Friday, 15 July 2011

"Expanding horizons: A collaborative model for the delivery of one interpreter education programme in two countries" - Rachel McKee , Della Goswell & Jemina Napier

The idea for this collaboration came from the first WASLI conference where New Zealand interpreters approached Jemina Napier to see if an education could be set up for New Zealand in cooperation with the Australian interpreters.

Australia has 22 million inhabitants with 6500 signing deaf people concentrated in five major metropolitan coastal areas.

Australia was the first country where the accreditation of spoken and sign language interpreters are alligned with each other, this is done by NAATI. There are about 400 accredited interpreters that are working, there are more who are accredited but not working.

The aim of the course is to get student with a minimum of two years experience to get from a para professional level to a professional level. In that course, which is part time, the information is offered online and then the students come together regularly. 

New Zealand has 4 million people and we estimate that there are 4000 deaf people who use New Zealand Sign Language, which was recognised in 2006. This has not had a major impact on the services or the training of interpreters. Till 1980 the deaf education was mostly oral. Following that the bilingual education started, heavily influence by Australian Sign Language.

The sign language interpreter qualification is quite simple. In 1992 we established a two year full time interpreter programme and this year it is extended to a three year Bachelor degree. There is sign language interpreter association established in 1995 and approx. 80 interpreters are now working.

When the Australian course was brought to New Zealand we expected that students would have two years experience. Now we are offering this two year course. The course is very similar to the one in Australia, but not all elective courses could be offered. But we have some extra courses on NZ deaf culture and sign language.

The context of the NZ is a bit different then the one in Australia, so we adapted it to the NZ Deaf community and needs. Online materials: Weekly course notes, reading, sign language source texts, course tasks such as case studies. In two year blocks we had role play scenarios, sample texts & video clips, exam texts and scenarios. We also have a joint blackboard website.

We also have a video lab in Australia which we tried to implement in New Zealand as well. Especially flip cameras were of great benefit and USB sticks and Dropbox. This helped a lot of making the teaching and learning easier. We also introduced ELAN software to the students analysing their data.

There was quite a heavy workload for the  students, but also for the teachers. It was not just double work, but also extra work to make it all work. It has been a very positive experience for all students. It also helped us to expand our thinking of what the students need and their feedback has constantly influenced the development of the course.

This development has benefited in raising the standards and the quality of services to the deaf community in both the NZ and the Australian Deaf community.

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