he turn of the 20th century has long been looked at as the low point for Deaf society and culture.  The rise of oral-only schooling, the popularity of eugenics, and the death of inspirational community leaders all spelled a perfect storm for the Deaf community of the time.  Many believe that the rights and freedoms Deaf people lost are just barely returning today.  Susan Birch, however, lays out a different argument in her book, Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History 1900 to World War II.  Birch claims that despite the outward appearance of failure, this time period led to the solidification of a Deaf identity and community, directly leading to the greater rights the Deaf have achieved today.  Birch shows this solidification first through the rise of the Oralism vs. Manualism debate, then through the emergence of Deaf clubs and athletic associations, and lastly through the changing legal rights of the Deaf community.  Through everything, Birch shows how the community’s positions solidified their cultural heritage, and enabled the Deaf to improve their lives.

Birch starts with the Oralism vs. Manualism debate, an argument about whether Deaf people should speak or sign.  The Deaf community was staunchly on the Manualism side, insisting that sign language was good for Deaf people, and did not separate them from mainstream society.  Films were made touting the importance of sign and ridiculing those on the other side of the debate, pamphlets were printed to educate hearing people on the wants of the Deaf community, and speeches were made and printed in newspapers across the country.  Although Oral-only education swept across America and many teachers of the Deaf who were also Deaf lost their jobs, Sign Language persisted.  Children that could not sign in class would sign in their dorms, and often joined a community of signing Deaf once they had left school.

As Eugenics became popular across the country, Deaf people became extremely conscious of their public image.  To combat the idea of the Deaf as a disabled community that was weakening the Human Race, Deaf leaders focused on the vast athletic traditions that pervaded the Deaf community as a whole.  Deaf athletic associations were established in large numbers all across the country.  The images they produced of hearty Americans at the peak of health were circulated everywhere, carefully staged to refute the idea of the Deaf as a genetically inferior race.  Confronted with these images, Deaf community leaders felt that it would be difficult to argue that the Deaf should not be allowed to marry each other, or be subject to other Eugenically-minded laws that were being pushed by the general public.

Athletic organizations ultimately led to the formation of social clubs for the Deaf.  These places were the hubs of their community, offering the latest news, Deaf-friendly entertainment, and alcoholic beverages to unwind after work.  The clubs featured big events on the weekends, such as plays, movie screenings, and even dances.  By the end of the 1940’s they were the center of the Deaf world in the cities they occupied, and were also frequently the only deaf-owned establishments in town, creating positive feelings of self-sufficiency and affluence for the entire community.   These were small oasis’s where Deaf people were not a linguistic minority, and they did not have to work to understand or make themselves understood.   Such gathering places allowed the Deaf a space in which to feel empowered, and where they could organize themselves and work toward common goals.

At the same time social organizations were being formed, so were legal ones.  The National Association of the Deaf was founded during the early 1900s, and its mission was to fight for the legal rights of Deaf people all over the country.  The NAD had a noble goal, but many in the Deaf community did not support the organization at first.  Thrust out of white collar jobs by Oralism, the majority of Deaf gained employment in blue collar industries.  Those at the head of the NAD were a minority within a minority; wealthy, well educated men who had been lucky enough to be able to pay for a college education.  The rest of the working class Deaf community felt that this elite group could not possibly understand them or the rights they needed.  Couple this inherent mistrust with organizational problems, and public opinion of the NAD sank extremely low.  Once the group was able to solidify itself it was able to pass many state laws protecting the rights of the Deaf, such as laws prohibiting hearing beggars to pose as Deaf, and laws protecting the rights of Deaf people to marry.   Consequently, it became more popular and a fixture of the Deaf community it was working for.

In the rise of the infrastructure of Deaf organization, we can clearly see Birch’s thesis emerge.  She argues that, although Deaf people were struggling to hold onto their culture and language, they were also creating places from which they could organize and take on the world for the rights they wished for themselves.  Burch’s thesis is well thought out and well executed, and the evidence she gives strongly supports her claims. It is clear that, although Deaf activism did not spread throughout America until the 1980’s, we can see the seeds of it here in the early 1900s.  Without these early years of organization, Deaf people may not have achieved the many rights they enjoy today.

