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Dr. Daniel Roush, professor in the American Sign Language & Interpreter Education Department in EKU’s College of Education, has received a Fulbright Scholar award for Fall 2020 for a research project in support of Hong Kong Sign Language (HKSL) interpreter training. The Fulbright Program, which aims to increase mutual understanding of the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.

Hong Kong is a semi-independent region within the People’s Republic of China. Hong Kong lacks a comprehensive system to train and evaluate trilingual interpreters who work between HKSL, Cantonese, and English. The Fulbright Award will provide the financial support needed for Roush to collaborate with the Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies (CSLDS) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong to support their emerging academic programs for HKSL interpreters. In this project, he will assist in creating an interpreter evaluation framework and identify software tools needed to support HKSL interpreter education.

“As with any natural signed language, HKSL has a grammar and vocabulary unique from Cantonese, the spoken language of the area. It is also mutually unintelligible from American Sign Language. There are only approximately 9,000 to 20,000 HKSL native signers, making it a threatened language minority” said Roush. “Moreover, HKSL is endangered because its use is not encouraged in Hong Kong society, in deaf education or the public. There are significant barriers to access to public services by deaf people in Hong Kong because there is not a systematic infrastructure to train and evaluate professional HKSL interpreters.”

“Hong Kong Sign Language, like many of the 130-plus indigenous sign languages all over the world, does not exist in a written format. This makes the documentation of HKSL and the development of language resources a challenging and complex task. HKSL must be recorded in video format and annotated using a glossing system based on spoken language text using specialized software,” said Roush.

In addition to the obvious benefits of improving education for HKSL interpreters, Roush noted his Fulbright award will have a far-reaching impact by providing support for the human rights of this threatened linguistic minority in Hong Kong. Upon his return to EKU, he believes this international collaboration will promote positive relationships between the people of Hong Kong, China, and the United States. He also plans to share his experiences and research with his peers and students to widen the global, cross-cultural perspective at EKU.

Roush’s impressive career in the field of American Sign Language (ASL) and efforts to improve communication access rights of deaf people were inspired by the challenges faced by his deaf mother in effectively communicating with health care professionals in a rural area. His Fulbright project is also inspired by two trips to Hong Kong. As a high school student, he spent a summer volunteering at a children’s camp in Hong Kong. In 2018, he visited the Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies (CSLDS) of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

For nearly 30 years, Roush has been a practicing professional interpreter. He has been a professor in EKU’s nationally accredited American Sign Language and Interpreter Education Department for 14 years. He was the first person to receive a Ph.D. in Interpretation Studies from Gallaudet University, a leader in education for deaf and hard of hearing students. Roush has authored numerous publications related to linguistic and ethnographic work with the ASL community and language technology development to support ASL and interpretation assessment and learning. His book “Event Structure Metaphors through the Body: Translation from English to American Sign Language,” was published in 2018.

Fulbright is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. As a grantee, Roush joins the ranks of many distinguished program participants. Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers. They include 60 Nobel Laureates, 86 Pulitzer Prize winners, 74 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors. Since its inception in 1946, more than 390,000 “Fulbrighters” have participated in the Program.