Mimics and mood are the most important in sign language

This summer Misha Trifonov, the 8th grade student in a secondary school of Bishkek, graduated from five-week training courses for sign language interpreters. He became interested in these courses as his grandmother and grandfather were deaf and unable to speak. According to Misha, before the courses he managed to communicate with them using simple gestures but serious communication was maintained in writing.

Mimics of a person plays a very important role in the sign language. Each gesture, each movement is accompanied by a certain mimic, smile and mood. When we asked Misha, the participant of the courses for sign language interpreters, to translate the words “I love my country”, he brought his palms to his lips and then touched his heart with both palms gently and with a smile.

“The first thing I want to do is help them, as such people have a lot of difficulties in our country,”-  Misha says. After the courses, he started to assist his relatives. Now he accompanies them to the polyclinic, shops, translates news releases.

Misha’s mother, Margarita Trifonova, is a professional sign language interpreter and acted as the trainer during the courses.

Among those invited for participation in the trainings there were people who had contacts with deaf people as well as those who had basic knowledge of the sign language.

“These five weeks were enough to master the skills and later act as interpreters in investigation agencies and during court hearings. The last program of training and re-training of sign language interpreters was conducted in 2005 at the initiative of the Society of Visually Impaired and Deaf People by specially invited trainers from Finland. Since then we have never had such courses,” – Ms. Margarita Trifonova says.

To fill this gap, joint project of UNDP and Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland “Widening access to justice in the Kyrgyz Republic” supported the organization of training courses for sign language interpreters. The psychological mindset of the interpreter is also of great value as a sign language interpreter is not merely an interpreter, he/she is also the assistant who must consider the needs of clients. They also perform the role of a social worker.

Training courses for sign language interpreters with the legal bias were arranged in July-September 2015. There were 4 groups in 5 weeks (96 academic hours) courses held by 24 trainers.

Information on successful graduates of sign language interpreter’s courses will be posted on the web site of the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic as well as other organizations so that the PWDs with impaired hearing will have the opportunity to use the services of such interpreters during investigations, receiving legal advice and other judicial processes.

However, currently the legislation of the Kyrgyz Republic does not envisage the mechanism of providing the PWDs with free aid of a sign language interpreter. One hour of interpretation costs KGS 200 – 300 that makes this service not accessible for the majority of the PWDs.

Margarita says it is incorrect from the ethical point of view. Interpreters are expected to support the client’s side. While in court, the interpreters should be neutral and do not have the right to take sides.

As international experience shows, the delivery of high quality service in the Kyrgyz Republic requires appropriate conditions: to revise the mechanism of free delivery of sign language interpreters’ services for the PWDs, to improve the quality of training of sign language interpreters in Universities, to create conditions for the PWDs to lead an active life.

According to Margarita, she acts as interpreter approximately three times in a week. There were cases when she stayed for 12 hours as an interpreter in the district police station as the police was afraid that they would not be able to find her the next day. In fact, the country has very few sign language interpreters and they have no time for all.

Despite such conditions, Misha wants to become a sign language interpreter: “I want to help people and in future I intend to do this work at the professional level.” 

Ainura Alymbekova, UNDP Project Coordinator “Widening access to justice and legal empowerment in the Kyrgyz Republic” (ainura.alymbekova@undp.org)

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