Saturday, 1 June 2019

Kenyan Sign Language Interpreters Clamor for standardization, harmonized pay rates; separating the myths and reality.

Demand for professional signed language interpreters is high in Kenya and the continent of Africa. This demand for quality has no borders, it is multi-ethnic, multilingual, multicultural and multidisciplinary. On the other hand there is hardly any leading university in the country training professionals for high level quality work output. We have individual crusaders demanding respect for the profession, defending professional practice and gaining recognition in their own small way. Many new and beginners are ruthlessly competing for job and space to grow, the ecosystem does not provide for them the platform to thrive. At this crossroads there is a clamor often misplaced in my opinion for standardization, harmonized remuneration, pay scales and grades.

The myths associated with these voices are numerous, they range from over reliance on government to provide jobs to unfounded fears of competition and self-preservation of the interpreter.  

Myth number one: We must involve government in all our efforts to organize our profession.
Many people from the villages especially those coming from the agricultural zones often come with the mentality of government subsidies, permanent jobs and government controls how you work mentality. The argument is often that the government is the largest employer and for them to work with any profession, they must be organized, harmonized and follow some standard. There is place of government and I do respect that, public service interpreting within government should be organized and planned well.

Myth number two: there are too few jobs, grab, grab, grab and charge less than the competition.
Newly qualified or experienced interpreters have the tendency to undercut their competition by charging less, grabbing anything that comes to them. They believe the jobs are too few and the more you grab the less you charge the more you will have.

Myth number three: interpreting is easy, I know sign language at least the basics I can interpret
There is a breed of individuals who having seen interpreters on TV, saw an interpreter at their church or read about the wonderful job the interpreters do. They are ill-advised to attend a two or three months course and jump to want to interpret at a news bulletin, high level government meeting. Some have uncles and aunties working in corporations and they are able to get connections to contracts, they fumble through the assignments and offer poor services to the clients.

Myth number four: if only we had policies, we will be fine
Most noise I hear about rules, policies or standardization are disjointed, un-researched and unfounded, hearsay. There is confusion on what laws is needed, is it a guideline? Could it be policies? A legislation perhaps? None of the voices can really tell you for a fact what is needed, there is a mixture of legalese being hurled right left and center…..

Myth number five: the field is too small we can’t specialize
Perhaps the most profound of all the myths is this one. For some reason all interpreters you will meet will tell you how the field is too small, you have to do everything. You cannot just interpret songs in church you need to do something serious like meetings, conferences, medical, legal and media – actually the news – current affairs, business, sports news and finish with the panel discussions to earn that money… one will pay you to interpret sports alone, the employers will not hear of it….we can’t specialize, we have not reached that level like the US or Europe they are quick to point out.

Reality 1
The reality is jobs by the governments are shrinking, they are privatizing most of their corporations and adopting non-governmental structures to run their businesses. Europe and US have robust private sectors that and operated efficiently. Government jobs are available in some areas – we can say the government in Kenya will employ some interpreters in some parastatals, in some state owned corporations BUT how many are they? How many interpreters will be absorbed in these jobs? Considering all the other issues surrounding corrupt officials, nepotism and bribery? Will the est and qualified interpreter have the best odds to go into government jobs?

What is the track record of government in successfully creating and sustaining a profession? Business opportunity? Look at the maize, sugar, milk industries…let me not go into coffee and tea we need to ask ourselves what are the things we can guide government to help us achieve, how far do we involve the officers in our profession – for overall legal framework and enforcement of the same yes definitely however if we are innovative we will realize that government is always a step or two behind any new emerging innovation – we have witnessed the same with m-pesa, e-commerce and medical setting – you have to invent, operate then government comes to learn and see how to regulate you by introducing laws and squeezing out tax from your profits.

The reality is we need government – not all of it. We have to create ur own mechanisms that are frame worked and based on laws existing or we create the laws to support our work.

