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Janzen, Terry (2005) Topics in Signed Language Interpreting.

Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Pp xii, 362, $ 144 ISBN 902721669X

This edited volume draws principally upon Canadian authors involved in teaching and researching into signed language interpreting. The book is not only aimed at students of sign language interpreting, but also practitioners. The introduction usefully situates the reader to the rationale of the book and explains what one can expect in each chapter.  It also gives a brief note to the conventions that are used that will be useful to students and practitioners alike.

Section two provides the core theoretical elements that would be expected in text aimed at student interpreters. As described below it provides key elements that student interpreter should be aware of as they develop their skills prior to working. By bringing in theory from the mainstream it also enables signed language interpreter students and practitioners to reflect upon their work in light of these theories and potentially have more fruitful relations and discussions with spoken language interpreter colleagues.

Wilcox and Shaffer take us through older models of signed language interpreting. They then reanalyse how interpreters construct meaning, moving towards a cognitive interpreting model centred on interpreters owning meaning. Leeson revisits Gilefs Effort Model and usefully applies this to signed language interpreting. Clear examples are given to allow students and practitioners to reflect on their own practice.

Janzen examines signed language interpreters fluency in signed languages (using American Sign Language for examples of signed languages morphology and syntax). As the majority signed language interpreters have signed languages as their B languages this highlights to students and teachers things they should consider before undertaking interpreter training.  It is also useful for signed language interpreter practitioners to revisit their language use in light of mainstream theories. 

Malcom focuses on transliteration and contact sign bringing together much of the literature surrounding the contact phenomena. Interestingly it also addresses the attitude of the interpreter towards contact forms and provides a good opportunity to reflect upon the complex nature of the interaction between the signed language of a community and its relationship with the spoken/written language it is surrounded by. 

Russell describes her research into the use of consecutive and simultaneous interpreting. It not only covers how it can be used in training but also in practice.  It integrates models of interpreting with the different modes of interpreting and then gives specific examples of them within the legal domain. This approach should enable practitioners to be more critical about their use of both simultaneous and consecutive modes of interpreting. 

Janzen and Korpinski conclude section two with a discussion on ethics and professionalism for interpreters working with a signed language as at least one of their working languages. Whilst focusing on the Deaf community the interpreter models that deal with power imbalance could provide use insights for interpreters working with a majority and minority language.

Section three goes onto cover praxis detailing issues that are often overlooked by textbooks. Demers looks at the working interpreter. This relates well to section two whilst giving concrete examples of work. The eight steps to a successful interpreting gives a clearer idea to the novice of what is involved in interpreting than is often described. The need for preparation, time taken for preparation and how that interacts with experience is explained clearly for the student to understand how they may be approaching a task differently from experienced practitioners; and how practitioners may need to approach each task different depending on domain experience. 

Stratiy gives a Deaf community perspective on interpreting practice. She provides interesting insights as a consumer of interpreting services, as well as an interpreter herself into the pitfalls that interpreters can fall into when they are working into a signed language as their second language.   This provides a good opening for a dialogue with colleagues and services uses as well as an opportunity for reflecting upon ones own practice.  For students this should enable some elements of practice to be honed before working as interpreters. 

Leeson complements the issues raised by Startiy, giving a comprehensive description of language variation in Irish Sign Language. She goes on to describe interpreting throughout Europe providing a comprehensive overview into the sociolinguistic influences on a signed language in Ireland and within multilingual environments across Europe. This should be interesting for all students and practitioners when considering audience design. 

Conrad and Stegenga tackle the area of educational interpreting. They give a detailed overview of the working conditions and issues that signed language interpreters need to consider including where to find resources and employment suitability that are invaluable to those considering working, working and aiming to employ interpreters within the educational domain. 

Finally, Boudreault discusses the work of Deaf interpreters. Many students and practitioners will have little knowledge of, or experience working with Deaf interpreters. Although Canada provides insights into a country where two signed languages are used, there are other situations where Deaf interpreters are employed within countries with only one signed language that are also explained. With the increase in Deaf people being employed as interpreters this provides detailed information about working conditions and ethics of interpreters who are Deaf.

The book gives a comprehensive theoretical and practical insight into interpreting with a signed language as one of your working languages and is well worth reading.

Christopher Stone, The DCAL Centre, Department of Human Communication Science, University College London.
christopher.stone@ucl.ac.uk