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Deaf campaigners hope Mandela interpreter scandal will help raise standards

brussels bureau

Deaf campaigners hope Mandela interpreter scandal will help raise standards


While an inquiry continues into the credentials of the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service following Thamsanqa Jantjie’s incoherent performance, questions are being raised about professional standards generally.

The European Parliament has been hosting a conference, organised by the European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli), aimed at improving training across the EU.

“I was appalled by the standard of interpreting obviously,” said efsli’s
President, Peter Llewellyn-Jones, referring to what happened at the Soweto stadium. “But I think I would say that man has done more for our cause that we could have achieved in 10 years of campaigning. Because now everybody is talking about the standards of interpreting and that’s what we have been trying to raise the profile of.”

The timing of the forum, so soon after the South African scandal, is coincidental.

The organisers claim that around the world untrained and unqualified interpreters deprive deaf people of proper services on a daily basis.

Their aim is to improve and harmonise standards across the EU.

Hungarian centre-right MEP, Ádám Kósa, who is deaf himself, said: “We cooperate with the Association of European Translators and they have finalised guidelines for a three year sign translation training programme, about the knowledge that needs to be acquired. And also EU institutions like the European Parliament, the European Council and the European Commission must be accessible for deaf people. For that citizens need quality translation.”

Although standards are said to have improved over the past few years, the forum says only with higher quality interpreting will deaf people gain full citizenship.

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