Lots has happened since my last post.  I’m sorry to not be posting more prolifically, but I’m taking 15 units, working, and dealing with 5 paper weeks most of the time… posting regularly is just not in the cards, as much as I really wish it was.  Still, I’m learning amazing things right now, and can’t wait until I have a few seconds to say something longer about them.

Here are a few quick updates: I just received a grant from the History Department – I’m really going to Gallaudet to study in their archives!  Everyone in the Gallaudet archives that I e-mailed with was extremely friendly and helpful, and I can’t wait to meet them all in person.  They have so much cool stuff that I just hope I have the time to get through it all in the five days that I’ll be there.

I also have access to the films now, thanks to the University of Rochester Language Center.  They were also so nice and extremely helpful.  Gallaudet has open access versions of the videos on their website, if you’re interested, but they aren’t translated like the ones from Rochester.  They are AMAZING, and I would highly recommend watching them.

I’ve been through Deaf writings from the 1800′s, books on Deafness by Alexander Graham Bell (who is a bigger jerk than I thought he was), the films themselves, pamphlets by the NAD, and all sorts of fun things.  Still hoping to get through accounts of what film screenings were like and the effort to preserve the films in the 1930′s.  It should be eventful, to say the least.

The best part is all the secondary stuff I’ve been reading about how other historians covered the films in the past.  Their take on deaf History in general is just amazing.  Especially Susan Burch’s Signs of Resistance.  That was my favorite so far.  I’ll have to post some of the book reviews in the near future, if you’ll forgive the extremely academic tone of them.

That’s it for tonight!  I’m hoping to actually start writing my thesis in November (at least parts of it), so hopefully I’ll have a lot to post then.

s you may already have known, I’m a History Major at Chapman University right now.  I’m allowed to do my Senior Thesis on any historical topic that I want (best news ever, by the way), so I have chosen to become a Deaf Historian for the next year-and-a-half!  I’m studying the National Association of the Deaf films that were made between 1910 and 1920 in an effort to preserve sign language.  So far, it’s been fascinating.  I haven’t been able to get my hands on all the films yet, but I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to soon.  They’re all at the Gallaudet University archives, along with all the correspondence of NAD President George Veditz.  It also looks like a school-sponsored trip to the Gallaudet archives might be in the cards for me.  Super exciting!

So, as part of my task to get rolling on this subject, I had to create an essay on how others have studied that topic in the past.  It’s ten pages long, and heavily footnoted (Yikes!).  I’ve included the intro down below, because I think it really gives a lot of info on the background of the films that’s fun, and also super interesting.  I always say to take my stuff with a grain of salt, because it’s not particularly well-researched, but you can take this one as well-researched fact.  I’ll paste the footnotes at the bottom.  I’ll also post the whole essay at some point, but I want to make it easy for those who don’t want to wade through a ten page essay on historic theory to skip.  :)  Here it is!

George Veditz and the National Association for the Deaf Films

            In 1880 in Milan, Italy, the International Congress on Education for the Deaf voted to ban the use of sign language in Deaf[1] schools. [2]  Spurred by the rhetoric of Alexander Graham Bell, known to most Americans as the inventor of the telephone, American Deaf schools flocked to comply with the Milan Conference’s decision.  In return, a movement was spawned by Deaf community leaders advocating sign language instruction, fiercely hanging onto the culture they had fought so hard to create.  Still, it looked as if the Deaf were losing this fight as Alexander Graham Bell, a follower of eugenics, tried to convince everyone that the Deaf were forming their own separate race.  Even those who didn’t subscribe to eugenics “demanded the elimination of sign language, believing that it undermined English language acquisition and promoted deaf separatism.” [3]  In the end, deaf people would have to live in a hearing world, they argued, and they should have the skills to deal with that fact. Science has since proved what Deaf people knew all along, that this theory does not work in practicality.  Keeping sign language away from deaf people keeps all language away from deaf people, and can be harmful to cognitive development.[4]  Still, it looked as if sign might become extinct in the near future.

