Working with NZSL interpreters in specific situations
General ways to best work with NZSL interpreters apply to all situations. However, NZSL interpreters and Deaf people will have different needs depending on the scale of the meeting or event, where it happens and how it is carried out. In the following sections, read about specific things to keep in mind for:
Before the meeting
- At the time of booking a NZSL interpreter service, you should provide details about the meeting, such as its purpose and any relevant prior history.
- If you have not worked with a NZSL interpreter before and you have questions about the process, ask the NZSL interpreter to explain their role and discuss how you plan to run the meeting/interview.
- Allow enough time for the meeting. Discussions using interpreters will take longer than simply talking to another person. You may want to book extra time for the appointment than usually scheduled.
- Arrange seating to allow everyone to see each other clearly. Often the NZSL interpreter will try to sit next to you so that the Deaf person can see both of you at the same time.
- If you need to sit behind a desk or table, the NZSL interpreter will usually move to the same side of the table as you. In small groups, sitting in a circle is best. Preferably move so that there are no desks or tables between you.
- A meeting room’s physical environment may make it difficult for the Deaf person to see the NZSL interpreter's face and your face clearly. You should allow time at the start for the NZSL interpreter and the Deaf person to rearrange seating to ensure clear visibility. For example, sitting in front of a window causes the face to be backlit, or parts of the room may be in shadow, or a visually busy backdrop may be distracting.
- If you intend to use any papers, forms or other written material during your meeting, please provide this to the Deaf person in advance. They will not be able to read and look at the interpreter at the same time during the meeting. Provide a copy to the interpreter as well so that they can be prepared, such as translating any difficult or specialised language.
- Introduce yourself to the Deaf person and the NZSL interpreter, and explain your role.
- If the NZSL interpreter has not yet met the Deaf person, allow the interpreter to introduce him/herself (and where necessary, to explain his/her role).
- Remember to speak directly to the Deaf person rather than to the interpreter.
- NZSL interpreters usually interpret consecutively during one-to-one or small group meetings. Allow a person to speak or sign several sentences or take a whole turn in the conversation before giving time for the interpreter. Pause every so often so that the interpreter can convey what you have said.
- Use plain English and avoid jargon wherever possible.
- At times the NZSL interpreter may need to interrupt you to ask for clarification. They will only do this to ensure smooth communication, not to add their own opinion. The NZSL interpreter will usually announce that they are talking not the Deaf person.
- The NZSL interpreter will interpret everything that is being said or signed. Do not talk to the interpreter or to others present about the Deaf person if you do not wish this information to be transmitted to them.
- Allow reading time if providing material to the Deaf person during the interview/meeting. The NZSL interpreter may need to translate written materials on the spot. If possible, provide written materials in advance so that plenty of time can be given to a translation and assistance can be given to the Deaf person with filling in forms if necessary.
- To ensure that the NZSL interpreter can remain a neutral party, you should stay present in the room. Avoid leaving the Deaf person and the interpreter alone together.
Before the meeting
- Provide the NZSL interpreter with an agenda, copy of the last minutes, and any other documentation that participants will receive. The interpreter should receive these two or three days in advance of the meeting. Interpreters will keep this information fully confidential and will either hand the notes back to you after the meeting or will dispose of the notes safely.
- Provide a list of participants and their job titles/roles.
- Arrange seating so that the Deaf person can see all other participants. A horseshoe or circle is best. The NZSL interpreter(s) will sit opposite the Deaf person and usually next to the Chair or main speaker.
- If there will be presentations, ensure that the Deaf person will be able to see both the NZSL interpreter and the projector screen or video.
During the meeting
- During introductions, allow additional time so the NZSL interpreter can spell out the people’s names. A list of participants will enable the NZSL interpreter to spell names accurately and to identify speakers throughout the meeting. Also, extra time will allow the Deaf person to look across at the person introducing themselves, if they are located away from the NZSL interpreter.
- The Chair or the Deaf person should introduce the NZSL interpreters. Also, going through a few basic communication guidelines will help the meeting to run smoothly.
- Only one person should speak at a time. Any simultaneous discussion or people talking over others will be lost to the Deaf person.
