“When I speak people look at me”: British deaf signers' use of bimodal translanguaging strategies and the representation of identities

Jemina Napier, Rosemary Oram, Alys Young, Robert Skinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
107 Downloads (Pure)


Deaf people’s lives are predicated to some extent on working with sign language interpreters. The self is translated on a regular basis and is a long-term state of being. Identity becomes known and performed through the translated self in many interactions, especially at work. (Hearing) others’ experience of deaf people, largely formed indirectly through the use of sign language interpreters, is rarely understood as intercultural or from a sociocultural linguistic perspective. This study positions itself at the cross-roads of translation studies, sociolinguistics and deaf studies, to specifically discuss findings from a scoping study that sought, for the first time, to explore whether the experience of being ‘known’ through translation is a pertinent issue for deaf signers. Through interviews with three deaf signers, we examine how they draw upon their linguistic repertoires and adopt bimodal translanguaging strategies in their work to assert or maintain their professional identity, including bypassing their representation through interpreters. This group we refer to as ‘Deaf Contextual Speakers’ (DCS). The DCS revealed the tensions they experienced as deaf signers in reinforcing, contravening or perpetuating language ideologies, with respect to assumptions that hearing people make about them as deaf people, their language use in differing contexts; the status of sign language; as well as the perceptions of other deaf signers about their translanguaging choices. This preliminary discussion of DCS’ engagement with translation, translanguaging and professional identity(ies) will contribute to theoretical discussions of translanguaging through the examination of how this group of deaf people draw upon their multilingual and multimodal repertoires, contingent and situational influences on these choices, and extend our understanding of the relationship between language use, power, identity, translation and representation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-120
Number of pages26
JournalTranslation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts
Issue number2
Early online date24 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Bimodal bilingualism
  • Deaf
  • Identities
  • Professional
  • Sign language
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Translanguaging
  • Translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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