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Comprehension of television news signed language interpreters

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This questionnaire-based study evaluates interpretations of TV news broadcasts into South African Sign Language from the perspective of 360 adult Deaf respondents, who identify factors hindering comprehension. Methodologically, findings are based on both open-ended and closed questions. The sources of difficulty identified, together with viewer assessments of current interpreting services and viewer expectancy norms, are explored in relation to the profile of the Deaf target audience represented by the study sample. Despite potentially low literacy levels, the study found a stronger stated preference for subtitles than for signed interpretation. The limited size of the signed language screen inset and the type of signed language used by the interpreters were found to be the main factors limiting comprehension; to a lesser extent, problems can also be related to various features of the interpreters’ performance (facial expression, mouthing, sign articulation and general language proficiency), viewers’ insufficient background knowledge and signing skills, the difficulty of dividing attention between different forms of visual input, as well as the positioning of the screen inset showing the interpreter. The cultural and linguistic heterogeneity of the South African Deaf community poses a further challenge to interpreters. Recommendations for both interpreting practice and further research emerge from the discussion.
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Keywords: Deaf Studies; South African Sign Language; expectancy norms; reception-oriented evaluation; signed language interpreting

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2015

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  • International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting
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