- If the meeting is chaired, then the Chair should choose who will speak and when. It can be helpful if participants wanting to speak raise their hand before speaking - this will signal to the Chair (and also the NZSL interpreter and the Deaf person) who wants to speak.
- Use plain English and avoid jargon wherever possible.
- In large meetings, NZSL interpreters will usually interpret simultaneously with what is being said. There will still be a short delay while the interpreter processes the information they have heard and converts it into the other language. The Deaf person will therefore receive the spoken information slightly behind other participants in the meeting. The Chair should allow for this time lag and check regularly whether the Deaf person wishes to contribute to the discussion. The Deaf person may appear to ask questions out of sync with other people due to this time lag.
- Allow time for the Deaf person to read any materials or presentation handouts before you explain or discuss them. It is not possible for them to read and look at the interpreter at the same time.
- Make sure NZSL interpreters are present during tea or lunch breaks. The Deaf person may want to talk socially with other participants. If only one interpreter is working, ensure that they can take at least a 20 minute break during lunch time.
- You should make a booking as soon as possible, and at least a month in advance. Several NZSL interpreters will be required for conferences/events (especially if they last more than one day and/or if there will be several Deaf participants or presenters). For example, if you have concurrent workshop streams, multiple Deaf participants may want to attend different streams. A booking agency, a freelance NZSL interpreter and/or Deaf participants can advise you on how many interpreters may be needed. Ask for NZSL interpreters suitably skilled for conference level work.
- SLIANZ have produced a video (e-pamphlet) with information for presenters on how to work with NZSL interpreters in ‘platform’ settings.
- You should make sure one person is responsible for co-ordinating the NZSL interpreters’ scheduling and preparation needs. This might be one of the working interpreters or one of the conference organisers. Discuss this role with the booking agency or the main point of contact for the NZSL interpreters.
- The event organiser should ideally coordinate the gathering of preparation materials, and sending these materials to the interpreter.
- Ideally NZSL interpreters should receive preparation materials at least two or three days in advance of the event. Interpreters will keep this information fully confidential and will either hand the materials back to you after the meeting or will dispose of them safely.
- If audio or video samples will be used, these will need to be seen in advance by the NZSL interpreters. Video material without subtitles is especially difficult to interpret because often there are multiple speakers, some sounds are heard off-screen and room lights are usually dimmed while viewing.
- You should inform presenters in advance that NZSL interpreters will be present. Make sure you ask them for their speech notes or presentations in time for you to share them with the interpreters.
- Allow the NZSL interpreters to meet with presenters in advance to explain the interpreter's role and to allow presenters to ask any questions and address concerns they may have.
- If there is a Deaf presenter or if there is an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, provide the NZSL interpreters with a separate microphone.
- Ask the NZSL interpreters for advice to arrange lighting and their position. Depending on the circumstances and the number of Deaf participants, the NZSL interpreter(s) may be standing on stage near the presenter, or be seated off-stage facing the audience.
- If the NZSL interpreters will be standing on stage, ensure that they are not placed behind the lectern or loudspeakers as they will not be able to hear the presenter.
- Reserve seating for Deaf participants where they will be able to see the presenter, the NZSL interpreter, and the screen clearly.
Presenters can assist NZSL interpreters, and thereby improve access for Deaf people to their presentation, by:
- Speaking at a normal pace, not too fast or too slow. It is helpful to pause occasionally after sentences.
- Speaking naturally and not reading directly from speech notes. The grammar of written language is different from that of spoken/signed language and there are often fewer natural pauses and hesitations. If quoting from written material, allow extra time and pause between sentences.
- Allowing time for the audience to read presentation slide or watch video clips before speaking. Deaf people need to divide their attention between the NZSL interpreter and other sources of visual information.
- Using clear references to objects or pictures, and name them explicitly instead of pointing generally. For example, say “the second bullet point” rather than “this point over here”.
Radio, television, livestreamed or other recorded event
Make sure everyone involved knows what is happening and what they need to do. Understand what arrangements are needed when using NZSL interpreters and how these may be different from your usual practice when recording events.
