Omission Taxonomy: Miscues on sign language interpreted news broadcast in Kenya

Omission Taxonomy: Miscues on sign language interpreted news broadcast in Kenya
an observation documentation of issues of quality and correct interpretation of content

Keywords: Miscues, Kenyan Sign Language, Interpretation, Interpreter

The most effective analyses of interpretations give consideration to message equivalence and to the interactive influences on an interpretation. This philosophy is heavily reflected in the contributions to a recent work (Roy 2000b) It is typical, however, for analysis to concentrate on the identification of errors or miscues in the form of additions, omissions, substitutions, and intrusions (e.g., Cokely 1992). Therefore it should be noted early that the examples cited here are not personal attack on any individual or undermining the skills of anyone. I felt it important to acknowledge the positive and negative effects of producing omissions within an interpretation in that an interpretation can be considered successful even if omissions are made; but at the same time, it is important to recognize that omissions can be produced in error.

As I have mentioned, studies of interpreting have typically regarded omissions as errors. But an analysis of an interpreted message cannot just count the number of errors; it must also measure the success of communication. In this way, interpreters can identify both the strengths and the weaknesses of their interpretations. Like many researchers before me I have have recognized that interpreters may, on the basis of their understanding of meaning and cultural relevance, make a conscious decision to produce an omission and that making certain omissions does not necessarily have a negative impact on the overall message conveyed in the interpretation.

Interpretation does not take place in a vacuum; it is a living, evolving, and changing entity, much the same as language. Two interpreters will often provide completely different interpreted renditions of the same piece of text according to various factors that influence their linguistic choices. Nida (1998) identifies four factors that interpreters need to consider:
(1) the appropriate language register to be used in the context;
(2) the expectations of the target audience members as to the type of translation they expect to receive;
(3) distinctive sociolinguistic features of the source text (e.g., language register, use of technical language, familiarity with content); and
(4) the medium employed for the translated text (i.e., written, spoken, or signed)

In giving consideration to these factors, interpreters and students can analyze their production of interpreting omissions within a context of omission types and thus improve their metalinguistic awareness of the interpreting process. By improving their awareness, they will be in a better position to predict the omission potential of interpreting assignments and make informed decisions about accepting those assignments. The process of analysis and identification of omissions gets interpreters thinking about their processing, what they have problems with and why, and also their level of consciousness during an interpretation. This process can only be done with a solid foundation in interpreter education especially the theories of interpreting. Without this foundation it is impossible for practicing interpreters to internalize the process of errors and how to correct them.


The omission taxonomy below specifically recognizes that lexical omissions are produced by interpreters strategically or on purpose, as well as in error.

1. Conscious strategic omissions (CSO) occur when interpreters make conscious decisions to omit meaningful information because omitting it will make the message more effective. Interpreters use their linguistic and cultural knowledge to decide which information from the source language makes sense in the target language, which information is culturally relevant, and which may be redundant.

2. Conscious unintentional omissions (CUO) also lead to a loss of meaningful information. Interpreters are conscious of the omission but make it unintentionally because they hear the linguistic unit and decide to “file it” and wait for more contextual information or depth of meaning before interpreting it. Because of further source language input and lag time, however, interpreters forget the particular
linguistic unit and omit it.

3. Conscious intentional omissions (CIO) occur when interpreters make an omission that leads to a loss of meaningful information. Interpreters are conscious of these omissions and make them intentionally because they don’t understand the particular linguistic unit (word or phrase) or could not think of an appropriate equivalent in the target language.

4. Conscious receptive omissions (CRO) lead to a loss of meaningful information and occur when interpreters cannot properly hear and decipher what the linguistic units are because of poor sound quality.

5. Unconscious omissions (UO) lead to a loss of meaningful information because interpreters are unconscious of the omission and do not remember hearing the omitted linguistic units.

To non professional interpreters these omissions could sound insouciant, trivial and bothersome but to the source and receipient of the message it is very crucial. The intended message, meaning and purpose may be lost, interferred with and destroyed by the interpreters own lack of competence. In a court of law, hospital or business deal it might mean a loss of money, credibility, rights or even life. The remedies of such omissions include planned, video taped exercises for the interpreter to self evaluate, have a peer review and a discussion with an experienced interpreter to guide them in reducing the omissions and errors.

I will attempt to classify numerous omissions that fall under the 2, 3, 4, and 5 classes of omissions frequently happening with the news bulletins on Kenyan Televisions– KBC and KTN, I will also share a list from watching parliamentary proceedings. I will try and compare English and Swahili phrases.The examples below taken from a few bulletin observations reveal that the CIO, UO happens mostly in the current set of interpretation services offered in Kenya. The Conscious intentional omissions (CIO) occur when interpreters make an omission that leads to a loss of meaningful information. Interpreters are conscious of these omissions and make them intentionally because they don’t understand the particular linguistic unit (word or phrase) or could not think of an appropriate equivalent in the target language. Unconscious omissions (UO) lead to a loss of meaningful information because interpreters are unconscious of the omission and do not remember hearing the omitted linguistic units.


The following are the schedule of interpreted Television programs
Kenyan Television Network
Parliament
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
Swahili
English
Eng/Swahili
Swahili
English
Bulletin 7pm
Lunch time News 1pm
Tuesday - 2pm
Bulletin 7pm
Lunch time News 1pm

Bulletin 9pm
Wednesday 9am

Bulletin 7pm

JKL talk show
Thursday 2pm

Bulletin 9pm

Check Point Talk show




Words: Phrases: Vocabulary often omitted during interpretation from spoken language to sign language
English words
Insecurity
Protest
Demonstration
Strike
Boycott
Propaganda
Securities
Money market
Cyber crime
Hacking
Crime
Robbery
Assassination
Diseases
Blogging
Bicameral Parliament
Requim Mass
Share Index
Break/interlude
Circuit – rally sports
Ban
Trade union
Further a field
Hypothesis

Msamiati Sugu
Eneo la tukio
Eneo la kuegeshea magari
Mashinani
Mdahalo
Kitendo cha kinyama
Jopo kazi
Mgaga na mpwa
Itikadi
Mziki wa ala
Swadakta
Alamsiki
Mpenzi mtazamaji
Mau mau
Maswala
Mizengwe
Ulibwende

Special Category
Music – rap, hip hop, genge
Football commentary
Arguments 
Poetry
Debates
Humor
Jokes

Check some interpretations here: 

KTN

KBC

What could be the solution?

  1. Change of attitude of the interpreters – hear feedback, act on it through practice
  2. Have a Deaf heart – be fully immersed in Deaf culture, Kenyan Sign Language
  3. Enrich your language abilities – pick and choose your strong fields and thrive in it
  4. Follow the Code of Ethics
    1. take assignments according to your ability
    2. avoid conflict of interest/be a discrete person
    3. interpreter bubble is real – work for 15-20min and rest
    4. team interpret with experienced interpreters/deaf mentors
    5. respect the client/consumer
    6. charge reasonable fees
  5. Collaboration with professional bodies e.g. WASLI KSLIA
Interpretation does not take place in a vacuum; it is a living, evolving, and changing entity, much the same as language. I challenge my colleagues to learn, improve, respect the client and have a Deaf Heart!

Written April 2015 by Jack Owiti, Interpreter and Author the Dancing Interpreter Diaries 

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