What do we do?
Campaigning and Social Justice
We stand side-by-side with deaf ethnic minority associations in the fight to abolish racism from our society. We work closely with deaf and interpreting associations to campaign for a zero-tolerance approach to racism in our profession. We lobby professional associations, regulatory bodies and the government in order to campaign for a fairer and more equal society for everyone.
One of the major areas of activity for IOCN is our work on campaigning for a fairer and more equal society for all. We recognise and empathise with the discrimination that minority groups experience, whether it be the deaf community or people of colour, and we stand side-by-side with minority groups to campaign for a better future.
Within the signed language interpreting and translation profession, we want to see better representation of interpreters of colour in order to reflect the diverse multicultural society we live in. We also want to see better recognition of the value that the experiences of people from minority communities bring to the work of language and culture brokering.
We want to see a decolonisation of the interpreting profession, from what has traditionally been a field dominated by people who represent the powerful white, hearing majority to a profession that is representative of the diverse society we live in today.
We are campaigning for the decolonisation of interpreter education and interpreting research and academia, and for greater democratisation of the research agenda.
We also maintain social media accounts and send representatives to meetings and conferences of professional interpreting associations. Follow us on our social media accounts to find out more.
IOCN worked with NRCPD on its Black History Month campaign
We offer a range of workshops and webinars to the wider profession on a range of topics, many of which cover issues around race, ethnicity, culture and intersectionality in interpreting practice. In a profession that has traditionally been, and still is, predominately White, despite considerable ethnic diversity amongst the general UK and deaf populations, there is a need for interpreter education to consider issues of cultural and ethnic diversity and how this impacts the work we do.
Our ethos is to advocate for a post-colonial, deconstructionist and ethnographic approach to interpreter education by challenging, questioning and analysing traditional approaches and schools of thought in order to create new knowledge, and to push for change towards a fairer and more equal society.
We also offer training opportunities to our members on a range of topics; in particular, domain or skill-specific training in areas where there is significant underrepresentation of people of colour (e.g. TV and media interpreting), or additional skills that are lacking within the interpreter of colour population (e.g. international sign, supervisor, assessor). This is in order to up-skill interpreters of colour by offering opportunities that may not be widely available.
Akbar Sikder delivers a webinar to EFSLI members on his seminal research
Networking and Peer Support
Our members have access to a strong peer support network so that they can share their experiences with fellow interpreters of colour. We work in a profession and a society that is predominately White and still dealing with the legacy of slavery and colonialism; this is often reflected in the work we do with the deaf community. Our peer support events offer a safe and confidential space to talk about these issues.
We offer a range of voluntary and professional peer support services. We have a voluntary pool of ‘interpreter buddies’, who are experienced professional interpreters or translators willing to informally support trainee, newly qualified or less experienced interpreters in their particular area of expertise. We maintain an online directory of our members to showcase their skills, including those who have skills in professional, supervision, mentoring, buddying or who can offer shadowing opportunities.
Our members coordinate regional, national and international peer support groups. Our membership is open to deaf and hearing, trainee and qualified sign language interpreters and translators in Europe, which makes us a vibrant international community. We organise meetings, events and networking opportunities at regional, national and international level.
IOCN members networking at an All Members Meeting
There are very few interpreters of colour currently engaged in interpreting academia, as well as a lack of research into the experiences of interpreters of colour. More widely, signed language interpreting and translation studies has traditionally focused on the deaf/hearing dichotomy, illustrated by traditional models of interpreting that present a binary ‘bilingual, bicultural’ cline. There is huge potential for signed language interpreting studies to consider the impact of ‘third cultures’ in interpreter mediated interactions, and to explore how power dynamics are affected by the presence of an interpreter from an ethnic minority backgrounds.
Perhaps due to the lack of ethnic minority representation in academia, the research agenda often overlooks these issues, which we believe to be fundamental to our understanding of interpreting practice. We are campaigning for the democratisation of the research agenda so that research into signed language interpreting studies is responsive to the reality of the multicultural society we live in.
We are also campaigning for the decolonisation of interpreter education – another area where there is a lack of interpreters of colour. Interpreter education and training courses rarely consider the growing diversity of people training as interpreters, and rarely teaches trainee interpreters about issues concerning race and ethnicity. This has proven to be detrimental to the deaf community, which is considerably more ethnically diverse compared to the sign language interpreter population. Deaf people from ethnic minority backgrounds are left facing double discrimination based on their disability and ethnic origin, with an interpreting population generally lacking in cultural capital.
We are keen to work with interpreting academics and interpreter trainers to push forward positive change in the signed language interpreting and translation profession that better recognises the diverse communities we work with. We are particularly keen to hear from researchers and interpreting scholars interested in exploring issues around race, ethnicity, ‘third culture brokering’, decolonisation of the interpreting curriculum, and ethnographic and deconstructionist approaches to research. We also encourage our own members to engage with and conduct their own research in this area.
IOCN contributed to the ASLI 2021 Census