Reality 2
The cake is too big and enough for everyone. I repeat, the cake is too big and enough for everyone. There is no need to hoard, fight, squabble and clique your way to hedge jobs, clients or fields. There are approximately 2 million Deaf Kenyans, there are roughly 2,000 interpreters with another 5,000 persons who know Kenyan Sign Language. Are the service providers enough to warrant panic? Can we say that at any one moment all the interpreters are engaged? Lets just remember that we have a big enough country for all of us, we all can get our corner and be able to survive, earn a living – competition is good and healthy as long as it create a better you, improves your service and propel you to innovate. If it is to blow out the other persons candle or stifle their growth, we miss the point.

Reality 3
Interpreting is not rocket science and it is not kids play either. There is a level of learning, practice and competency that one has to attain to be able to interpret accordingly. There are no perfect interpretations – 80-90% near accuracy can be realized when there is a lot of interplay between fluency, cultural relevance and skills to provide equivalence for the languages involved. My friends from KISE and River Road training services it is unfortunate you passed through the wrong service lane, it s never too late – join the correct language school and learn, it will pay off. There are many who followed that long path and today they are able to communicate with the clients. The secret to improved performance is having the correct disposition, teachable attitude and readiness to learn. Practice….make interpreting your number one, add al the other things to it not the other way round

Reality 4
Rules are good. They give order and offer the framework to peace and harmony. In the absence of a framework chaos prevail. However looking at the Matatu industry, agriculture specifically dairy, maize sub sectors, sports industry – football, rugby, athletics subsectors and how the government has messed up the industries with substandard frameworks. In an economy where the public service is seen as a vehicle to get rich and private entities provide alternative services it is difficult to have essential services that are uniform and

Reality 5
The future belongs to specialized individuals not the generalists. The employer is looking for high level skills – the days of I know word processing I need a job are over nearly all graduates know office packages, how many can code, design a website, create a game for the phone? Specialization in the broadest term is what we are to aim for. Know the foundation stuff, interpret for the chief, the hospital visit or at the police station BUT go ahead and be a public administration specialist interpreter able to work with local county government, a medical interpreter able to work with the hospitals during emergencies and epidemics, legal interpreter able to work with all the courts system.


Jack Owiti,, +254723343516 @owitie theDancingInterpreter

Institute of Sign Language (ISL), Nairobi, Kenya

Friday, 26 October 2018

Deconstruction of the signed exact English- SEE fallacy.

Kenyan Sign Language -KSL is the natural, native and indigenous language of the Deaf people of Kenya who are a language minority and a marginalized population. The Constitution of Kenya recognizes this language under articles 7, 3 (b) and (c) and article 120 as ratified in the UN convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Language acquisition and development starts at the home and is further reinforced in early grades with strong language models such as parents, teachers and adults around the child. This is often not the case for Deaf children in many Kenyan homes. Their parents do not know Kenyan Sign Language, their teachers barely use KSL and are exposed to language role models at age 7 or 10 where they have to survive in boarding schools far from home and experiencing full deaf culture immersion for the first time in their lives. English a foreign spoken language is then drilled into these children without proper instruction or materials. Their hearing counterparts on the other hand have been hearing, speaking, singing and mimicking English, kiswahili and mother tongue rhythms, words, phrases, poems and songs for 3-5 years.
SEE is not new in Kenya. It has been piloted in Machakos school for the Deaf, Kenya Institute of Special Education has over the years insisted on its usage however outcomes of the Deaf learners has been dwindling. Early grade literacy and numeracy issues have been comprehensively documented for various schools and regions on the Tusome Reports, several other players have documented the decline not just for Deaf learners but for early graders generally. Why should we force a failing system to be perpetuated for a section of learners? The proponents of SEE removed kiswahili from the curriculum for the Deaf learners not because the pupils could not learn it but due to the teachers inability to master KSL in order to instruct on kiswahili grammar, use and reading. The issue at the table should be how do teachers teach reading, writing English to a deaf pupil?

