Article

Reading between the Signs: Intercultural Communication for Sign Language Interpreters (review)

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Abstract

Lift the cover of this book with your thumb and the first thing you will see—even before the title page—is "Praise for Reading between the Signs and Anna Mindess." Filling that first page are complimentary paragraphs written by Nancy Frishberg, Jan Humphrey, William C. Stokoe, Harlan Lane, and Eileen Forestal, who are familiar to cohorts in the interpreting field. Their commendation of the book and the author is so emphatic that my first thought was that these people must be Anna Mindess's best friends. I settled down to reading the book while flying to and from Italy on a recent trip. By the time I arrived home, I had become one of Anna's "best friends," too. Sharon Neumann Solow, renowned for her work in interpreter education, wrote the foreword, which notes that the model of interpretation has evolved from an initial easygoing, anybody-can-interpret model to the current sophisticated, multifaceted standard. From the early days, especially in the 1970s, when almost anyone who could sign was considered to be an interpreter, the profession has advanced to an awareness that signed language interpretation is an incredibly complex task. Solow recognized that language drills, lectures in ethics, grammatical lessons, and cultural aspects swiftly became incorporated into emerging interpreter education programs. Yet, she surmised, "there was a sense of something missing, but that something was elusive" (Mindess 2006, x). Although interpreter education programs are consistently enriching and expanding their Deaf culture courses, the "elusive" intercultural information that characterizes the interpreting profession has been sparse. Many excellent texts deal with the history of interpreting, interpreting models, business-related issues, ethics, pragmatics of assignment settings, and the communicative task itself. But until Mindess's book appeared (first edition in 1999), an in-depth intercultural communication framework on interpreting between hearing and Deaf cultures was not readily available for interpreter educators or their students. Solow feels that this cultural knowledge is the "very factor that heightens or decreases our effectiveness" (Mindess 2006, x). Without making the mistake that some interpreter education programs made—thwacking "Deaf culture versus Hearing culture" immediately into the unprepared consciousness of ASL students—Mindess wisely introduces the reader to a more intracultural point of view by first providing hundreds of supportive studies. She stresses that cultural differences exist between most ethnic groups. "Heavy" Deaf culture accounts are reserved for later in the book, which allows the reader to recognize that Deaf people are no more and no less unique in their cultural values and behaviors than any other group. At the same time, Mindess's book points out that when Anglo-Americans realize that other nations may not hold the same "universal truths" that we subscribe to in our society, "we may feel like the floor has dropped out from under us" (18). Chapter 1 reminds us that our interpreting organization can proudly pinpoint the birth date and origin of its profession: 1964 at Ball State Teachers College, when the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf was established. In this chapter Mindess introduces the scope of her book and explains that she has written it for sign language interpreters and those students who hope to become interpreters. She takes the reader from the general to the specific, using what she explains is a typical, hearing, American discourse style. She metaphorically describes the critical nature of cultural understanding when interpreting: "Interpreting without a thorough grounding and appreciation of the cultural implications is like trying to hang pictures in a house with no wall. Without building a cultural framework that holds the house together, the pictures—words and signs—will crash to the floor" (16). Chapters 2, 3, and 4 contrast Anglo-American customs with an array of cultural and communicative behaviors characteristic of various countries and peoples (e.g., Africans, African Americans, Arabs, Asians, Australians, Chinese, Dutch, Europeans, Filipinos, French, Germans, Greeks, Iranians, Israelis, Italians, Japanese, Latin Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Russians, South Americans, Swiss, Turks, West Indians, and Native Americans from tribes and pueblos such as Blackfoot, Hopi, Navajo, and Zia). Each chapter presents numerous studies that examined vivid behavioral mores. The research shows that any group of people can be perplexed or even disgusted by behaviors and...

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... Related to this were clients' perspectives, who thought the optimal option would be to have a therapist who could use sign language (Cardoso et al., 2006; Steinberg et al., 1998, 2002, 2006) as they would feel more comfortable communicating and there was an assumption that they would know more about deaf culture (Steinberg et al., 1998) which would make them feel healthier (Steinberg et al., 2006). Deaf culture is an overarching term used to describe the cultural norms of distinct deaf communities (Mindess, 2006) including, sign language, social beliefs, values, identity, social communities, history, and behaviours. A therapist may not understand, for instance, certain behaviours of communication, the identity of deaf individuals or common experiences of individuals who are deaf. ...
