Through Deaf Eyes: Interpreting Election Debates

Sara Pivac Alexander & Jeremy Borland (with Catherine Greenwood & Rosie Henley)

Interpreting a fast-paced live televised Leaders Debate during the General Elections is not for the faint-hearted. Twelve interpreters took on this challenge last year and shone brightly, but what happened behind the scenes? Deaf NZSL Experts were on hand to co-lead and support the interpreters involved in three debates and a political panel.

We will discuss some practical tips and strategies from a Deaf lens to enhance interpreters’ performance and comprehensive accessibility: positioning and eye gaze, register/style, vocabulary choices, grammar, and interpretations. Some of these suggestions may be applicable to other interpreting contexts. We will also offer insights from interpreters and how the Deaf-hearing collaboration equipped and prepared them to take on this unique challenge.

Watch closely as who knows – it may be you interpreting future debates!

Sara Pivac Alexander is a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington. She teaches NZSL papers and trains Deaf people to become NZSL teachers. Sara is involved with research on teaching and learning NZSL, and documentation of NZSL including the NZSL Online Dictionary. She has authored major resources for NZSL teaching and learning, which include Learn NZSL, an e-learning NZSL website and TeachSign, an information and resource online hub for NZSL teachers. This work included the development of a national NZSL Level One and Two teaching curriculum. Sara is also a NZSLPI Assessor and Trainer, a Board Member of Wellington Deaf Society, and an active member of NZSLTA.

Jeremy Borland is an NZSL interpreter based in Christchurch, New Zealand.  He completed the DipSli at AUT in 2001, and has been working as an interpreter since then in various capacities.  He currently works mainly as a freelance community interpreter and is also employed 2 days a week at New Zealand Relay. He now lives in Christchurch with his family and small dog.   He has a keen interest in the outdoors and loves tramping, camping, fishing and running.

Exploring the application of ally theory in spoken-language community interpreting in Aotearoa New Zealand from a service-user perspective

Agustina Marianacci

Community interpreters hold a powerful position within any interpreted event, but this power is often unacknowledged as a result of invisibility ideals, as well as cultural and linguistic hegemonies which hide systemic injustices (Coyne & Hill, 2016; Mason & Ren, 2013). The ally model of interpreting recognises interpreters’ power and contextualises decision-making within historic oppression and inequality (Baker-Shenk, 1991). This enables interpreters to act in ways that promote social justice, empower interpreting service users, and offer equality of access (Witter-Merithew,1999). This presentation will focus on a research project on allyship and social justice in spoken-language interpreting from a service-user perspective, underrepresented in interpreting research (Edwards et al., 2005). The research was conducted in Spanish together with the Latin American community in Aotearoa. The findings highlighted users’ appreciation for interpreters’ humane qualities, even over linguistic proficiency. Professional practice was seen to require empathy, flexibility, self-reflection, and a middle ground that avoids over-intrusions and unnecessarily rigid behaviour. This approach to practice was seen to promote an understanding of situated needs and challenges and, consequently, to enable a consideration for social justice and critical perspectives.

While the findings suggest that there is room for the incorporation of the ally model in spoken-language interpreting, they also reinforce the need to complement discussions about role models with the development of professional responsibility and a focus on the consequences of interpreters’ actions, similar to other caring and practice professions (Dean & Pollard, 2018; Drugan & Tipton, 2017).

Agustina Marianacci is a spoken language translator and interpreter from Argentina working in a range of community settings. She’s taught professional ethics at the Auckland University of Technology (Aotearoa New Zealand), where she completed a Master of Language and Culture. Her research interests include allyship, decolonial methodologies, epistemologies of the Global South, interpreting ethics and social justice education.

New styles in online NZSL

Rachel McKee & George Major (with Micky Vale & Sara Pivac Alexander)

NZSL was traditionally used only for face-to-face social interaction within the Deaf community, however status change has now widened domains of use – including interpreters in public forums, and digital technology allows new modes of communication among NZSL users. Videorecorded texts (such as community and public service announcements) are now shared online with unknown audiences, prompting a new genre akin to ‘broadcast’ style. 

