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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!

 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!!

I just got word a few days ago that I got into Chapman University, which I’m so thrilled about, I can’t even tell you!!  They like me, they really like me!

While this doesn’t exactly have to do with sign, it does get me one step closer to getting a BA, which gets me one step closer to being certified as an interpreter.   I just thought I’d like to share the good news.  🙂

I started my first interpreting class two weeks ago, and boy are we talking about some interesting things!!  The name of the class is “Principles of Interpreting” and, as my teacher says, it’s everything about interpreting that doesn’t have to do with ASL.  We’ve been dealing with dress codes, on the job stress, talking about types of interpreting (who knew there were so many?!), and all sorts of other things. 

The topic I’m finding most pertinent right now is on the job stress.  A few weeks ago, I was in a work-type situation where there were a mixed group of Deaf and Hearing folks.  A very Audist gentleman was being a total A$$H*!@ to the Deaf folks, much more so than to any of the hearing.  He would spontaneously yell and reprimand people publicly.  I even once heard him say “I don’t care about Deaf Culture, I just want you to do it my way.”  I was not the interpreter in this situation (thank God!!)  but boy was I stressed!!  I think the worst thing for me was that this gentleman came into the situation spouting all the right stuff about Deaf Culture and Deaf rights.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know better.  it was just that, when push came to shove, he didn’t care.I was so stressed one night that – I’ll admit it – I went home and cried. 

In class, we’ve been talking about worse situations than the one I experienced, such as being the operator for a 911 VRS call, or having to tell someone in a hospital that their mother just died.  I’ve heard all this can wear on an interpreter until the experience what’s called Vicarious Trauma.  Don’t worry, I’m not re-thinking my desire to become an interpreter, I’m just thinking about all the tools I’ll need to handle this.

I have never handled stress very well.  My usual master plan is to go home and have a good cry, which frankly frightens my husband.  Crying is not a good strategy for stress management, at least not for me.  But what other tools can I use?  I’ll be pondering that as I take the rest of this course.  Along with everything else I’m learning.

One of the gals I worked at Deaf West with asked me if I’d like to help out on a Deaf film last weekend.  Of course I got really excited and said yes!!  I didn’t know the director or anything before-hand but the two lead actors on the film were also in My Sister In This House, and I knew that several of the people I worked with at Deaf West would be helping on the film.  It’s only been a month since the show has been over and I already miss the girls at Deaf West soooo much.  Plus, an afternoon to practice signing is the BEST thing ever.   I met everyone at GLAD in Eagle Rock for the shoot.  I had never been there before, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful it is.  The building is a 1920’s spanish style that’s been modernized to be state of the art.  They have the most beautiful garden with a fountain, and there are trees just surrounding the building.  Inside, everything is extra nice.  It seemed as home-like as an office can seem, to me.  They had plush sofas, dark wooden desks, pictures on the walls, and an air of calm importance.  I’ve often thought about working for GLAD once I become certified, and visiting just solidified my wish.

We had a great time.  Jules Dameron is a Deaf girl doing her best to make it as a film-maker.  She wrote and directed Beyond Essays, an all ASL film with Deaf actresses.  It speaks to many hot-button issues in the Deaf community, like the ASL vs English debate, and includes a protest of AB2072.  I checked out a few of her other short films on line this week and she’s brilliant.  She’s made some very cool films.

I would say we were about 1/2 deaf and 1/2 hearing on the set.  Many of the production people didn’t know sign at all, but about 1/2 of the Production Assistant helpers were deaf, and all of the actors were deaf.  They had about three interpreters at a time on set, and they were a big help.  A couple of the production people started mistaking me for an interpreter when they realized how much sign I knew, oops!!  I pointed them in the right direction immediately:  signing is one skill, interpretation is a totally different ball of wax.  I’m better than nothing, but everyone’s going to get much more accurate information from someone who’s been trained properly.  I guess that’s what I get for wearing a black shirt.

Mostly I ran errands around the set, and off the set… someone had to go get lunch.  I also did a lot of chatting with folks in the Green Room during down times.  I felt like my ASL held up pretty well to everything, and I was WAY less nervous about communicating than I have been in the past.  It was great getting tons of practice.  I noticed again how much better my receptive skills are than my expressive.  I need to get back into the swing of going to events around town and improve the signing that I’m doing a little more.

The day wound up with Jules asking many of the production folks to step in and be protesters for the film.  I didn’t expect to be on screen at all, but I may be in the movie!!  It was so much fun to stand in front of the camera yelling “Preserve ASL” at the top of my lungs while signing the words madly and vehemently in the beautiful courtyard.  It was the perfect ending to my day.

I’ll be excited to see what Beyond Essays turns out to be in it’s finished form.  If the stuff I saw this weekend is any indication, it’s going to be an amazing film.  Right now, the estimated run time is around 10-minutes.  I’ll let everyone know when it comes out.

t Mount San Antonio College, where I’m studying for my sign certificate, there are ducks all over the ASL department.  Rubber ducks, duck pens, decoy ducks, yellow feathers, plush ducks, basically any kind of duck you can think of, it’s there somewhere.  Frequently I’ll come into class and there will be duck pictures drawn all over the white boards, with the words “Quack” written everywhere too.  On the day a bunch of people came into class wearing duck masks and pelting little duck erasers at the teacher, we got a hilarious explanation of what’s really going on.   This is what we were told:

Robert Arnold started it all, he fully admits to everything.  In his first year of teaching, he was required to attend these once a week meetings about how to be a better teacher.  He’s Deaf, so he had two interpreters to go with him.  Well, the meetings were pretty boring.  So instead of trying to pay attention, he decided to screw with the interpreters.  He would be signing really inappropriate things to the one interpreter while the other interpreter was trying to do her job, and vice versa.  The interpreter would be watching their conversation and trying really hard not to be unprofessional and laugh.  The other two were also frequently trying not to laugh out loud and disturb the meeting, which they did with varying success.  The interpreters didn’t know what to do.  They finally asked the big boss, Julie Bradley, what they should do about the situation so they could remain professional.