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Article
Die vorliegende Arbeit thematisiert die Konstruktion und den Einsatz psychodiagnostischer Testverfahren zur Berufseignung an Gehörlosen. Aus den gewonnenen Daten werden mittlere Leistungsvergleiche zwischen Gehörlosen und Hörenden bezüglich ihrer mathematischen Kompetenzen vorgenommen. Darüber hinaus werden die Daten genutzt, Hypothesen über mögliche Ursachen für die gefundenen Leistungsunterschiede aufzustellen und zu überprüfen. Dass sich der berufsdiagnostische Prozess bei Gehörlosen in Teilen von dem Hörender unterscheidet, ist in der besonderen Situation Gehörloser, ihren sprachlichen und kulturellen Besonderheiten begründet. Um dies zu verdeutlichen, wird der Ansatz des „Aachener Testverfahrens zur Berufseignung von Gehörlosen (ATBG)“ skizziert, der sich aus Überlegungen zur kulturfairen Diagnostik – berufseignungsdiagnostische Testverfahren in Gebärdensprache – ableitet. Schließlich werden der Aufbau der Testbatterie und alle 23 Einzeltestverfahren kurz dargestellt. Grundlage der Analysen der vorliegenden Arbeit sind die Daten, die mit dem ATBG an Hörgeschädigten bei Berufsbildungswerken, Integrationsfachdiensten und anderen Institutionen, die in der Ausbildung bzw. Weiterbildung Hörgeschädigter tätig sind, sowie aus Untersuchungen des ATBG-Teams an Schulen und Berufsschulen für Hörgeschädigte erhoben wurden (N=907). Um die Daten aus Testungen mit dem ATBG für Analysen der Rechenfertigkeiten Gehörloser benutzen zu können, wird der Nachweis erbracht, dass die Testbatterie die zu messenden Merkmale auch valide erfasst. Insgesamt weisen die geschilderten Untersuchungen zur Validität darauf hin, dass die Übersetzung bzw. Adaptation bestehender Verfahren sowie die Neukonstruktion von Einzeltestverfahren des ATBG für den berufsdiagnostischen Einsatz des ATBG an hörgeschädigte Probanden gelungen sind. Die Vielzahl der Untersuchungen bzw. die Verschiedenheit der Untersuchungsansätze – Korrelationsstudien, Faktorenanalysen und nichtmetrische Multidimensionaler Skalierungsverfahren – bestärken diesen Befund. Nachdem erstens der ATBG-Ansatz im Kontext von Berufseignungsdiagnostik und Gebärdensprache dargestellt worden ist und zweitens erläutert wurde, dass dieser Ansatz geeignet ist, um bei Hörgeschädigten Leistungs- und Verhaltensmerkmale sowie Einstellungen objektiv, reliabel und valide zu erfassen, werden drittens Vergleiche zwischen den mittleren Leistungen Gehörloser und Hörender vorgenommen. Derartige Vergleiche sind möglich, da viele ATBG-Testverfahren Modifikationen bestehender Testverfahren darstellen, die für Hörende entwickelt und an ihnen normiert wurden. Der Vergleich der mathematischen Fertigkeiten wurde mit folgenden Fragestellungen verknüpft: (1) Gibt es zwischen Hörenden und Gehörlosen systematische Leistungsunterschiede bezüglich ihrer Rechenfertigkeiten? (2) Können mögliche Ursachen für gefundene Leistungsunterschiede mit Hilfe einer Kombination aus Resultaten andere Studien und der Analyse der ATBG-Daten identifiziert werden? Um den Zusammenhang zwischen Rechenfertigkeit und Fähigkeitsniveau zu untersuchen, werden Ergebnisse aus internationalen Studien an Hörenden und Gehörlosen den Daten der deutschen ATBG-Normstichprobe in den Fähigkeitstestverfahren gegenübergestellt. Die Entwicklung mathematischer Kompetenzen wird mit Hilfe verschiedener Testverfahren aus der ATBG-Testbatterie und der Analyse des Einflusses Gehörlosen spezifischer Variablen (Grad der Hörschädigung, Hörstatus der Eltern) beleuchtet. Schließlich wird der Einfluss ausgewählter Faktoren der besonderen Sozialisationsbedingungen Gehörloser mit der Analyse der Ergebnisse aus der ATBG-Normstichprobe unter Einbeziehung linguistischer und hörgeschädigten-pädagogischer Perspektiven evaluiert. Fazit: Auch wenn die vorliegende Studie im Vergleich zu Hörenden deutlich niedrigere Rechenfertigkeiten deutscher Gehörloser identifiziert, weist sie Wege auf, diesen Leistungsunterschied zukünftig reduzieren zu können. Niedrige Rechenfertigkeiten sind weder durch Gehörlosigkeit per se´ noch durch das intellektuelle Fähigkeitsniveau Gehörloser determiniert. Die Analysen weisen darauf hin, dass mit Hilfe bilingualer Erziehungs- und Beschulungsansätze, der Förderung der Schriftsprachkompetenz Gehörloser, der Schaffung von Umgebungen, die gehörlosen Kindern und Jugendlichen die Möglichkeit zu mehr Erfahrung und damit einem Mehr an informellem Wissen erlauben, sowie einem mathematik-didaktischen Ansatz, der den spezifischen Problemen und Fähigkeiten Gehörloser bei der Entwicklung von mathematischen Kompetenzen Rechnung trägt, die Rechenfertigkeiten Gehörloser verbessert werden können. The present paper is concerned with the development