigger exposure in case of failure than the one felt in conventional conference settings.

This article will mention the issues and offer some steps to get us to the full accessibility cliché.

  1. Now to the issue of KTN initiative, first the inner politics is that the interpreters stole the idea from some Deaf young people who wanted to approach the media houses including KTN. This is an ethical issue, it reflects on the conduct of the individual and taints the interpreters in and within the Deaf community. Interpreters are neutral non biase professional who serve as facilitators of communication between the hearing (speaking) and the Deaf. Interpreters do not work for, on behalf of the Deaf community, they work along side, with the Deaf – not helping or speaking for but as professionals. Be that as it may, the initiative is a bold step towards accessibility.
  2. Selection and use of interpreters – it is a myth that there are few interpreters, qualified and ready to work on television. (here is a list of 100) There are interpreters all over Kenya, however they were trained, qualified – the key is to use the Deaf Kenyans themselves to validate, clarify and know who is best suited to interpret on television. There exists standards and criteria to select and eliminate those who can and can not offer the best services. The basic criteria would be judging individuals against Code of Ethics – this would eliminate at least half, then professional experience like number of hours worked under similar experiences, borrowing from other interpreters of Spanish or French and use those standards in the absence of signed language standards. (read how to work with interpreters)
  3. The small box has reduced considerably in one week it has moved from a 6X6 to a mere 2X3 inches. If yu were to sit and look at that small box for an hour, your eyes will pain and you will be having a pounding headache. It is not standard to have the box that small – the argument as it has been over time even during the presidential debate was all for aesthetic reasons – too crowded, distraction or unclean just the graphics and producers not understanding the nature and characteristics of signed languages and the usage.
  4. Continuation from the point above Signed Languages have a visual nature, it is often misunderstood that the Deaf are fully satisfied by seeing the hands only. The following are some features that make sign language different from the other languages.
  • Facial Expression – frowns, lifted eye brows, puffed cheeks or slight grin or smile among other facial expressions are part of signed languages. They complete the sentences or add meaning to expressions. With a squeezed image on a caption or box all these attributes are lost. In turn you have a block of a human figure moving their hands yet their face is dark or hidden with lots and lots of meaningful expressions that the viewer is denied.
  • Placement – the upper torso of the human form is the story board of any sign language user. It is the area where people, events and things are placed for sequence and easy locating or moving as the story unfolds. With a squeezed signing area it is difficult to place items of news in a logical and sequential order.
  • Shoulder shifts – these are movements to differentiate speakers especially when you have multiple individuals talking or debating. Again with a squeezed screen space it is impossible to enjoy the flexibility and dynamism that signed languages have to offer.
  • Movement – similar to placement, this feature of signed languages enable the users of signed languages the opportunity to showcase a story line and progression in a space that enable clarity.
  • Handforms and Shapes – the foundation of all signed languages is the existence of forms and shapes these carry meaning much like the words that we speak. Proper lighting and color blend of background, clothes of the interpreters enable the viewers users of signed languages see the words and enjoy the news interpreted.

  1. Worldwide there have been researches done to ascertain the interpreter burn out rates. These studies have shown that it is good to have interpreter change over after a 20 minute duration. This change over gives the interpreters. The human brain loses concentration after 15-20 minutes, this is true with interpreters too. The interpretation process takes a lot in the mind and body of an interpreter as they process, take in and give information relayed to them in a second or third language. These breaks allow the interpreter to give their best, allowing them to give a better more accurate, culturally and linguistically correct interpretation of the information they are receiving. Interpreters worldwide work in pairs and as teams this is for the issues above and for health purposes.
  2. Quality control and assurance is a vital component. Most of the issues that come up about interpreters are issues of quality that could be addressed by training and capacity building. When a mechanism exists that offers checks and balances it develops the interpreter and increases their accuracy in service provision. A feedback platform would capture the same, but more importantly a way to deal with the feedback so that it is meaningful and beneficial first to the concerned interpreters and then to the Deaf community via a selected representation that has clear scope and engagement.
  3. Continuous growth and development of interpreters. If any professional stops learning, they stop growing and they die professionally. Seek to engage institutions that would build interpreters comprehension of English, Kiswahili and their working language Kenyan Sign Language.
  4. For greater integration and inclusion, a program by the Deaf for the Deaf would be a natural development as a follow up to the interpreted newscasts. This will empower the Deaf community especially young children learning sign language and also change the perception of the general public who view the Deaf as objects of initiatives rather than fellow human beings with gifts, skills and talents that can be shared.
Deaf consumers of interpreting services have become more informed and are demanding higher quality interpreting services that meet their individual needs. In considering the need for a new job profile, “media translators/interpreters”, Kurz (1990: 173) suggests, following Laine (1985: 212), that “the media require a new breed of interpreter: a hybrid – someone who is a successful translator, interpreter, and editor, all in one” and this profile should include “flexibility, speed, a wide general knowledge and a complete lack of fear or embarrassment”.

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