This is the climate in which the National Association of the Deaf, under President George Veditz, decided to make several films for the preservation of Sign Language.  “The N.A.D… has collected a fund of $5,000, called the Moving Picture Fund.” Veditz wrote, “…I am sorry that it is not $20,000.”[5]  With such a limited budget, Veditz and the NAD Board had to decide carefully which signers they would film and what subjects they would cover.  Ultimately, the films they chose to make tended to center on Deaf history, American patriotism, and religion[6].  Eighteen films were made in all, from the years 1913-1920, but only fourteen of these survived to the modern age.[7]  The loss of 4 films was due in large part to their heavy use by the Deaf community, and the poorly trained film operators responsible for winding the machines.

The films were made by pointing a static camera at the signers and having them lecture to it.  Often, small amounts of scenery such as vases and curtains were placed in the background for visual effect.  Because of the black and white picture and the poor resolution of the film, signers had to make sure they produced their signs large and signed slowly so everyone could see them.  After a few mistakes, most notably the film showing Edward Minter Gallaudet’s lecture – a retelling of Lorna Doone – filmmakers were also careful to place the lecturers on plain, dark backgrounds so their hands would show up easily.[8]  These films compared favorably with other films of the time in technical skill and appearance.

Once the films were completed, they were circulated throughout the United States to local Deaf Clubs.  These clubs would often couple the film screening with live entertainment, making each screening a huge event in the local Deaf community.  Large groups of signers would congregate in the hall downtown to see the films.  Sometimes, requests were made for the NAD to send transcripts of the films that could be read for any hearing visitors in the audience.  Although Veditz’s film, featuring his impassioned plea for sign language is the best known today, it was E.M. Gallaudet’s film that was most requested when the films were released, despite the difficult background of his film.[9]  This was probably due to the popularity of E.M. Gallaudet’s father, Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.  T.H. Gallaudet had been instrumental in forming the first school for the Deaf, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Although the films had a major impact on the Deaf community when they were first produced, scholarship on them has been spotty at best.  Many books cover the topic, but devote no more than a few pages to the exploration of the history of these films.  Some give no more than a brief mention to Veditz’s films as being the precursor to modern Sign Language recording.  This paper attempts to explore in greater detail not only the motives behind George Veditz’s creation of these films, and how these films influenced deaf culture as a whole, but also why the topic hasn’t been better covered by Deaf Historians.

That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed! :)  Also, a link to Veditz’s film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XITbj3NTLUQ


[1] The deaf community uses the term “Deaf” with a capital D to denote the segment of deaf people who consider themselves culturally deaf.  This separates them from other groups such as the elderly, who may experience total hearing loss, but hardly identify with the Deaf as a community.  I feel it is important to make this designation in the language Deaf people use about themselves, and have continued this practice throughout the paper.

[2] Daniel Eagan, America’s Film Legacy, (The Continuum Publishing Group: New York, 2012), Page 11

[3] Signs of Resistance, Page 3

[4] Oliver Sacks, Seeing Voices: A Journey Into the World of the Deaf, (University of California Press: Berkley, 1990), Page 54

[5] Eagan, America’s Film Legacy, Page 11

[6] Susan Burch, Signs of Resistance: American Deaf Cultural History 1900-WWII, (New York University Press: New York, 2002), Page 58

[7] Carol Padden and Tom Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, (Harvard University Press: Massachusetts, 2005), Page 58

[8] Padden and Humphries, Inside Deaf Culture, Page 63

[9] Padden and Humphries, inside Deaf Culture, (Harvard University Press: Massachusetts, 2005), Page 63

 am at the point in my signing that when I meet a Deaf person, they usually tell me that my sign is quite good.  I’m not really sure if that means my sign is actually good, or whether or not it only exceeds expectations, but I’ll take whatever I can get.  I realized at a party the other day when I was signing with a friend, that your ability to understand Deaf people does not actually go up with your signing ability.  The reason for this is that when your sign speeds up and gets better, so does the Deaf person who you’re talking to.

