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Abstract

Translating from English into American Sign Language holds a number of challenges, particularly when the English source text is a formal, high profile, scripted speech. This study examined perspectives of Deaf bilinguals on translating President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address into American Sign Language. We conducted a microanalysis of translations of the opening line – my fellow citizens’ – to investigate the product and processes employed by Deaf translators. Five Deaf ASL-English bilinguals who are ASL teachers or interpreters/translators were asked to translate the opening paragraph of the address and were interviewed about the processes they used to render their translations. Findings revealed a lack of standard translations for the phrase among the participants, but with some overlap in lexical terms. The Deaf translators discussed the challenges in creating the translation, including how to meet the needs of a national, but unknown, Deaf audience; the lack of standard ASL correspondents for English lexical items; incorporating cultural and sociolinguistic norms of ASL; and conveying semantic intent and register. The findings provide insights into the processes of the Deaf translators, which may be helpful to both Deaf and hearing individuals when rendering interpretations and translations.

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