Emerging Professionalization of Arabic/Jordanian Sign Language Interpreting

By Erin Trine
Submitted to Session P4743 (Examining Sign Language Education in the Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
Human Rights;
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Despite significant differences in Jordanian and American mainstream hearing culture, a qualitative, exploratory, single-case study of an Arabic/Jordanian Sign Language interpreter indicates there may be similarities in the processes of professionalization, identity building, and field induction (Annarino & Hall, 2013; Ball, 2013). Literature on signed language interpreting within developed, western countries such as the United States and Australia documents a common path of evolution, tracing the young profession of signed language interpreting from its roots in the Deaf community through efforts to standardize training and make it accessible, to its current state as a government mandated accommodation provided primarily by university educated, second-language learners (Ball, 2013; Napier, McKee, & Goswell, 2010; Napier, 2009). The current study’s findings suggest multiple ways in which Arabic/Jordanian Sign Language interpreting in Jordan is paralleling the course taken by American Sign Language (ASL)/English interpreting when developing as a profession in the United States. Despite a considerable Deaf population (Hendriks, 2008) and government support to include Deaf people in society (Higher Council for the Affairs of Persons with Disabilities, 2009; Rutherford, 2007), little education or training is currently available to Jordanian Sign Language interpreters, though there is evidence of improvement underway, and most interpreters enter the field because of language fluency gained through a Deaf family member rather than through formal training. This mirrors the early interpreting community in the United States, which primarily comprised hearing individual with Deaf parents (Ball, 2013). The participant is an adult woman with Deaf parents who is an experienced interpreter. Data regarding the participant’s experiences were gathered through questionnaire, interview, and notes taken during the interview. The data were analyzed through coding and triangulation across data sets, ultimately classified into three categories: Interpersonal Relations, Interpreting Paradigms, and Professional Standards. Each of these is examined and illustrated through the participant’s perspective. In light of the findings and research from Alkailani, Azzam, and Athamneh (2012) the author suggests that Jordanian cultural factors may contribute to the reported tension in collegial dynamics in the interpreting field within Jordan. The author contends that additional research on the topic should be conducted to determine if the experiences reported here are common to interpreters throughout Jordan and recommendations are made for future research directions relating to Arabic/ Jordanian Sign Language interpreting and the Deaf community within Jordan.