Rachel Tate’s almost 20-year-long journey into sign language has landed her one of the most important jobs in the country’s pandemic response – that of a New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) interpreter during the Government’s Covid-19 briefings.
“Interpreters are bought in to assist with clear communication with the Deaf community, so we work in both languages – English and sign language,” Tate said.
Their role was to “faithfully interpret the message” being communicated by a speaker, all of which was bound by a code of ethics that prevented the interpreters from “behaving in certain ways”, she said.
“We’re not able to add our own spin on anything, we have to present things exactly as they are, without adding or subtracting from the message.“
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Having NZSL during the press briefings was all about “access and equality”, she said.
“Providing the opportunity for Deaf people to receive information in real time, at the same time that everyone else receives it, is really important.”
NZSL interpreter Rachel Tate makes sure the 1pm briefings are accessible for Deaf people and those with hearing loss.
Often English was the second language for many in the Deaf community, so having important information presented in their primary language was the best, Tate said.
NZSL has its own grammatical structure, so interpreters were not “interpreting word for word”, but conveyed meaning to their audience, she said.
“So you will see that we are really expressive during the briefing and, probably at the beginning, it was maybe a little bit awkward for people watching.
“We use our hands, we use our faces, we use body movement, we use placement – that’s the …….