Remember in ASL 1 when you could only understand about every other word that was being signed to you?  The Deaf person was undoubtedly going very slowly and taking a lot of time to make sure you understand.  As your sign got better, so did the speed at which others communicated with you.  I’m at the point now where I get rapid-fire sign being thrown at me in non-English structure and I have to grasp for anything that will anchor me into the conversation.  I’ve known ASL for three years now, feel that attaining fluency is right around the corner, and I can still only understand about every other word that’s being said to me.

I’m sure that as I begin to recognize non-English structure, I’ll become more comfortable in these conversations.  Also, it isn’t like I don’t feel that my skills are improving.  My husband has recently learned to sign, and is discovering the wonderful world of ASL Youtube videos (as I did).  He’ll make me come in and interpret things for him if he doesn’t understand and thinks it’s probably funny, and I’m very able to! I also consider it a very good omen that my sign is considered good enough by my Deaf friends to leave the PSE at home (that’s Pigeon Signed English).

I had this mythos in my head that when I had passed ASL 4, I would be amazing and able to communicate flawlessly with everyone.  It turns out, there’s still a lot of work between ASL 4 and understanding every single word a person is saying to you, full speed ahead.  I just thought you’d like to know.

It’s true, I just opened my Etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ILYPaperProducts featuring cards with the ASL art on them.  It’s not much yet, but I’m insanely proud of it and I thought I’d share.  :)

    

 

etty G. Miller was born in 1934, and her parents were both Deaf.  Betty had two older brothers who were hearing, so everyone just assumed that Betty was too, especially because she could clearly hear a little bit.  It was a surprise to everyone in her family when she attended Kindergarten for the first time and was diagnosed as Hard of Hearing.  This threw her family for a loop.  Remembering all the prejudice and oppression they had experienced at the hands of hearing people, Betty’s parents decided that they wanted her to make the most use of whatever hearing she had.  This is why they made the surprising decision to send her to Bell School in Chicago – a school known for Oralistic practices.  Later, Betty’s parents took her out of Bell School and switched her into a regular mainstream school.  But the mainstream school didn’t have speech therapy, so Betty went to still another school in the evenings to be tutored in speech.

Betty did the best she could at these schools, and was a very successful student.  She got her degree in Art Education from Pennsylvania State University , but it wasn’t until she started to teach at Gallaudet University that things seemed to click for her.  She finally felt the sense of belonging that she had missed out on in her mainstream school career.  Betty’s art focused completely on the Deaf experience, depicting the oppression Deaf people face at the hands of hearing, and also exhibiting the joy of sign that can be found throughout the Deaf community.  Many of her paintings depict puppet-like deaf people – no doubt a response to all her speech therapy classes.  Artwork that focused entirely on the Deaf experience was an entirely new form of artwork in the 1970’s, and came to be called “Deaf View/Image Art.” Or De’VIA Betty was one of the early pioneers of this form of art.

Betty’s first one woman show took place at Gallaudet University in 1972, entitled “The Silent World”.  It was so successful, that throughout the 1970s’, she continued to have shows frequently at Gallaudet.  They were all very well received.  This spurred a series of one woman shows throughout the 1980’s and ‘90’s, and also many collaborative shows with other Deaf artists.  In 1993, Betty put on a showcase of eight Deaf artists, which was the largest collection of De’VIA that had ever taken place.

After 13 years of teaching at Gallaudet, Betty decided it was time to move on.  After a time touring around the country putting on shows, she became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor – the first Deaf person to ever do so.  This has allowed her to have a rewarding career helping other Deaf people overcome serious addiction problems, and also educating other Drug and Alcohol counselors on how best to work with Deaf people.  She has published a book about her and others experiences entitled “Deaf and Sober: Journeys Through Recovery” which she has both authored and illustrated.

