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What is WASLI doing in Paris and how can you help?

The World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), supports the development professional development of sign language interpreters. Debra Russell, WASLI President, reports on last year's activities and the up and coming WASLI Conference in Paris, 15 - 19 July.

Reading through the WASLI newsletter, helps me realize how many interpreter leaders are volunteering around the world to advance interpreter training. To each of those leaders, thank you for your contributions to our shared goals. In keeping with support for interpreters at the regional level, WASLI has been active and here are just a few highlights:

Fundraising for the WASLI 2019 conference, and for sponsorship of delegates from emerging countries, continues and thank you to all who supported my efforts to fundraise for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) interpreters who will attend WASLI 2019. Thank you also to Christian Rathmann for his personal contribution that will see two Iranian sign language interpreters attend our conference for the first time. We so appreciate the sponsorship of Humboldt University in Berlin who will sponsor the International Sign Interpreter Services at WASLI 2019.  If you or your organization can contribute to the conference as a sponsor we would love to hear from you!

During August, history was made for the Oceania region, with the first regional conference held at Nadi, Fiji.  It was an amazing experience to meet with interpreters from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Vanua Levu, and to learn from their experiences working with the Deaf communities in their varied and complex contexts. The hospitality of the local Fijians was spectacular and we thank them all for making this such a memorable conference for all. Our Oceania rep, Angela Murray worked very hard from with the local Fiji Association of the Deaf and the Interpreters Association and we could not have had a better time, learning from excellent presenters, networking over breaks, and taking the time to get to celebrate on the sunset cruise. Vanaka to you all!

WASLI President, Debra Russell with a delegate at the Oceania Conference

Tuane Neemia from Kiribati, Pacific Islands with the author at the WASLI Oceania Conference. (Image: WASLI)

Delegates at the WASLI Oceania Conference in August 2018

Delegates from Fiji at the WASLI Oceania conference. Author: Debra Russell 3rd from left. (Image: WASLI)

Liz Scott Gibson also represented WASLI by attending a congress in Iran during August, providing presentations to Deaf and interpreter delegates. Her report in this newsletter offers us interesting insight into that country and we look forward to having their delegates with us at WASLI 2019.

The first International Day of Sign Language was marked in such exciting ways around the world, and WASLI was pleased to participate in the UN event at Geneva, and to share a video featuring so many Pacific Island interpreters and Deaf participants – we are a diverse organization and that video message certainly highlighted some of that wonderful cultural and linguistic diversity!

We have seen our delegate sponsorship change lives, with interpreter’s empowered with learning and support to help develop interpreting in his or her home country.
Debra Russell, President WASLI

During September it was my pleasure to offer training for  European Forum of Sign Language Interpreters (efsli) - DI, working with the talented Markus Aru of Finland. Thank you to all of the participants for such a warm welcome, and to Sofia Isari and her colleagues for their hard work in creating the training event.  It was also a pleasure to attend the efsli annual general meeting and the conference – thanks so much for the Croatian interpreters that worked so hard to deliver another amazing efsli event. WASLI and efsli were also able to collaborate with our national member, the Russian Association of Sign Language Interpreters (RASLI) in presenting a conference entitled "Sign Language Interpreting: Underwater Hazards" October 26-27th. Special thanks to Arunas Brazinskas from Lithuania for representing WASLI along with Anna Komorova, our WASLI regional representative for Transcaucasia. The event was a great success and there are many more opportunities ahead to work on developing the profession of interpreting in this region.

November was an exciting month for interpreters in Latin America with significant learning events taking place in Brazil and Colombia. I was thrilled to be able to attend the linguistics and sign language interpreting research conference at Florianopolis. With over 800 participants, and the entire conference given in sign language, Libras and International Sign, it was a fantastic 5 days of research-based presentations, posters and workshops. Immediately after Brazil, the Colombian sign language interpreters also hosted a conference, bringing together their best to advance the profession. Check out the video interviews on our WASLI Facebook and website to learn more about some of the history of WASLI in Latin America, deaf interpreting and frequently asked questions about International Sign.

November will also see amazing opportunities in our Asian region. ISLIA, our association in India, is celebrating their tenth anniversary. WASLI and the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) will share in that important milestone  Thanks again to Liz, who will replace me – when it is not possible to be in two places at once, I appreciate that our Honorary President can travel and represent interpreters which such grace and wisdom.

In December the WASLI Asia regional meeting will take place in Thailand, in conjunction with the WFD regional conference. I wish all delegates a productive time there. There will be a chance to begin planning for the election of the next Asian regional rep, something that all of the other regions will start in January 2019. If your national association is a member, then you have a right to nominate and vote for the next representative. Make sure you have renewed your membership, so that you have the privilege of selecting your next regional rep. In that same light, nominations for the next WASLI executive will begin in January 2019.  I will be stepping down as President at our Paris conference, and I look forward to working and supporting our next executive.

Other aspects have taken Board attention in the last few months, such as the International Standards Organization (ISO), which has sought input from us on interpreting standards. We are pleased to provide our perspective, a new initiative for the ISO. The WFD-WASLI International Sign Accreditation received new applicants in Sept and we are in conversations with International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) about international sign.

I also hope that many of you are turning your attention to WASLI 2019.  For those planning to attend our conference, we are excited to welcome the world to Paris. If you are not able to attend, consider donating to support delegates from other countries. There are many countries that will be very challenged to attend given the costs of registration, travel and accommodation. I challenge you to come together with colleagues and sponsor a delegate from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia. Grab ten friends and make a plan – small fundraisers, large fundraisers, every contribution helps. There are many Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) chapters, for example, and it would be wonderful if each chapter could commit to sponsor one delegate – imagine the amazing learning for an interpreter from Guatemala, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Angola, Tanzania, South Africa, Sudan, India, Pakistan and so on to participate in a world conference.  We have seen our delegate sponsorship change lives, with interpreter’s empowered with learning and support to help develop interpreting in his or her home country.

The WASLI conference in Paris will be held at the centrally located University Paul Descartes. Book now for July 15 -19, 2019.

Our venue, University Paul Decartes is centrally located on the metro line, so you can book accommodation to suit your budget anywhere in Paris. The dates of our conference are July 16-19, 2019!

If you have questions or comments for the board, please email me any time at president.wasli@gmail.com.  And to each interpreter that continues to help us build WASLI, thank you for your volunteer efforts!

Deb Russell, WASLI President - picture of a woman's smiling face Author Biography: 

Debra Russell, PhD, is a Canadian certified interpreter, educator and researcher at the University of Alberta. Her research interests included mediated education with interpreters, interpreting in legal settings and with legal discourse, and Deaf-hearing interpreter teams.

She is extensively published in the field of interpretation. Her interpreting practice spans over thirty years, and continues focus on medical, legal, mental health and employment settings. She has had a long history of leadership positions at the local, national and international level, serving on several volunteer organizations. She is the current President of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters (WASLI), and a Commissioner for the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE). She loves to travel and has presented in over 61 countries.

Links and More information 

WASLI Conference website 

WASLI Conference program 


Published: 19/02/2019