On the issues around literacy - Lack of proper foundation for Deaf children ages 0 - 7 years. The current low literacy and cognitive skills in the Deaf children is due to minimal of total lack of opportunities to develop their language, communication skills early like their speaking counterparts. There is need to invest in proper Deaf oriented early childhood education incorporating the Deaf child, the parents and teacher. The opportunity to develop a strong language base and foundation sets up the deaf child for success. This would be achieved by having the school environment filled with adult Deaf language mentors, peer - peer language transfer, Deaf teacher reinforcement and parents able to use sign language once the child goes back home.This partnership presents a huge opportunity for programmers to create projects targeting parents, teachers especially Deaf and for ECD at the county level and ECD establishments.

We need to check the motives of SEE supporters for instance why are they using their privilege to muzzle the Deaf community? This energy should be used in fighting for the rights of the deaf girls being impregnated by teachers, deaf students being denied accessibility at Kenyatta University etc why for instance is the Hon DrGertrude Musuruve Inimah using her position to distribute books she has authored? Are the books approved by KICD? If they are why are they not being distributed by the channels already established or is she pushing legislation to popularize her books? Is this a conflict of interest? What does article 6 state about public officers?

Still on our Hon. Senator she invited several Persons with Disabilities for lunch at parliament cafeteria - a good gesture however it reinforces her view and model on perspectives on disability - she lie many before her view the disability fraternity as a group of people needing benevolence - a lunch date should quale the noises.....Handouts are short lived, we need the persons with disability at the table, with a voice and chance to express their aspirations, their dreams and how they want to be governed not given a plate of food (for some instances it is worth noting that a plate of food might go along way to alleviate hunger, 1000 shillings transport too can save one the trip on a matatu a couple of days BUT it should not be the remedy to silence voices opposing a situation liKe we are facing with the Deaf in Kenya today).

Use of correct terminologies when referring to various groups of Persons with Disabilities - The UNCRPD clearly states the Deaf, deaf and deaf blind why do our elected officials refer to the Deaf as hearing impaired, deaf and mute, deaf and dumb, mute etc? there needs to be consistency of terminology and respect for the person and not perpetuate retrogressive stereotypes and stigma disability already brings to the human person. It is Deaf. The Deaf. not any other labels.

Our progressive constitution states clearly that the state shall promote the development and use of KSL we can not have our elected representatives opposing and going contrary to the constitution they swore to defend and uphold.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

KSL Cover Huyu Yesu by Mercy Masika & Angel Benard

When I started this blog, I wanted to address the lack of documentation of Kenyan Sign Language, Deaf Culture and History in Kenya and rest of Africa. Back then the cost of hosting a website was inhibiting and not much was available to go by as far as development of applications, websites or programs.

Almost twenty years on and we now have a lot of info on the internet and numerous apps popping up everywhere. There is still struggle with the cost of internet, cost of data used on cellphones and we are yet to benefit from the land to sea cables heralded in the turn of the new millennium as the salvation of the data depraved country.....

Some of the issues impeding the utilization of data in Eastern Africa are cost of gadgets and cost of data - the costs have considerably been getting more and more affordable due to competition and demand/supply dynamics, secondly there is a level of appreciation of the use of data among the population however this is still low.

I would like to share more videos but am constantly aware that the many Deaf Kenyans will not enjoy the music due to the cost involved for downloading and viewing these videos - maybe an offline engagement would work? I have pondered about the idea of a "Caravan of Champions" a bus/truck that would go round the schools for the Deaf and showcase champions from across the country and have a weekend of mentoring and fun with Deaf students.

So as you enjoy the videos know that there are thousands of Deaf Kenyans hoping to enjoy the videos as you do and this can be made possible by you and me joining hands together to make schools for the Deaf in Kenya connected to the internet, have electricity and of course have teachers who know and are fluent native signers of Kenyan Sign Language and not all the gibberish stuff of total communication, lipreading and signed exact English ( I have always wondered why they never did a Signed Kiswahili for would be funny to gesture works like tahamaki, jicho pevu, kizungumkuti na mustakhbal) 

Enjoy this Video - KSL Cover Huyu Yesu by Mercy Masika & Angel Benard

Friday, 14 April 2017

Introducing Cover Versions in Kenyan Sign Language (KSL)

Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) is a very expressive language. Songs in sign language are therefore equally expressive and many times are more expressive than their purely vocal versions. I was first introduces to this concept while a student and intern interpreter at DOOR Africa then located in Limuru, Kenya.