- Check with the Deaf person if they have any preferred NZSL interpreter(s).
- Inform the NZSL interpreter(s) in advance if an event will be recorded. Permission should be sought from the NZSL interpreters if they are going to be visible or audible in the recording.
- Provide as much preparation material as possible: for example, notes, a list of interview questions, a list of names of people likely to speak, background papers, or statistics that will be discussed.
- Ensure that lighting is adjusted so that the NZSL interpreter(s) will be clearly visible and their face is not in shadow.
- Arrange for the NZSL interpreter(s) to have a lapel microphone if they are interpreting from NZSL into English.
- Discuss where the NZSL interpreter(s) and/or the Deaf person will be seated.
- There are specific requirements in terms of framing the video, camera angles, and so on. Brief camera operators on these requirements (see below).
Important: if you are producing a product for non-live public broadcast (for example, a YouTube video) and want to make the information accessible to Deaf people (by using NZSL interpretation), you should consider using a Deaf person as well as or in place of a NZSL interpreter. Native users of sign language (that is, Deaf people) will usually be more effective in communicating information to other native users than a hearing person (such as a NZSL interpreter).
- To ensure the broadcast is accessible to a Deaf audience, the person using NZSL (that is a Deaf person or the NZSL interpreter) must be visible during the entire time they are signing. This requires a continuous wide frame (rather than a close up of the face, for example). The frame should also include the person using NZSL from the top of their head to about waist height. NZSL is a visual language and uses spatial gestures to convey meaning, which may include more than hand movements.
- During live broadcasts, allow for the time lag between the speaker and the NZSL interpreter. In the case of a radio broadcast, you may need to explain to the audience why there is a delay (or silence).
- For radio broadcasts where a Deaf person is being interviewed, you may wish to explain that the voice being heard is that of the NZSL interpreter and not the Deaf person.
- You may want to provide a transcript of radio programmes which have had the involvement of Deaf people.
- During editing, you may need advice from someone who understands NZSL. This will ensure, for example, that a NZSL user is not cut off mid-way during a sentence. For a pre-recorded radio programme, it may be appropriate to consider re-recording an interpretation to replace the original recording. Live NZSL interpreting may have interruptions, hesitations or mistakes (just as any live speech). Where this would disrupt the natural flow for the listener, a re-recording may be useful. It may also be the case that a preferred NZSL interpreter was not available for a radio recording but can be available for later editing. Ask the Deaf person and/or the NZSL interpreter involved in the original recording for advice.
Before the event
- NZSL interpreting through the telephone is different to telephone interpreting for other languages. Most telephone interpreter services are a way of contacting an interpreter who is remote from the person and service provider. However, NZSL interpreters will be in the same location as the Deaf person making the telephone call.
- You will not usually have any booking or payment responsibilities for the NZSL interpreter. Instead, the Deaf person who wishes to make the telephone call will book the NZSL interpreter.
- Because there is no face-to-face contact and telephone calls may be received at any time, it is not usually necessary or possible to prepare for a specific call. You should, however, ensure that relevant staff (such as receptionists, secretaries, case workers) are aware that interpreted calls may be received and that they are up-to-date with departmental policies on interpreted telephone calls (for example, what to do when customer identification is required).
During the event
- At the start of the call, it is usual to say upfront that it is an interpreted telephone call. For example, the Deaf person may introduce themselves by stating their name and that they are speaking through a NZSL interpreter.
- Just as with face-to-face interpreting, there will be a delay while the NZSL interpreter processes the information they have heard and translates it into the other language. When you cannot see the other participants in a conversation, the pauses may seem very long. Please be patient and allow time for the Deaf person to receive the information via the NZSL interpreter.
- Overlapping speech and signing can be difficult to control on a telephone call where there is no visual contact between parties. The NZSL interpreter may need to interrupt more frequently to ensure communication happens smoothly.
- Take extra care when saying names, providing telephone numbers or contact details, or other information that the Deaf person may need. The NZSL interpreter may ask you to repeat such details slowly to ensure that they are accurately conveyed. The Deaf person will not be able to write these details down at the same time as looking at the NZSL interpreter.
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