Our research compared style features in a corpus of conversations, narratives, and online posts in NZSL. We explore features that are typical in online posts compared to face-to-face conversation, such as doubling of one-handed signs and open-handed vs index-finger pointing. The presentation will also explore Deaf focus group participants’ perceptions of the pragmatic impact of style features. We hope this research will support interpreters’ awareness of styles in different contexts of NZSL use.

Rachel McKee is an Associate Professor in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. She was first trained as a sign language interpreter in 1985. With her husband David, Rachel established programmes for sign language interpreters, Deaf NZSL teachers, and adult learners of NZSL at VUW. Her research includes dictionary and grammar of NZSL, sociolinguistic topics, interpreting studies, and language policy.

George Major is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader of the NZSL programmes at AUT. She coordinates practicum, teaches NZSL interpreting courses, and also teaches ethical decision-making to both spoken and signed language students. George has published research on interpreter role and rapport work, healthcare accessibility, and workplace communication. 

Expanding, repeating and checking: Strategies used by experienced NZSL-English interpreters in a medical context

George Major 

This presentation explores the strategies used by experienced NZSL-English interpreters to effectively convey medicines advice in a pharmacy setting. Motivated by a lack of information on what interpreters actually do (as opposed to what we think we do, or should do), we worked with pharmacists to create a series of naturalistic role plays. The study took an ‘appreciative inquiry’ approach by inviting qualified and highly skilled interpreters to participate, so that we can all learn from our colleagues. 

Content analysis (Wadensjö 1998) was used to identify all instances where interpreters expanded the information in some way. In many instances interpreters were found to be doing more than ‘just interpreting’, for example repeating key information or explicitly checking understanding. In this presentation I will share video examples to unpack the interpreters’ decision-making in more detail and provide lots of food for discussion.  

Deaf-Hearing Partnerships in Professional Contexts

Rachel Coppage & Julia Freeman

What can successful partnerships between interpreters and Deaf clients look like? How can interpreters and Deaf people work together in a way that benefits everyone? After eight years of working together in a collaborative Deaf-hearing partnership, Rachel and Julia will reflect on the approaches and strategies that have allowed them to develop an empowering relationship that makes both of them more effective in their roles.Examples will come from their own experience teaching/interpreting on the AUT Deaf Studies programme, but discussions will focus more broadly on the themes of allyship, effective teamwork and dedicated relationships between Deaf professionals and designated interpreters.

Rachel Coppage has dual roles in part time capacity as an art psychotherapist in private practice and lecturer at AUT teaching Deaf World courses. She refers to Deaf Studies theory on allyships, including Deaf-hearing partnerships, in her teaching resources. However, there is limited research on interpreting where Deaf people take lead in professional settings. She has employed external NZSL-English interpreters for her Deaf World classes in mixed cohorts of Deaf and non-deaf ākonga. She looks forward to sharing her experiences collaborating with Julia as a designated interpreter for many years.

Julia Freeman has been an NZSL interpreter for over 8 years and an interpreter educator at AUT for over 5 years. She has experience interpreting in a wide range of community settings, and more recently she has started working as a staff interpreter at Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education NZ. Julia has always been passionate about representing Deaf professionals as authentically as possible, and acutely aware of how hearing peoples’ perceptions of Deaf professionals can be heavily impacted by interpretation. She has had the privilege of working with Rachel as teaching colleagues, but also interpreting Rachel’s teaching for the past eight years. During that time, they have created a strong Deaf-hearing partnership by proactively investing in their professional relationship and using a highly collaborative approach. Julia has greatly valued the opportunity to work together in an effective partnership, and regularly reflect on where the line is between the ability to contribute more openly to the partnership, and maintaining appropriate role boundaries.

Interpreters supporting Interpreters

Rhonda Ryde & Nicola Clark

Your neighbours from across the pond are working hard to support interpreters, we want to share the exciting things happening in the Mentor space. Deaf Connect Interpreting Service is led and managed by practicing interpreters. We understand the complexity of the role we ask our staff to undertake. This means we understand the importance and value of continuous skill development of our workforce. Our mentor program is delivered nationally and is focused on supporting interpreter skill development in a practical and real way.