Since then I have interpreted hundred of songs in private and in public for various audiences. On many occasions I have been encouraged to make these into video formats and make a compilation for the songs - I must admit that I have overthought the idea and many times procrastinated the initialization of this idea. I have wanted to have a crew and do perfect videos, make money while entertaining using signed songs. The perfectionist in me, wanted perfect videos and broadcast quality......Besides I have had my own personal insecurities of how I would be judged or criticized and compared with other performers or put on the spotlight. 

Over the years I have had dreams of playlists, mixx tapes/crates of the perfect start and how it will all unfold - I have a liking towards Bongo flavor, R&B and Gospel songs however I have been stretched over the years to interpret Rock, Reggae and even local songs. I may not do all the songs I have wanted since time and space may over take them BUT I am starting.....rough.....raw and spontaneous as they come.


My dear friends who have enjoyed the interpreted songs in my home, church, conferences and clubs I have valued and taken to heart the nudge to make videos and materialize this idea. I am mostly grateful to my friends Faith and Buddy Eldridge to whom I am eternally grateful for their support and push to do these videos in the past few months. There have been other contributors to this Eva my friend and neighbor in Langata, Silvia, Grace, Liz, Raphael, Gideon, and Peninah for sharing the stage at various events and interpreting together, the mentees and mentors from KSLIA for your encouragement and positive comments for making this dream alive.

The cover versions will take various forms and shapes - keep watching and reading here for more....

Looking forward to your comments

Ni Mungu Pekee

Only God


Thursday, 28 July 2016

Long Break is Over - Back to Blogging

What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’…. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, ‘Okay. Okay. I’ll come. – Maya Angelou

I am comforted that I am not alone in going on a hiatus.....coming are some of the ideas I would like to change in the upcoming blogs.

  1. more topical blog topics 
  2. video blogs 
  3. accessibility issues 
I promise it will not be typing only but writing.


follow me on Twitter = @owitie


Friday, 24 April 2015

Kenyan Sign Language Testing - Are we perpetuating a failed system?

The education of learners with disabilities (special needs) in Kenya has been embraced by the Kenya government as reflected in several policy documents including the Children’s Act 2001, the declaration of Free Primary Education in January 2003, the provisions of the Disabilities Act 2003 and the Sessional Paper No. 1 of 2005 on the Policy Framework for Education, Training and Research which guarantee the education and employment of all persons without discrimination.

In Kenya, special education existed long before independence since special schools such as Thika School for the Blind was established in 1946 by the Salvation Army (a church based organization). However, no guidelines were put in place to guide special education issues including examinations. Through the recommendations of the various education commissions in Kenya, the government has stressed the importance of the education of the disabled in order to assist them to acquire a suitable foundation for the world of work so as to contribute to self and society.

Education for learners with disabilities (special needs) has for a long time been provided in special schools and special units attached to regular schools. The government adapted inclusive education to give opportunities to learners with disabilities (challenged learners) to receive education alongside their 'normal' counterparts in the same environment. Following the introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) in 2003, large numbers of children with disabilities (special needs) were enrolled in regular schools.