and the application of psycho-diagnostic test procedures for the vocational aptitude of the Deaf. The gained data serve as basis for a comparison of the average mathematical competences of deaf and hearing people. Additionally, the data are used to form and test hypotheses about possible reasons for the differences in achievement which have been found. The fact that the procedure of the vocational diagnostics differs in parts between hearing and deaf people can be explained due to the particular situation of the Deaf and their linguistic and cultural uniqueness. In order to clarify this, the “Aachen Test Battery of Vocational Aptitude of the Deaf (ATBG)” which is based on the idea of culture fair diagnostics – meaning a diagnostics of the vocational aptitude based on sign language – is briefly described. Finally the composition of the test battery and the 23 individual test procedures will be presented briefly. The data which have been collected from hearing impaired people through the ATBG at Vocational Training Centres, Integration Centres, and other institutions concerned with vocational training and advanced vocational training of hearing impaired people, as well as data gained through investigations by the ATBG-team members at schools and vocational schools for hearing impaired students (N=907), serve as basis for the analysis of the present paper. In order to be able to use the data collected through the ATBG tests for the analysis of the mathematical competences of the Deaf, it has to be proved that the test battery validly captures the characteristics that have to be measured. The analyses concerning the validity of the tests show that the translation and the adaptation of already existing procedures respectively, as well as the redesign of single test procedures of the ATBG for the diagnostic application of the ATBG at hearing impaired subjects have been successful. The multitude of the analyses and the variety of approaches of the analysis respectively – correlation studies, factor analysis, and non-metrical multi-dimensional scaling procedures – confirm these findings. After I firstly presented the ATBG approach in context with the diagnostics of the vocational aptitude and sign language and secondly showed that this approach is appropriate to capture performance features and behaviour features of hearing impaired people objectively, reliably, and validly, I will thirdly compare average competences of deaf and hearing people. Such comparisons are possible as many ATBG-test procedures are merely modifications of existing test procedures which have been developed and standardized for hearing people. The comparison of the mathematical skills were combined with the following research questions: (1) Do hearing and deaf people show systematic differences in performance concerning their mathematical skills? (2) Is it possible to identify potential causes for the differences in performance that have been found by means of a combination between the results of other studies and the analysis of the ATBG-data? In order to analyse the connection between mathematical skills and level of ability, I will contrast the results of international studies with hearing and deaf people with the data gained through the German ATBG-sample in the ability test procedures. The development of mathematical competences will be displayed with the help of various test procedures from the ATBG-test battery and the analysis of the influences of variables specific to the deaf (degree of hearing impairment, hearing status of the parents). Finally the influence of selected factors concerning special conditions of socialization of the Deaf will be evaluated by means of the analysis of the results from the ATBG-sample comprising linguistic and hearing-impaired-pedagogical aspects. Even though the results of the present study show very low mathematical skills in German deaf people compared to hearing people the study also identifies ways, in which this difference in performance can be reduced in the future. Low mathematical skills can neither be put down to ‘Deafness per se’ nor can they be determined by the intellectual ability level of the Deaf. The analyses indicate that bilingual education and schooling approaches, advancement of writing skills of the Deaf, the creation of surroundings which give deaf children and adolescents the possibility to make more experiences and improve their informal knowledge, as well as a mathematical-didactic approach which is adapted to the specific problems and abilities of the Deaf and thus supports their development of mathematical competences can improve the mathematical skills of the Deaf.
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