BBLTranslation, sign language provider at the Herbalife Extravaganza 2015 in Barcelona

The Herbalife Extravaganza 2015 took place last weekend in Barcelona, gathering together members, from Europe, the Middle East and Africa, of the US-based company that produces and markets nutritional supplements and other skin and hair care products. The location for this event was the Palau Sant Jordi, a venue spacious enough to hold all of the many attendees.
Translation and interpreting were vital elements throughout the entire event, where 17 different languages were spoken by members.  English was the main language of all the talks given and there was a simultaneous interpreting service available to attendees at all times.
BBLTranslation was entrusted with management of Spanish sign language interpreting with four interpreters at the event to provide all deaf attendees with this important service.
Without a doubt, sign language interpreting is just as important, and perhaps more so, as any other translation and interpreting service. According to the World Health Organization and the World Federation of the Deaf, there are currently over 70 million people with hearing impairments in the world. In Spain alone this figure exceeds one million. That is why BBLTranslation is committed to providing this service and working towards equal opportunities for this group of people.
The provision of interpreters at the event in Barcelona allowed deaf attendees to follow, amongst others, speeches given by the Chairman and CEO of Herbalife, Michael O. Johnson, and other prominent personalities in the nutrition sector.

Direct sign language interpreting service

We took this opportunity to talk to Triana, one of the sign language interpreters who provided this service throughout the event, who explained to us the key considerations when interpreting for the deaf and the importance of making this service available at all kinds of events.
There are numerous challenges facing professional sign language interpreters: “Each assignment is different, there are so many variations to consider”.  She explained these variations and the usual problems encountered in greater details, allowing us a closer insight into the role of the professional interpreter. These are issues that frequently occur and are not exclusively related to the Herbalife event:

  • The location and positioning of the interpreter: it is important that actions are visible to the audience, directly or on screen.  Often the interpreter is placed in a location where work is very difficult or uncomfortable. At times, if this location is outside, weather conditions are not taken into account by the organisers.   Sometimes there may be people invading the interpreter’s workspace or hindering the user’s ability to see them.
  • Audio quality: frequently speakers are positioned facing the audience and not facing the interpreter, which means that the sounds heard by the interpreter may be distorted and cannot be interpreted.  When an earpiece is required for simultaneous interpreting of a fellow oral language interpreter, sometimes the audio is delayed or of poor quality.
  • Adequate preparation: each time they are interpreting at an event, the professional interpreter should be familiar with the subject matter to be better able to address any topics that may arise. Organisers should generally provide the interpreters with relevant content in advance so that they are able to effectively prepare for the assignment, but that does not always happen.
  • Duration of the event and colleagues assigned: quality may diminish due to fatigue, therefore depending on the duration of the event, there should be more or fewer interpreters to take turns. For events exceeding 2 hours, there should be 3 interpreters taking it in turns. Whilst one is interpreting, another is following the proceedings and offering support whilst the third is resting.
  • Direct interpreting (sign language to spoken language): when a deaf attendee wishes to participate and have their language interpreted to spoken language, the interpreter needs a microphone to transmit their own voice. In many cases a deaf person is assumed to be deaf-mute, and a microphone is not provided, which prevents the professional from providing an interpretation.
  • Respect for the professional: the role of sign language interpreter is not a well-known occupation and for each assignment the interpreter has to ask, sometimes even beg, to be allowed the necessary access to do their job, as on 90% of occasions event staff have no idea who they are and why they are on site.

Despite the high level of qualifications that it takes to be a professional sign language interpreter, Triana confirms that they still lack adequate recognition: “We must constantly beg to be allowed to do our job properly, to be positioned in a visible location, to not be hidden away in a corner, and this is discrimination against both users and us. We often find ourselves being asked to provide the service free of charge, or they don’t pay what the service is worth in professional terms. It is common for contracting companies to be completely unaware of this professional role, and this leads to inadequate management when carrying out our work”.
Fortunately, however, both public and private sectors are becoming increasingly aware of the need to provide interpreting services for the deaf, although, according to Triana, still “not to the extent that they should”.  For the interpreter, “public institutions do not provide sufficient cover in situations where an interpreter is necessary; from experience, private organisations are better organised in this regard”.
We just want this to be common practice and for deaf people to always have interpreting services available so that they have the same opportunities as all other participants at all kinds of events. At Herbalife Extravaganza 2015 in Barcelona we can confidently say that this was the case.

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