The suitability of the regular curriculum and existing school facilities became an issue for educationists. This led to the formation of a Task Force on Special Needs Education in 2003 to look into the educational needs of Special Needs Learners. The task force recommended among other things that syllabuses for specialized areas be developed for immediate implementation and that the Kenya National Examinations Council establishes a section with staff who are qualified in Special Needs Examination Administration to handle all SNE examinations. The Task force further recommended that: -
·examinations for candidates with low vision be adapted considering their different visual acuity;
·brailled examinations be marked directly without de-brailling;
·supervision and invigilation of candidates with SNE be done by personnel qualified in the various areas of special needs education;
·school based examinations be developed to provide certification for learners with SNE who may not be in a position to sit for national examinations;
·Kenyan sign language be examined at both KCPE and KCSE levels once the curriculum is developed and approved;
·examination for learners who are blind be presented using different grades of Braille to cater for their diversity;
·examinations for candidates with low vision be adapted considering their different visual acuity;
·brailled examinations be marked directly without de-brailling;
·supervision and invigilation of candidates with SNE be done by personnel qualified in the various areas of special needs education;
·school based examinations be developed to provide certification for learners with SNE who may not be in a position to sit for national examinations;
·Kenyan sign language be examined at both KCPE and KCSE levels once the curriculum is developed and approved;
·examination for learners who are blind be presented using different grades of Braille to cater for their diversity;
·language examinations especially in literature and other subjects for deaf (hearing impaired) be adapted;
·taped examinations be developed for candidates who may require them;
·time allocation for learners with SNE be determined on the basis of the nature and severity of disability;
·alternative modes of communication e.g. use of computers and typewriters be allowed for candidates who require them
The government put mechanisms for early assessment and identification by establishing special education units in the districts. Teachers for special education are specifically trained at the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) which also coordinates the assessment of children with special needs. However, due to the diversity of learners with special need, the curriculum developers and the Kenya National Examinations Council is only able to adapt the curriculum and assessment methodology for only a limited group of special needs learners while many others are left to fit within the general educational assessment patterns.
In order for learners with special needs to benefit from the education system in Kenya, the Kenya National Examinations Council has found various ways and means in which assessment for these learners can be made more adaptable to the needs of such learners through differentiation, adaptation and modification of its examinations, and examination management. Examinations offered by the KNEC are terminal, summative and their main purpose is for selection, placement and certification. The examinations are norm-referenced and are therefore not suitable for the needs of certain types of special needs learners. KNEC develops or adapts examinations using the adapted curriculum developed by KISE and where such curriculum does not exist, and then SNE learners are left to fit within the regular curriculum.
Differentiation in the curriculum may take 4 forms namely the development of:
·an adopted curriculum which involves the adoption of the regular curriculum as it is but focusing the objectives from the non-handicapped learners to the handicapped;
·an adapted curriculum where the true curriculum is tailored to the needs of the handicapped learners e.g. the adapted physical education curriculum. Thus modifications or adaptations are made to suit the handicapped learners;
·specialized curriculum – the regular curriculum is exhaustively examined to determine whether the learner would be able to cope with it. Modifications are then made but retaining the core characteristics of the regular curriculum structures as a basis;
·specialist curriculum which is an entirely separate curriculum developed with a particular target group in mind. It aims at meeting specific needs of the children e.g. physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and self
Special consideration for challenged learners is made from the time of registration for examinations to the issue of results. It must, however, be noted that in all these arrangements the reliability and validity of tests must be maintained. Special Needs examinations are currently administered for the Visually Impaired (V.I.) which includes blind and those with low vision, hearing Impaired (H.I.), physically and mentally handicapped. The KNEC also administers examinations to cases under special circumstances in hospitals and prisons. These candidates take the KCPE, KCSE, PTE and Technical examinations.

In 2010 the Council introduce the Kenya Sign Language as an examination subject as a language option in place of Kiswahili which is currently compulsory at the KCPE and KCSE levels. Differentiation for the deaf  include:
·the exclusion of those aspects that touch on sound and metaphoric expressions from their test papers;
·time allocation:-20-30 extra minutes;
·allowing a sign language literate teacher to be part of the examination invigilation team.
From KNEC annual analysis of performance we find that the Deaf schools perform dismally in the Exams esp in the English exam – but then again all the exams are written in English. This English superior attitudinal aspect of the Kenyan education system is very unkind to the Deaf learner who uses English as a read, written language. Most of the communication happening within the class room with Deaf students is predominately in pure Kenyan Sign Language. It is a pity to always watch teachers – graduates of special education courses, meaning well and trying their best struggling with a manual code that the students find hard to comprehend and unnatural. Signed Exact English – SEE is the worst thing our educationists resorted to after they left oralism, total communication methods and approaches. In a bid to help the Deaf child learn to write English the teachers have created a monster code that the kids force themselves to learn, the result all Deaf children become robots and zombies of some sort when in class learning the dreaded Englsih – when they are on break or left on their own they become alive, natural sharing everything from gossip, laughter, stories, jokes and highly academic discourse. Hence I observe and ask, why do we do the Kenyan Sign Language Examination at KCSE/KCPE level in the current format?- Are we perpetuating a failed system?