The John Ferris Mentor Program is an 8-week program that pairs an experienced interpreter, trained in mentoring and leadership, with an interpreter who is newer to the profession. The pair prepare and complete assignments together. Post assignments they debrief and reflect. The mentor guides their mentee through a series of activities to help them refine their reflective practice. Together they identify areas of practice that the mentee can work on and set goals to work toward during the program and beyond. Practitioners are paid for their work time. Mentors are employed to prepare and debrief with their mentees. This opportunity has no cost to the participant. We have seen the power of this program, relationships that last for years after the program is complete. In our presentation we want to share with you not only the academic teachings that support the foundations of our program but how we put the program works and the benefits the participants receive from it. We hope that what we have learnt and developed can be of benefit to the interpreting profession of Aotearoa.

Rhonda Ryde is a Certified interpreter practicing for more than 20 years, the majority of those working for Deaf Connect. Rhonda is currently a Lead Teacher on the Diploma of Interpreting in Sydney and a Mentor of the John Ferris Mentor Program. Rhonda is known for her expertise in working with grassroots Deaf Community members working in the Court room and legal system regularly. She enjoys team interpreting and the ability to work with colleagues to produce the best possible outcome. Rhonda is currently completing her Graduate Diploma of Auslan-English Interpreting at Macquarie University, Sydney. When not interpreting, Rhonda is an avid reader, and has written and published a novel series.

Nicole Clark is the manager of Interpreter Engagement at Deaf Connect. She is managing many programs, one of which is the John Ferris Mentor Program.  Nicole is a Certified Interpreter and holds a postgraduate Masters degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies and a Graduate Diploma of Auslan – English interpreting. Nicole has been practicing interpreting for over 22 years and has worked in the community as well as a designated interpreter. Prior to coming to her current position at Deaf Connect she was the Director of Interpreting and translation at the Australian Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with a Disability and has also taught on the Diploma of Interpreting in Sydney in previous years. Nicole is passionately committed to the growth of professional comradery and collegial support within our industry. When not interpreting she is an obsessive crocheter.

Breakout sessions

Interpreting in Māori Settings

Cha’nel Kaa-Luke

Working in an educational context often creates opportunities for many teaching moments. These are particularly necessary where the tikanga and kawa of different Māori spaces such as marae and pōwhiri are present and language and communication needs are diverse. Cha’nel often works in partnership to navigate these unique settings. Our interpreters are a key component to this mahi and through the development of relationships with different hapū and marae, we seek to ensure the mana of the interpreter is upheld.
So, how does one navigate these complex needs? This workshop will unpack steps taken throughout the process of whanaungatanga, ako, and cross-cultural negotiation.

Cha’nel Kaa-Luke (she/they)
Ngāti Porou, Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui
is a passionate rangatahi who brings their experiences from working across various education, community boards, and her own lived experiences. Throughout their mahi Cha’nel is often interacting with different iwi, hapū, marae, and Māori representatives to navigate Māori spaces, in particularly marae settings. Often whānau, local community, iwi representatives, and students are all a part of these spaces so creating a safe, comfortable environment for all is essential for learning.

EGL Systems Transformation and Interpreters

Natalie McLean & Wayne Marriot

Join us as we explore the Enabling Good Lives (EGL) approach—a social movement that has been transforming lives since 2009!

We will guide you through the whakapapa of EGL, explaining the significance of core groups and RLGs. What do these terms mean, and how do they impact the movement? All will be revealed! 

Sit back and enjoy our presentation on the Enabling Good Lives movement, its history, and its foundational groups. 

