English-Dominant Presenters Opting for ASL: Is the Assumption of Access Correct?

Image of Dr. Robyn Dean
Presented By: Dr. Robyn Dean
Date: Friday, October 9, 2020
Time: 9am-10:30am MDT/11am-12:30pm EDT
RID CEUs: 0.15 PS

Workshop Description:

Professional conferences of signed language interpreters in the US in recent years have encouraged presenters to use American Sign Language (ASL) during their presentations. As an example, the Conference of Interpreter Trainers recently awarded three additional scientific points for any workshop proposal that would be conducted in ASL. The presumption is that interpreters are bilinguals and since ASL is the language shared by all conference participants, presenting in ASL allows for greater access and inclusion. While it is true that interpreters are bilinguals, the idea that a bilingual is ‘balanced’ – having the same level of effective use and fluency in both languages – is extremely rare. Research from psycholinguistics has shown that bilinguals deal with consistent cognitive activation and intrusion of their first language (L1) when using their second language (L2) and vice versa. This research therefore challenges that which motivates many English-dominant presenters who opt to use ASL in their presentation. That is, they think their content in ASL is accessible to all. In our study, we analyzed several videos from an online forum that posts the same content in both English and ASL. We investigated the degree to which L1 interference (i.e., English) was notable and whether or not it interfered with the effective expression of their L2 (ASL). It was determined through different types and phases of analyses that English-dominant bilinguals when using ASL in presentations reveal English intrusions and significant reliance on English while presenting in ASL. This calls into question the level of accessibility of their content.

Workshop Objectives:

At the end of this workshop participants will be able to:

  • Identify three types of profiles of bilingualism as identified in the professional literature.
  • Define the constructs of interference, activation, and inhibition.
  • Explain the different research methods used in the study described in the presentation.


Presenter Bio:

Robyn K. Dean, CI/CT, PhD: Robyn has been a nationally certified signed language interpreter for over twenty-five years with particular service in the field of healthcare. Her scholarship in decision-making and ethics in community interpreting is recognized internationally. Robyn has over twenty publications, all of which focus on the theoretical and pedagogical frameworks used to advance the practice of community interpreters. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she is the lead instructor on the institute’s postgraduate degree in healthcare interpretation. Robyn also consults on postgraduate degrees for signed language interpreters in Europe.

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