Betty is currently in her 80’s.  Unfortunately, she has suffered from some memory loss and doesn’t create art very often anymore.  When she does, it’s usually in Neon  – a medium she discovered in the late 1990’s.  Still, her pioneering efforts in the field of De’VIA will always be remembered as some of the greatest contributions of the 20th century art world.  Without Betty, the world would be a little less bright and a little less Deaf-aware.

I just attended a whole day of Orientation events at Chapman University.  I was thrilled to find that they had ASL interpreters for all the large group events with podium speakers!  For the 1 1/2 hour long convocation ceremony, they even had a team!  First of all, props to Chapman for understanding and paying for the services Deaf people need.  That being said, I think they could improve their service even more.

My husband works at Chapman University, which means that I get to meet all sorts of behind-the-scene University people that most students don’t.  At a wedding a while ago, I met the woman who was in charge of booking the interpreters for special events at Chapman.  She told me that they were looking to improve the services they offered.  I believe I told them about RID certification and how that was a really good way to know you have an amazing interpreter.

The interpreters yesterday were a mixed bag.  I think they probably came from an agency, but really I’m just guessing.  The first group I watched was a team of two women.  The first woman was absolutely amazing and gave an equal-access interpretation.  She was funny when the speaker was funny, extremely animated, and caught almost every bit of information being thrown out by the speaker.  The second gal was not as good.  To be fair, she was interpreting for a man using lots of folksy language and English idioms, but I felt that she didn’t match the speaker very well and she left out a lot of non-essential information.

The team did well, though.  I hardly noticed when they switched between each other and they even kept interpreting through the non-captioned video that was shown.  I was thoroughly impressed.

That night, I went to a talk on the History and Traditions of Chapman University.  It was such a cool and funny class.  I was sitting in a really bad place to watch the interpreter (there were very tall people all around me and she was standing on the floor).  While I can’t really comment on the rest of the interpreting job she was doing, she didn’t interpret through the non-captioned movie, which I didn’t appreciate.

The two bits of advice I would have to Chapman about using interpreters in the future would be to ask the agency for people who are RID certified or have been interpreting more than five years.  They do so much to make their students feel welcome, and I really think it would be such a relief for Deaf students to see that they were getting equal access to information being presented.  It would make Deaf parents feel that they were leaving their student in the hands of someone who not only cares, but is willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of their child.

The second piece of advice would be to put those interpreters on a podium, please!!  I’d like to be able to see them no matter where I was sitting, and a little elevation will do just that.

Chapman University is a class act.  For people who know next to nothing about interpreters or interpreting, they did really well!  I was impressed by everything I saw yesterday, not just the interpreters.  Watching their interpreters made me feel like they really cared, though.  They really wanted everyone to have a good experience at orientation, not just the “normal” hearing freshmen.  I think I’m going to like attending here!

y ASL pin came several months ago, and I’ve been wearing it proudly.  For those who are interested in that sort of thing, here it is:  I’m now equipt and ready to help anyone who signs!

 have a very exciting announcement!  At least, I’m very excited about it.  I have officially dropped out of Mt. San Antonio College.  With budget cut after budget cut, I just can’t get classes for the life of me.  I’m now 2 years behind in a 3 year program (of which I had taken the first year before I started at Mt. SAC), and I’m afraid of how much longer it will take me to get through if I stay with the current plan.

The new plan is to transfer to Golden West College.  The same price as Mt. SAC with a good overall reputation, It looks like I’ll be able to get into all the classes I need fairly easily (!!!).  It also looks like their program is a little less strict than the Mt. SAC program, but that doesn’t bother me at all.  I’m ready to get my hands in the air, and I’ve decided that I just can’t wait as long as Mt. SAC expects me to, crossing my fingers every year that I get into the class I need this time.

On the other front, I start attending Chapman University for my BA this year.  I love telling people I’m a History major and then, when they ask me what I plan to do with that degree, tell them “ASL Interpreter”.  I get many odd looks, and it’s lots of fun.  Of course, then I have to explain to them that I need a BA in anything to get certified, I’ve always liked History, and I figure why not get a degree in it.  Especially when any degree is helpful.

