A Graduate of Heriot-Watt's European Masters in Sign Language Interpreting (EUMASLI) programme has become the first ever sign language interpreter accepted as a member by the prestigious global International Conference Interpreters Association (AIIC).
Maya de Wit-van Schagen completed her MSc in the Department of Languages & Intercultural Studies in 2011 at Heriot-Watt University. She interprets between spoken English, Dutch, German, and Dutch Sign Language (NGT), American Sign Language (ASL), and International Sign.
The AIIC is the only global association of conference interpreters, which provides access to 3,000 members in 100 different countries, for professional interpreting and translation services. It also sets ethical standards for conference interpreting and promoting the working conditions that high quality interpreting requires.
A milestone event
"This is a milestone event," said Professor Graham Turner, Director of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland. "Whilst sign language interpreting has been steadily developing as a profession over half a century, practitioners have never previously received recognition from AIIC.
"Maya de Wit-van Schagen is a hugely experienced interpreter, operating routinely in contexts such as the European Parliament and United Nations, who has contributed significantly to the field and is highly respected by her peers.
"AIIC is one of the primary global institutions providing leadership in this often high-stakes and sensitive field.
"Acknowledging sign language interpreters as members of AIIC marks a new level of appreciation of the standards set..."
Acknowledging sign language interpreters as members of AIIC marks a new level of appreciation of the standards setby sign language interpreter education."
"At a time when sign language interpreting has never been of greater international concern, as we learn the lessons from the 'fake interpreter' at Nelson Mandela's memorial ceremony this announcement provides welcome recognition of the progress made in the field and the extremely reliable service offered by conscientious interpreters."
Heriot-Watt University is one of the leading academic institutions in the sign language field, and has a strong focus on interpreting and translation.
Internationally unique programme
EUMASLI is an internationally unique programme, designed by the sign language team at Heriot-Watt, led by Professor Turner, in collaboration with colleagues at German and Finnish partner universities.
With programme coordination from Heriot-Watt's Dr Svenja Wurm, EUMASLI's pioneering approach has attracted attention from around the world, and students currently participating in the programme travel from the USA, Africa and all over Europe to attend intensive study periods in Edinburgh, Magdeburg and Helsinki.