Oslo (December 2015)

Visit of the Czech team to Hogskolen i Oslo og Akershus in December 2015

A study trip to Oslo took place between 30 November – 4 December 2015.

The first place that we visited was the Faculty of International Studies and Interpretation at the University College of Applied Sciences in Oslo and Akershus (Hogskolen i Oslo og Akershus, Fakultet for lararutdanning og internasjonale studier og tolkeutdanning), with its department providing for training of Norwegian Sign Language interpreters.

Given the fact that there is no such curriculum in the Czech Republic so far, the information on the methodology applied in training sign language interpreters in Norway was very valuable. The direct learning method has been applied almost exclusively: First years students are immersed in interaction with a native sign language speaker in three-hour blocks four days per week; they do not use any other language to mediate grammar explanations. The main argument of Norwegian teachers for such a radical method was the effort to “re-orientate” hearing persons to a primarily visual communication code and to quickly start developing their abilities in using space, iconic features and mimics, even to the detriment of learning conventional vocabulary and grammar. The team of Teiresias Centre got an opportunity to participate in lessons and our deaf colleagues had the positive surprise to see the high level of the students’ performance in the above mentioned skills.

Besides teaching methods, we got acquainted with research activities of the Department, namely with the digital database (corpus) of speech of elderly Norwegian Deaf persons (aged over 66). In the present phase, the collection of data for the corpus has been finished, and the linguist leading the project is about to start marking individual video-recordings, i.e. that she will divide the recorded speech on the video to isolated signs by means of a special software, then she will provide them with translation into oral language as well as with other linguistically relevant information, as for instance the exact person used in verbs, or mimic accompanying the given sign. From our side, we introduced to Norwegian colleagues the first explanatory Czech Sign Language on-line dictionary, developer by the Teiresias Centre (partly published at www.dictio.info).

Another institution that we visited was the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (Ny Arbeids- og Velferdsforvaltning – NAV), namely its section dispatching Norwegian sign language interpreters. The discussion we had there showed that while practically unlimited funds provided by the state to finance interpretation services may be taken by the deaf as an advantage of the situation in Norway, the exclusive right of the deaf person to be provided that service has been reflected in reality rather as their obligation to cater themselves to their interprer, including during school teaching. From this perspective, Czech deaf people are in a better situation, because for instance at university the obligation to provide interpretation lays on the educational institution, not on the student. Nevertheless, let us compare several, certainly interesting, figures: The district of Akershus, including the city of Oslo, has an interpretation service with 13 dispatchers; they employ 72 sign language interpreters (full-time and part-time), and another 25 free-lance interpreters. They attend to 25 to 30 thousand interpretation requests per year, most of them being for universities in Oslo. For the sake of comparison, Masaryk University itself attends to some 1,700 interpretation requests per year. 

(From Alexandr Zvonek’s article for the Gong magazin, czech only)