The script above from KNEC offers specific opportunities for the Deaf learners to get out of an oppressive system that is designed to produce failure - not that there are no Deaf Kenyans who have done well very well in the KNEC exams, there are many.... Why should the Deaf children be examined in these #Kalongolongos?

Some useful reads are here:

However the main problem remain four fold:-

A. Lack of comprehensive research, documentation and knowledge transfer between Deaf community and teachers of the Deaf in regards to Kenyan Sign Language, Deaf culture and learning styles of the Deaf.

B. Promotion and use of Glossed English in the Examination system. there needs to be a a forward move away from Glossed English, Signed Exact English and other manual codes and language systems to Kenyan Sign Language. This is an attitudinal change, Kenyan Sign Language in it's richness and entirety is rich enough to teach literature, poetry, Swahili, English and virtually any field however our learned teachers have an attitude against this....thus the ill informed decision to remove teaching of Swahili and Music for the Deaf in schools - a disadvantage and oppressive policy denying the Deaf the opportunity to enjoy those subjects. Glossed English advocates have a special space in hell, I often pray that they will pay for the stigma they loaded on the Deaf children who have suffered in silence. Technology has blessed Kenya with very rich innovation ecosystem, we have smart computer application innovations that would digitize Kenyan Sign Language examinations by use of videos for compositions, narratives and 'writing' for the Deaf since Kenyan Sign Language is a three dimensional visual language perfect for video and animation - KNEC do away with the papers - usher in the digital age in Kenyan examination settings.

C. Lack of proper foundation for Deaf children ages 0 - 7 years. The current low literacy and cognitive skills in the Deaf children is due to minimal of total lack of opportunities to develop their language, communication skills early like their speaking counterparts. There is need to invest in proper Deaf oriented early childhood education incorporating the Deaf child, the parents and teacher. The opportunity to develop a strong language base and foundation sets up the deaf child for success. This would be achieved by having the school environment filled with adult Deaf language mentors, peer - peer language transfer, Deaf teacher reinforcement and parents able to use sign language once the child goes back home.This partnership presents a huge opportunity for programmers to create projects targeting parents, teachers especially Deaf and for ECD at the county level and ECD establishments.

D. Few Deaf teachers - there has been huge steps to have at least each school of the Deaf to have a Deaf teacher however we still need more!!! The more the Deaf pupil sees a Deaf teacher, teaching various subjects and holding leadership positions and an authority figure the psyche of the student, morale and ambition is triggered to achieve and perform better. There is power in Role Models for the Deaf. TSC and Ministry of Education should do more to empower the Deaf to join the teaching profession.

When we do these things we will halt the perpetual failing wheel and create a cycle of success for the Deaf in Kenya. I am reminded here of a project that was dear to my heart - the Global Deaf Connection - creating the cycle of success one teacher, one school at a time! Could the Kenya National Association of the Deaf - KNAD revive this project?

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

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

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
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
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
Money market
Cyber crime
Bicameral Parliament
Requim Mass
Share Index
Circuit – rally sports
Trade union
Further a field

Msamiati Sugu
Eneo la tukio
Eneo la kuegeshea magari
Kitendo cha kinyama
Jopo kazi
Mgaga na mpwa
Mziki wa ala
Mpenzi mtazamaji
Mau mau

Special Category
Music – rap, hip hop, genge
Football commentary

Check some interpretations here: 



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 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Why KSLIA – Looking Back, 2015 and Beyond

When we founded KSLIA in September of 2000 the twenty people present on that day represented the face of interpreting then. We were both young and old, novice and pros, we were male and female, black and white and we agreed that the association would look at the following issues. For the past 14 fourteen years we have barely touched on the fundamental mandate of the association. I would like to take a moment and look back at where we have come from, where we are and where we ought to be as an association.