Chapman so far has been a dream come true.  Their registration proccess and welcoming attitude have been so amazing that it makes me want to cry.  I’ve never felt so wanted by an institution in all my life, and after all the denials and struggles to register at community college, it’s been amazing to feel liked.  I’ve looked carefully at making a custom minor for myself there, in Deaf Studies.  All I’m waiting for is to submit my plan to the accademic council.  Here’s the proposal I’m sending them:  I hope it works!!!  I’ll keep you posted on what happens with this, and on any really cool stuff I learn along the way.

To whom it may concern:

I am interested in pursuing a custom minor in Deaf Studies from Chapman University.  I believe that with my course work from Mt. San Antonio College, supplemented by some of the upper-division course work from Chapman, I will be able to achieve a relevant degree in this subject from your university.  These are the classes I propose to use toward that minor:

Lower Division: (10 units total)

American Sign Language 4 – 4 units.  This class has been taken through Mt. San Antonio College.  The course description is as follows:  72 hours lecture.  Emphasis on expressive conversational skills in American Sign Language along with continued focus on grammatical and cultural features.  CSU/UC transferable.

American Deaf Culture – 3 units.  This class has been taken through Mt. San Antonio College.  The course description is as follows: 72 hours lecture.  American Deaf cultural norms, values, mores, and institutions.  CSU transferable.

American Sign Language Structure – 3 units.  This class has been taken through Mt. San Antonio College.  The course description is as follows: 54 hours lecture.  Linguistic Study of American Sign Language, including phonology, morphology, and syntax.  Sociolinguistic issues will also be discussed.  CSU/UC transferable.

Upper Division: (12 units total) – These classes would be taken at Chapman University.  After the proposed class, I have included a description as to how I think each class will contribute to my understanding of Deafness.  There are more than twelve units worth of classes listed, and I thought that the GE committee and myself could pick twelve units from this list so as to come up with the strongest combination of classes in this minor.

COM 480, Nonverbal Communication – 3 units.  While American Sign Language is the preferred communication system used throughout the American Deaf community, some Deaf people have had limited exposure to ASL or have not learned to use it at all.  On the other end of the spectrum are Deaf people who have not had much exposure to English and cannot use language alone to communicate with the hearing world around them.  I believe that this class will help me better understand these groups of people and how they communicate with the world through methods other than language.

IES 413, Current Issues in Disability Studies and Services – 3 units.  Deaf people don’t consider themselves disabled, yet use and benefit from many of the services available to disabled groups.  By studying these services and issues, and also the viewpoint of non-disabled groups toward the disabled,  I will have a better understanding of the options available for Deaf people living in America and how being grouped with the disabled effects their lives both positively and negatively.

Independent Study – 3 units.  I propose concentrate on one of two topics.  The first is to study George Veditz and the National Association of the Deaf’s quest to preserve American Sign Language for future generations during the early 1900’s through the use of film.  As part of this topic, I would also like to study similar efforts today to preserve ASL on film.  A second possibility would be to study Deaf art and literature and how it depicts and shapes the Deaf world view.

Internship – 3 units. I would like to intern with either the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), or Deaf West Theater.  These are both premiere Deaf-run institutions in Southern California and I believe that interning at one of these places will give me practical insight into Deaf Culture and the Deaf way of life that cannot be achieved through classes alone.  Both groups accept interns frequently.

This equals 22 units, one more than the 21 unit minimum required to qualify for a minor per the 2011-2012 Academic Catalogue.  I have also looked carefully at the other language-based minors at Chapman and believe that these selections are in keeping with the theme of those programs.

In addition to this information, I would also like to present the requirements to several Deaf Studies minors from various colleges across America.  I believe they will show you that the course of study above is consistent with established programs across the nation.

