March 29-30, 2017

Gallaudet University

Washington, DC

poster for deaf translators summit

Janis Cole, Co-chair

Dr. Steven Collins, Co-chair

Darla Konkel, Registration

Kirsi Grigg, Media

Gallaudet University and the Department of Interpretation and Translation are pleased to announce that the first International Research Deaf Translation Summit will be held at Gallaudet University on March 29-30, 2017.

The intent of this summit is to create a deaf space and serve as a platform for interdisciplinary research from various fields including deaf scholars, professionals, educators, translators and students. Participants will exchange and revisit the roots of translation and discuss critical topics related to signed-language translation, both practices and research. The summit will provide an informal venue and a chance to have participants’ engagement to convent and share perspectives on the global issues and concerns in relation to our field of translation.

The summit will feature one keynote presenter on Wednesday evening, three plenary sessions on Thursday that will lead to facilitated breakout discussions, and an endnote presenter for the closing event.

Keynote Speakers

Robert Adam

Dr. Robert Adam

Opening Keynote: In the beginning was the Deaf translator, or was it?


Research into deaf interpreters and translators (I/T) is relatively new. Earlier research has tended to explain: (a) what the work of a deaf I/T is in order to clarify this for non-deaf I/T colleagues, and (b) the roles of deaf I/Ts working in teams with hearing colleagues and on occasion, without hearing colleagues.

More recently, researchers have examined how deaf I/Ts work and the processes involved in this work and attempted to characterise this work. As more and more deaf people around the world work as deaf I/Ts, this area of research is growing as a subset of sign language I/T research in general.

Questions often posed include:

  • What are the characteristics of the work of a deaf I/T?
  • What are the different domains a deaf I/T will work within?
  • How different and/or similar is the work of a deaf I/T from non-deaf I/T colleagues?
  • Why deaf clients sometimes prefer a deaf I/T?

This paper will review the research and literature on deaf I/Ts and describe some of the characteristics of this research, and suggest a way forward as a starting point for this first Summit.

Robert Adam is Director of Continuing Professional Development at the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre, University College London. He is a qualified sign language interpreter and translator and has worked as a deaf interpreter in Australia, the USA, and the UK. His research interests, along with deaf interpreters, are bilingualism, language contact, and minority sign language communities.

He is also Coordinator of the World Federation of the Deaf Expert Group on Sign Language and Deaf Studies. He is from Melbourne, Australia, and currently lives in the UK.

Christian Rathmann

Dr. Christian Rathmann

Endnote Speaker: Experiences of Deaf Translators as a Foundation for Building a Theory: A Grounded Theory Approach


Since recently, the everyday practices of deaf translators in various contexts in several countries have been documented. Especially, a number of issues which are pertaining to deaf translators has been raised to date and will be illustrated:

  • Cognitive processes and linguistic strategies used in the work of Deaf translators
  • Team work of translators including preparation, presentation and analysis
  • Deaf translators working for specific populations with particular language needs
  • Translation products and text genres
  • Media translation
  • Literature translation
  • Theatre translation
  • Sight translation as a cultural practice

This kind of knowledge has been usually generated from deaf translators’ experiences.

Dr. Rathmann will further discuss how such deaf translation theories can be created and developed. I will use the Grounded Theory (Glasser and Strauss 1967) as a point of departure: How can we establish such a theory from data systematically obtained from (social) processes of translation’s work and experiences?

Christian Rathmann is professor and chair in the Department of Deaf Studies and Interpreting at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin Germany. He previously was professor and chair at the Institute of German Sign Language and Communication of the Deaf at Universität Hamburg, where he directed two BA and MA programs in “Sign Languages” and “Sign Language Interpreting” as well as two professional programs in “Sign Language Interpreting and Translation” and “Sign Language Education” for deaf sign language users.

Dr. Rathmann has been involved in a professional program in Sign Language Interpreting and Translation for Austrian deaf professionals since 2013. He obtained his doctorate degree in linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005. He has been engaged and leading in a number of German and European projects focusing on sign language interpreting & translation and second-language acquisition & learning as well as in sign language linguistics. Since 2011, he has been a certified interpreter and translator.

Plenary Speakers

Dr. MJ Bienvenu

Dr. MJ Bienvenu

Plenary Speaker: Painting White Stripes on a Road: Looking Back and Forward


In 1984, I wrote an article about my experience trying to translate an article titled “A Road Being built…” This presentation will look back at the efforts of many deaf people at translation, what we know about their ideologies – that is, the values, beliefs, and attitude about language that they exhibit and look into professionalization of the field of translation.

Looking back and reading the paper, I realize how little I dreamt – all translators I thought of were non-deaf. Over the years, there is a growing number of deaf translators and, if I am not mistaken, all are on-side jobs or on contract. With better understanding of what translation involves, with various theories, we are better able to translate, mostly from written form to signed languages. In creating this space, we need to look into a different frame to consider what translation means to us and bring to the table to professionalize the field and practice.

Without any doubt, it should be deaf people doing the work. We all can work together how to make it a permanent profession, with deaf people employed full time as professional, licensed translators. Additionally, each person should be encouraged to do self-analysis and recognize their identities as translators – one of the first steps towards professionalization.

I, as presenter, will encourage participants to look at the field and work together to make it happen and complete the road. And dream bigger.

MJ Bienvenu is a professor in the Department of American Sign Language (ASL) and Deaf Studies and co-director of the M.A. in Sign Language Education Program at Gallaudet University. A native ASL signer originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet in 1974 and 1983, respectively. She received her Ph.D. from Union Institute and University in 2003 in Interdisciplinary Studies, with specialization in ASL Linguistics and Lexicography.

Dr. Bienvenu has published several ASL teaching materials and American Deaf Culture videos and workbooks. She was a sign model for the first ASL instruction books, also known as the Green Books. She has presented to schools, colleges and universities and centers around the country, Canada, Europe, Japan, Israel, and Cyprus on topics of sign language instruction, culture, oppression and empowerment, cross-cultural interactions, and interpretation.

Monique Holt

Monique Holt, MFA, CDI, DASL

Plenary Speaker: Translation Texts: An Insight into the Translation Strategies


Literature related to the effectiveness of translation strategies used is lacking. Translation scholars define characteristics of a translation strategy and techniques employed in various ways. Unfortunately, there are no standardized practice or publications available on translation for signed performance.

To elevate in ASL translating approach from the frozen text, I developed a tool: translation “mapping” system. Mapping plays a vital role in translating process. It gives the clarity of a writer’s message and better use of ASL. From a linguistic perspective, exploring this approach could have significant pedagogical implications.

Monique Holt is an actress, director, translator, and a Certified Deaf Interpreter. Recognizing the great power of ASL in telling stories, she has been translating written texts into ASL since she was a teen. Drawing from experience and through trial and error, she has refined her approach to translation. Monique developed a unique cognitive-linguistic approach and notation system to support her translating work. A lifelong student of the arts, she’s constantly experimenting and innovating.

Christopher Tester, MsC, CDI, SC:L

Christopher Tester, MsC, CDI, SC:L

Plenary Speaker: Contemporary Translations


This presentation will explore the historical evolution of translation and its parallel to interpreting. We will touch on some theoretical frameworks presented by Nida (Translation theory), Hatim & Mason (Discourse and Register approaches), and Vermeer (Skopos Theory). We will touch on the concept of Hybrid Translation, and its impact on creating a dynamic equivalence. We will compare and contrast between translation and sight translation. Exploring this approach could have significant pedagogical implications.

Christopher Tester, MsC, CDI, SC:L, WFD-WASLI, Accredited IS Interpreter, is deaf and a consultant, educator, interpreter, and trainer. A seasoned presenter, he specializes in workshop and seminar facilitation on topics (not limited to) disability rights and laws, deaf and hard of hearing awareness, and interpreting. He currently is an adjunct faculty member of the City University of New York’s ASL/English Interpreter Education Program. He has interpreted for several off- and on-Broadway shows, national and international conferences, and at the United Nations. He specializes in legal interpreting.

Chris received a master’s degree in Science and Communication at Heriot-Watt University and received his bachelor’s degree at the College of the Holy Cross. Additionally, he received his Professional Certificate from the CUNY’s ASL/English Interpreter Education Program. He resides in Manhattan.

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