Talking to many interpreters in Nairobi and elsewhere there is an apparent lack of understanding of the reason why KSLIA was formed, its mandate and objectives. This has resulted in KSLIA having fewer members, near zero activities and no secretariat. The apathy is reasonable for there are several contributing factors. The successive change of office bearers and lack of continuity could be an attributing factor – while it is a good thing to have new leadership, it is disastrous when you have successive regime lacking the vision or continuity of the former. This could be the curse of membership organizations while it provides for the sovereign will of the people it also allows for dictatorial and self seeking individuals to manipulate their way into leadership through short lived popularity, promise of a better tomorrow and often inactivity.

Between the year 2000 and 2006 KSLIA infant years saw a core group of leaders emerge and spearhead the push for recognition of Kenyan Sign Language. The founding members found themselves useful in this direction working with the Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD) which was by then struggling to stand, suffocating in the murky froth of mismanagement, blurred vision and mixed up priorities the same curses of membership organizations. Despite the setbacks there was still little success – the Constitution Review Commissions provided a disability caucus that saw KNAD have a permanent voice through the Chairman and the representatives of women and affiliate branches.

Many of the interpreters grew in their work both in numbers and in fields of service. Much of the training of interpreters remained at the 844 complex, quasi association with the deaf and deaf organizations. Prior to these there was a series of regional training and workshops. Then KNAD temporarily closed shop due to lack of funds and frustrations with the funding agencies – Swedish SHIA. This did not dampen the push for language recognition. You may be asking why was language recognition such an important thing? Well, for Deaf communities to be liberated, governments and communities must recognize and accept Signed Languages as part of the social political and economic medium of information sharing and communication. World Federation of the Deaf says this about National Signed Languages “......State parties (national governments) should make their laws that allow for the Recognizing and promoting the use of sign ensure that persons with disabilities can exercise the right to freedom of expression and opinion, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas on an equal basis with others and through all forms of communication of their choice....”

The long and short of those five or six years was it laid the foundation for the insertion of the words Kenyan Sign Language in the constitution – both the Bomas, Kilifi and Wako drafts. The emergence of the Deaf Aid white paper – that claimed in part that there was shortage of interpreters in Kenya woke KSLIA into action with meetings, elections, workshops and training of more interpreters in collaboration with Global Deaf Connections. These training created a movement that sort to raise the standards of interpretation services. The years following 2007, 08, 09 saw the association conduct several workshops culminating in the first and second National Interpreters Forums – the reports are available, these were indeed golden moments.

Comes 2010 and the Kenyan government endorses and adapts the new constitution. Many things begin to change. First, Kenyans Sign Language becomes an academic and exam subject in Kenyan schools – primary and secondary – the clarity, appropriateness and cultural relevance aside – it is a great step and achievement for the Deaf in Kenya and the rest of Africa. Secondly, the Constitution of Kenya recognizes KSL as one of the language the government would promote the development and use of, it also sets it as one of the languages of the bicameral parliament. This is an achievement many enjoy without the cognizance that KSLIA or the members that makes it were in the driving seat of making this dream a reality, of course we would not have achieved it without the presence, counsel and contribution of the Deaf community – KNAD.

Four years later the little gains seems to be forgotten. Many interpreters now enjoy the opportunities presented with the decades of successful advocacy. We now have many interpreters employed by the universities, media houses, local NGOs, private businesses and government agencies....much more is that many Deaf Kenyans have found opportunities to earn livelihoods. Amidst this budding success, there are turncoats spoiling the party. The sourpuss selfseeking and ignorant idiots are chipping away at the success. The monkey now judges the trees, there is little regard to KNAD nor KSLIA, there are various opportunities and sources of little monies and the facilitators of communication looks down upon the client and asks questions like – who is KNAD? Why should we consult KNAD? We are independent, there are many deaf organizations out there why should we look to one? KSLIA has no mandate to regulate, discipline or criticize an interpreter so they say-- I am bowed in shame as I listen and see reckless statements coming from various interpreters both novice and experienced. Maybe it is time we restate and affirm the core mandate of KSLIA so that all and sundry will know what they are and begin to appreciate the reasons we established it.