Gallaudet University, the premier institute for the Deaf,  includes:

  • American Sign Language courses
  • Deaf Culture
  • American Sign Language Structure
  • Disability Studies
  • Internship
  • Introduction to Deaf View/Image Art

Rochester Institute of Technology, an institution allied with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf:

  • American Sign Language courses
  • Deaf Culture in America
  • Linguistics of American Sign Language
  • Special Topics: Deaf Art and Cinema
  • Oppression in the Lives of Deaf People

University of Southern Maine includes:

  • American Sign Language courses
  • Introduction to the Deaf World (Deaf Culture)
  • ASL Linguistics
  • Research Internship
  • Deaf Art, Film, and Theater

Boston University includes:

  • American Sign Language courses
  • History and Culture of the Deaf
  • American Sign Language Structure
  • Field Experience
  • Deaf Literature and ASL Folklore

Thank you so much for your consideration in allowing me to take this minor.  Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do to make this decision easier.

Sincerely,

Casey E. Hamilton

n my interpreting class last night everyone was required to do a group presentation on a topic of their choice.  There are only four boys in the class, so they all banded together and decided to do gender issues in interpreting.  Out of all the presentations, theirs impressed me the most.  They brought up a ton of interesting stuff.  that I had never contemplated before about interpreting for a person of the opposite gender.

*Disclaimer: There are dirty words in this post.

To start off their presentation one of the boys signed a story to us and asked us to write down our interpretation.  He told us it was an informal conversation among friends, so we should keep that in mind while interpreting.  My translation was “3 of my friends and I went out to a bar.  We were sitting at the counter when this girl walked up and sat down.  Her skirt was so short, you could totally see her vagina.”    Other girls had written down silly euphemisms like “Lady Junk” and our female teacher wrote down “she was clearly not wearing chonies.”

The boy’s point on this was that none of those words would have come out of their mouths… possibly vagina, but not very likely.  When they did the same excercise, they came up with words that would be considered much dirtier, like pussy and snatch… words that most females feel uncomfortable saying.  I’ve spent a lot of time around (extremely) rude and crass boys before, but none of those other terms came to my mind as I was translating.  I don’t know if I was just so concentrated on the meaning that I forgot I was representing someone else’s conversation, or if it’s truly because I’m female and uncomfortable with saying those things.  Maybe it was a little of both.  I think this exercise was a drastic example of how the male mind and the female mind work completely differently, and that you have to be aware of those things if you’re going to interpret for someone of the opposite gender.

Another thing they brought up was “Passive Voice”.    Passive Voice is a way of speaking and acting towards another person that is deferential.  Women often use passive voice when interacting with people, both male and female, so as not to be perceived as bitchy.  We do it without thinking about it, so it’s not a conscious choice or anything.  Males, however, often use a more aggressive voice – especially in business situations.  This will influence your interpreting style.

To illustrate this, the boys talked about the story of a woman interpreter and her male deaf client who was a manager at a company.  She noticed as she was interpreting for him at work meetings that the assignments he gave people either didn’t get done or got done much slower than some of the other manager’s requests.  She decided to have a chat with her client about how he wanted to be perceived around the office and then did her best to perpetuate that image through her speaking, even if it was uncomfortable for her.  People suddenly started taking his assignments more seriously.  When her client’s work evaluation came up, she did the same.  Instead of saying things like “I think I did pretty well this year”, she would say things like, ” I did great this year and this is why.”  She said she felt very rude and pushy doing it that way, but the performance evaluation went amazingly well.  When it was over, her deaf client told her it was the best evaluation he had ever had.

I think this is another good example of an interesting thing: I know how to be a woman in the world, but in order to be a good interpreter I should also learn about being a man in the world as best I can.  If I don’t learn more about gender dynamics and how men operate, I can potentially hurt a client by misrepresenting him.  I mean, best case scenario – he sounds silly.  Worst case scenario – he misses out on a promotion because he’s perceived as weak.

It’s a lot of food for thought, and something I’ve never really pondered before.  This interpreting stuff is harder than it looks!!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 100 other followers

April 2014
S M T W T F S
« Oct    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

The Latest:

Good news!! My Etsy site is up and running. If you like the art, there's more of it in card form at http://www.etsy.com/shop/ILYPaperProducts. You should really go check it out.

Blog Stats

  • 168,259 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 100 other followers

%d bloggers like this: