The project Developing Deaf Interpreting has undertaken a survey of the situation of Deaf Interpreters in Europe. The survey is the first of its kind, and we received responses from in total 30 countries in Europe. Out of those countries only two replied that they did not have Deaf Interpreters, which confirmed our assumption that deaf interpreters exist in most countries in Europe.
The information received through questionnaires shows that the professional field of deaf interpreters is in a transition phase. Until recently in many countries deaf interpreting was carried out by deaf persons without any formal interpreter training and often on a voluntary basis, but the survey shows that the situation is changing and in quite a number of countries deaf interpreting is beginning to be recognized as a profession: In some countries deaf interpreters have access to interpreter training, in some countries to certification, in some countries governments pay for deaf interpreter’s work, and in some countries deaf interpreters are becoming members of sign language interpreters’ associations.
Today 18 countries have (or have had) interpreter training accessible for deaf interpreters on various levels. In many countries the training has been initiated in recent years – and some countries report that they are going to start training of deaf interpreters later this year or next year.
It is interesting to see, how many different shapes and forms interpreter training for deaf people has taken: Some countries have separate training programs for deaf interpreters, in other countries deaf students can enroll in the sign language interpreter training programs for hearing students, and some countries have designed specific training programs for deaf students that cover more than just interpreting. In some countries interpreter training programs are being carried out by established educational institutions while in some countries the training is neither formalized nor permanent but merely temporarily or project based.
We were pleasantly surprised to learn that most countries do in fact have some form of recognition of deaf interpreters: Most commonly by means of funding deaf interpreting in certain situations. Most often those interpreting situations are at the police, at court or within the health system, and it is those institutions under the government that fund deaf interpreting.
Being in this transition phase also means uncertainties and lack of knowledge. It is for example obviously that most countries struggle with recognition on different levels, and some countries still have no recognition - there are at least 4 countries who don’t have any recognition.
Another uncertainty can be identified through the fact, that contradictory information was received from different sources in the same country. It is obviously also due to the fact that it is still a new field, and that there is a lack of knowledge and uncertainty among educators and in the associations about deaf interpreters.
Thus, the information received in this survey may not be 100 % accurate about all countries. Instead it should be regarded as the first step towards an overview of the situation in Europe.