As a founding chair and long serving member of KSLIA, I will en-devour to endear you to KSLIA by answering the following questions candidly and objectively as possible. Hoping that by the end I will have convinced you to be associated with KSLIA just as a member or as an agent of change for the KSLIA we want for 2015 and beyond.

  1. To secure official recognition by the Government of S.L Interpreters profession
The number one mandate for KSLIA is to seek recognition by government. This is only achievable by the legal framework which most professions have. If you think of doctors, lawyers, teachers, secretaries or accountants there is a law that governs the training, certification, remuneration and business ethics. KSLIA has a window of opportunity with the following legal framework avenues available in 2015 and beyond.
Firstly there is amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act – this act talks of interpretation services but does not define who an interpreter is, what they do or how to train them. Secondly there is the Language Policy law that the implementation schedule alludes to. Herein is the golden most opportunity to define interpretation/translation professions as central to languages. Thirdly the open door exists in creation of a separate law – KSL Bill I have called it so in my earlier article “Beyond Recognition of KSL 2014” Prosperity will judge us harshly if we squandered these opportunities. Why should I as an interpreter be excited to be affiliated with KSLIA? This task is huge to be left for a few people to manage, it behooves us to join hands and make it happen.

  1. Encourage and promote initiatives in improving the standards of SL interpreting and interpreter training and pay scale of interpreters depending with their level and skills of interpretation through certification.
With a legal frame certification, pay scales and standards will automatically be regularized. The initiatives here would include working with academic institutions, consumer organizations and professional associations.

  1. Cooperation with other recognized bodies concerned in the welfare of the deaf and in provision of S.L Interpreters throughout the world.
KSLIA need to revitalize its relationship with KNAD. Globally it needs to be members of WASLI, WFD and other regional bodies. There is budding interpreter communities in Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa that KSLIA could affiliate with and join with.

  1. Awareness creation on Deafness and SL. Interpreters through publication of information materials
Apart from this blog, a few academic papers there is still a lot of documentation that is needed. KSLIA need more scholars, writers and researchers who will place it on the global map. The avenues are numerous with the advent of social media.

  1. To collect and raise funds for the achievement of goals and objectives through membership fee, subscription, contribution, gifts or donations, commissions and payments, fund raising whether in money or otherwise from both members and non members.
The five technical working groups – membership, training, systems, fundraising and publicity need to be nurtured and supported through an office with staff, volunteers and leaders. The only way to support this is to recruit members both hearing and deaf interpreters – yes deaf interpreters it is the only way to create the bridge between the Deaf and the interpreters world. Why should I pay my membership? It will help KSLIA be able to achieve the objectives above.
  1. To maintain and administer a register of S.L Interpreters in Kenya.
The key to the success of this lies in the implementation of the legal framework that would establish a registry. With an education system that teaches the craft, a certification system it would be easy to list all those who qualify to be interpreters and thus administering a register would be possible.

What is the mandate of KSLIA? As enumerated above, the mandate is very clear and offers us a starting point, to build a professional association it is incumbent on us to ask why does KSLIA exist? What is my role as an interpreter in Kenya in 2015? This club is nothing without you, by you and you alone can it grow. There are open opportunities to join as a student interpreter, a practicing interpreter – the membership fee is very affordable.

KSLIA salutes all past and present members who have sacrificed their time and energy to make the association work. It will one day pay and show, it might seem a bleak future with all the uncertainties and confusions – there is a ray of hope and light at the end of the tunnel – there are many new people joining the profession, many learning institutions are interested in employing interpreters and government is eager than before to provide access to information to its citizens. We are at the verge of a great time....we stand to gain much in fulfilling the mandate of this association.

Currently KSLIA needs volunteers to work in the five technical working groups or committees it requires lawyers, fundraising professionals, PR gurus, managers, trainers etc the list is endless. How do I benefit as a member? Well the benefits are not much remuneration wise, however you stand the golden opportunity to impact a growing profession in many different ways and build your professional resume. The networking opportunities both locally and internationally are immense,

Author by Jack Owiti, Former Chairperson KSLIA 2006 - 2009. Interpreter, Translator and Sign Linguistics Scholar - Nairobi, Kenya