Natalie McLean – I am Natt, and I have lived experience with a vision impairment. My journey with Enabling Good Lives (EGL) began in 2019 when I was introduced to this transformative social movement. Eager to learn, I immersed myself in all aspects of EGL. Starting as a disabled person and active community member, I quickly became more involved. I worked with Young Adults and Youth (YAAY), and was eventually elected as a representative from the Core Group to the Mid Central Regional Leadership Group. All my mahi is for the community and is underpinned by the principles of Enabling Good Lives. I truly live and breathe EGL, which is at the heart of everything I do. This includes my role as a representative and my job at My Life My Voice, as well as the other groups I am now part of.

Floating a Framework for Critical Reflection on Interpreting Practice

Rachel McKee & Wenda Walton

In this workshop we will introduce and demonstrate a draft framework for diagnostic analysis* of interpreting, by applying it to a small sample of interpretation (not yours). We will seek your feedback on the usefulness of this process as a potential tool for supporting ongoing professional development and ultimately, quality of interpreting practice. 

*A diagnostic tool provides a framework for reviewing interpretation or translation work, documenting strengths and areas for improvement against criteria for effective interpreting practice. 

Wenda Walton graduated last century from AUT as an NZSL interpreter then attained a MA in applied linguistics in 2003. She has hosted several workshops on reflective practice over the years, her favourite one drawing parallels with formula one racing and interpreting.  Most of Wenda’s work is in Wellington and is balanced between government related work and community work, health settings being a particular favourite. For this conference, with great guidance and input from Rachel McKee, she will present a simple but hopefully useful approach to reviewing, affirming and improving our interpreting and translation practice. Wenda will share some examples that illustrate the approach which will double as an opportunity for your own reflection too. She would love your thoughts and questions if you have any.

Giving Back and Supporting a Deaf Eco-System

James Anderson-Pole

In this workshop we will explore the concept of a Deaf / signing Ecosystem – a way of investing, sharing and distributing resources within a thriving and resilient Deaf community. We will ask how interpreters, Deaf community members, and Deaf-related organisations can be good ‘neighbours’ and how we can all support a Deaf Ecosystem within ethical and practical boundaries.

James Anderson-Pole is NZSL Translation Team Leader, a role established in late 2022 for Deaf Aotearoa’s growing NZSL Translation service. He leads a team of Deaf translators, including three full time staff members and casual/contract staff. He previously worked for seven years as a Teacher at Kelston Deaf Education Centre (now Ko Taku Reo). He completed a Bachelor of Commerce in Information Systems in 2009 and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Primary) in 2017, both from the University of Auckland. He also completed papers related to NZSL teaching and translation from AUT University and Victoria University of Wellington. In his spare time he enjoys travelling the world and locating mobile phone towers.



Facilitated by Recenia Kākā

This facilitated discussion envisions a future where Deaf individuals in Aotearoa are fully integrated within Te Ao Māori and the evolution of interpreter skills is achieved through unity with Tāngata Turi Māori. The focus will be on transforming challenges into opportunities to strengthen relationships and collective efforts. Through a guided kōrero, the session will explore inclusive roles and contributions towards the vision, aiming to reduce overwhelm and draw lessons from diverse personal and professional journeys. Prioritising truth with empathy, the session will pave the way for everyone to be heard and uplifted by working together. Towards kotahitanga.

Facilitated by Recenia Kākā, an honoured friend of SLIANZ, this panel features Tāngata Turi Māori Jared Flitcroft, Kellye Bensley, and Cha’nel Kaa-Luke, along with NZSL interpreters Rebeccah Curtis, Janet Lawson, and Hana Maguire.

Ko Te Aronui te Manawa o ngā Rangatira 

Focusing on the heart of leaders

Ko Recenia Kaakaa tōku ingoā

No Hokianga ahau

Ko Te Hikutū te hapū

Ko Ngāpuhi te Iwi

Kaiaarahi a Motu – National Māori Development for CCS Disability Action. Masters of Applied Indigenous knowledge that defines the practice of whānau. Creating cultural spaces to hear the voices of whānau Hauā Maori that informs organisations to enact intentionally on what and how whānau Hauā Māori choose to be supported. A progressive pathway towards making Te Ao Māori accessible for all. 

Te hunga Hauā Mauri mo ngā tāngata katoa

Everyone has a unique life force