Afinlandia 2017: Abstract of MA Minttu Laine’s thesis

Interpreter’s interaction skills make a difference in a mobile encounter

Mutual gaze between the interpreter and the client that uses sign language is crucial for accessibility and mediation of the information. If the situation is mobile instead of stationary, it creates challenges for maintaining mutual gaze. The study explores how a sign language interpreter mediates interaction in a mobile encounter in dialogue interpreting.

The MA thesis written for Applied Linguistics at University of Jyväskylä investigates in the actions of the interpreter and the cooperation between the participants during one regular checkup at a children’s health care clinic.

The focus is on transitory moments when the participants move either in the room or from one room to another in order to take the measures of two children, or giving a vaccination etc. The data consists of altogether ca. 12 minutes of mobile episodes at different stages of the checkup.

As the participants move in space, maintaining steady mutual gaze becomes problematic. As a part of the cooperation between the interpreter and the sign language using participant, the interpreter manages interaction in different ways. The detailed analysis concentrates on linguistic and embodied action of the participants in relation to the physical environment and to the activities performed.

During the transitions the interpreter aims to position herself so that the sign language using participant has visual access to all participants present at the situation including the interpreter. In addition to positioning, the interpreter makes use of line-of-sight of the signing participant, and uses attention getting means typical to sign language interaction. Furthermore, the interpreter uses the timing of the renditions and modifies signed utterances in a manner that makes communication efficient even when embedded in action.

Previous accounts on sign language interpreting have revealed that interpreting in mobile encounters is challenging. The current research shows that interpreting in mobile encounters can succeed when the interpreter masters the norms of sign language interaction and contributes in building a visually functional interaction space.

The results of the study may be useful in basic and further education of interpreters.

Minttu Laine:

Viittomakielentulkin katsekontakti asioimistulkkauksen siirtymätilanteissa: multimodaalinen näkökulma [Mutual gaze during transition moments in dialogue interpreting: multimodal approach]. MA thesis, Applied Linguistics. University of Jyväskylä, Finland. 2016.