Chinese Deaf viewers’ comprehension of sign language interpreting on television
An experimental study
Over 200 television channels in China broadcast news with signed language interpreting, making this one of the most visible forms of public accessibility for Deaf citizens. However, previous surveys have reported that most viewers have difficulty understanding the sign language interpreter. This experimental study examines how well a group of 49 Deaf individuals do, comparing their level of comprehension with that of twenty hearing viewers whose medium of access to program content is spoken Mandarin. All participants completed simple comprehension questions, in written form, after viewing twenty short news clips. These were shown once to the hearing viewers, and twice to Deaf viewers so as to compensate for any intrinsic difficulty related to the limited visual clarity of televised signed language interpreting. Results show that, even with interpretation, the Deaf viewers do not benefit equally from the news clips. Analysis of the interpretations suggests that the interpreters’ lack of Chinese Sign Language fluency might have contributed to the Deaf viewers’ lesser comprehension. In addition to insufficient training, the high pressure the interpreters experience in relation to interpreting in media settings might have a negative effect on the quality of their interpretation.
Keywords: signed language interpreting, television news, Deaf, Chinese Sign Language, comprehension testing
Published online: 30 March 2015
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