Working together to professionalize Interpretation Services in Sri Lanka

NLEAP organises Inaugural Curriculum Development Committee Meeting

The availability of professionally qualified and skilled Interpreters is critical to the effective implementation of the Official Languages Policy of Sri Lanka. NLEAP in partnership with the University Grants Commission convened the Inaugural Curriculum Development Committee Meeting to discuss the development of the syllabus for the Diploma in Interpretation. Joining the two-day session hosted at the University of Jaffna were academics representing the four partner universities that already offer the Bachelor of Arts Translation Degree Programme (Jaffna, Kelaniya, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern).

Warmly welcoming the participants, Prof. Manoj Ariyarathne (Chairperson Professional Learning Community) thanked the Government of Canada for the support provided to the Government of Sri Lanka through the Technical Assistance provided by NLEAP. Prof. Ariyarathne voiced his particular appreciation of the Technical Exchange Mission to Canada organised by NLEAP that provided useful insight on how technology could be leveraged when teaching Interpretation. He looked forward to how the best practices and new learnings gained from the mission could be incorporated and contextualized when developing the new syllabus. Mr. Michael Emblem, thanked the UGC and the partner universities for their unstinting commitment and support to uplift the quality and caliber of Translation and Interpretation resources. He foresaw the launch of a Diploma in Interpretation marking a giant step towards establishing Interpretation services as a professional resource invaluable to Sri Lanka’s development and progress.

Undergirding the day’s proceedings was the presentation by Prof. N. Selvakumaran (Language Rights Expert, NLEAP), which explored the critical aspect of incorporating Gender Equality & Women’s Empowerment and Language Rights into the curriculum. Ever the passionate academic he exhorted the universities on the unique role they play in developing intellectual capacity and fostering research cultures that seek and find new knowledge to resolve problems and issues affecting society. Stating ‘Universities are expected to promote social reform through sustained and informed leadership’ he challenged them ‘We should be in the forefront to reform culture and civilization in order to promote social justice’. Raising how issues relating to gender equality and language rights have been sources of discrimination, Professor urged consideration on how the Interpretation Curriculum could be leveraged to build respect for democratic norms and principles and promote conscious efforts to reverse ingrained practices of discrimination and prejudice. Sharing how the use of languages and choice of terminologies continue to subconsciously perpetuate discriminatory practices he pointed to the major role universities could play in changing the attitudes, behaviour and practices of the would-be graduates and diplomates to promote social justice and human dignity.

The presentation on ‘Gender Dimensions of Interpretation Courses’ by NLEAP Gender Equality Specialist Saama Rajakaruna  addressed the gender gap in the translation and interpretation industry, exploring why translation/interpretation courses tended to be female dominated. She highlighted various aspects ranging from gendered curriculum and pedagogy, gender performativity, traditional narratives of innate predispositions, stereotypes and cultural values inculcated from childhood, to gender pay gaps, that perpetuate the gender gap in the industry. Ms Rajakaruna encouraged the participants to consider how policies and procedures, curricular and teaching methodologies, research, and the practice of Gender Equality in the workplace, could be optimised to promote GEWE within the interpretation curriculum.

The Virtual Discussion with International Interpretation Consultant Jeff Staflund allowed the participants to draw on his vast experience as a professional trainer in interpretation and an experienced curriculum developer in interpretation. This session created a forum to discuss on the job demands and practical challenges of an International Interpreter the would be graduands would need to be equipped and skilled to meet.

The session on ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ by Thirunavukarasu Marimuthu (Deputy Director, NLEAP) explored further how the curriculum could focus on developing attributes and attitudes of inclusivity and respect for diversity within the graduands.

Following a vibrant discussion on the development of an Interpretation Syllabus and the next steps, Dr Kannathas (Secretary, PLC) thanked the Committee members for their invaluable contribution to taking the Diploma in Interpretation forward. He thanked the Government of Canada, Alinea and NLEAP, for the Technical Exchange Mission  that enriched the discussion with new insights and learnings on the best practices and standards in International Interpretation Studies. NLEAP Language Policy and Teaching Specialist Niyas Raskin  assured the members of NLEAPs continued support and technical assistance as they took the important steps towards fast tracking the launch of a Diploma  in Interpretation.

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