Julie decided to come down to the meeting and see what was going on for herself.  Instead of behaving himself,  Bob asked the interpreters why someone hadn’t made an air freshener for farts.  You could stick it up there and when you farted it could emit a little puff of scent and be really nice.  Or how about a whistle?  Instead of the farting noise, it could whistle Yankee Doodle or Camp Town Races or something.  Eventually this devolved into sticking a duck whistle up there.  That way when you farted, you would emit a really loud duck call.  After that he would draw pictures of ducks on pieces of paper and hold them up for the interpreters to see as they were trying to do their job.

And so the Duck Wars were born.  It’s the interpreters against the Deaf teachers, and they both attempt to recruit students to their side.  The interpreters started leaving Bob little plush ducks and things, and Bob chuckled in glee as he told us about the day he completely covered every inch of Julie’s office with yellow feathers.  She duckified his office in retaliation a little while later, and now there are ducks all over the place.  Most of the students seem to be on Juile’s side.  As she points out, she teaches most of the interpreting classes and it’s kinda up to her whether we pass the program or not.  I also think that, as future interpreters ourselves, we tend to side with our partners in occupation.

As Bob says, the Duck Wars are a great way to break the monotony at work and have a little fun among colleagues.  I think it gives our department a little more personality.  All the students love it, and it’s never disrupted our learning environment.  In fact, I think it adds to it.    It’s great to be in a serious class, but sometimes a little diversion helps you study better after it’s over.  So if you’re going to Mt. SAC, slip someone a duck.

I’ve been doing this blog for over a year now, and I think it’s high time there was some signing going on.  My teacher asked us to sign an embarrassing moment that had happened to us, and it had to involve either food or liquid.  I’m pretty proud of the video, and I thought I’d share it.  There’s one place where I get a little flummoxed, but otherwise I think it’s great.  The transcript is below for everyone who’s “ASL Challenged”.   Thanks for watching!!

~

long time ago, I worked at a Dinner Theater.  You know, people go in and sit down and eat and when they’re finished they watch a show?  Yeah.  I was a bus girl.  I filled people’s water glasses, I gave people bread baskets, and I took away everyone’s dirty plates.  I was busy all the time, always running around.  I didn’t have time to take a dirty plate, walk all the way to the kitchen with it, and then do it all again.  Instead, I had a tray.  I would place it at the end of the table and put all the dirty dishes there.  When everyone was finished, I would carefully pick up the tray and walk to the kitchen with it.

One night I was running around like usual, and I heard the music start, I heard the show start.  I hadn’t picked up my tray yet!  I ran into the dining room and picked it up as quickly as I could, but I wasn’t very careful.  As I stood up, the tray slid backwards and crashed to the floor.  Plates went flying everywhere and food went flying everywhere.  Everyone’s head snapped in my direction as people picked up their feet to avoid being hit by the flying food.  I was standing there all red faced when the lights went out.  I had to sit there in the darkness, picking up all the plates, and cleaning up all the food.

My boss was a funny guy.  At the end of the night he came up to me and said, “Oh, poor you.  You had a bad night.  Here’s a soda.”

I thought, “Really?  I made this horrible mistake and you’re giving me soda?  Wow.”

Thank you, Thank you!!

ately, I’ve found myself dreaming in Sign.  I’ll be sitting there in a dream and someone will walk up to me and start signing, and I’ll start signing back to them.  One night I dreamed that my dad was signing to me, but he was using some dialect I couldn’t understand and I kept having to ask him to sign it again.  The oddest people in my dreams have only known sign:  Librarians, check-out people at the supermarket, my Music teacher (that’s ironic, right?), random strangers passing by on the street.   The best part is, I’m usually fluent in ASL without effort in my dreams.  Yay!  If only it were that way in real life…

I poked around a little on line and saw that it’s pretty common for people learning a language, or who have previously learned a language, to dream in it.  I wonder why we do that?  Some people claim that it’s because we’re studying a language seriously, but I don’t think that can be true in all cases.  I’ve frequently had sign dreams during the summertime when I’m not taking classes at all.  I’m hoping it really means that ASL is seeping into my consciousness a little more.

No matter why it’s happening, I’m kind of excited that it is.  Sign is just as fun when you’re sleeping as when you’re awake.  Trust me, I know.

fter going to the Mata Expo for a couple of years, I felt like I knew exactly what to expect from the Deaf Nation Expo.  And it was pretty much as I pictured it:  booths and vendors and people everywhere on a much bigger scale than Mata.  The event took place at the Pomona Fairplex in one of their giant concrete buildings.  As soon as I crossed the bridge from the parking lot, I knew right where the expo was happening.  A giant mob of people were standing and signing outside the building, and a huge line on one side indicated all the people who hadn’t signed up for free tickets beforehand.  There was one difference for me from the other expos I had been to.  I was bringing my husband, Brian, who doesn’t know any ASL and has only spent time with highly oral Deaf people.

I usually feel like having Brian along makes everything a better experience, but so far I’ve avoided taking him to Deaf things.  I always worry that the language barrier will be too much for him, and that he’ll have a terrible time.  Lately, I’ve been trying to convince him to learn ASL with me. So I’ve envited him to the last few Deaf things and he’s come willingly.  I know he feels awkward about it, but he seems to have a good time in a surreal, culture shock kind of way.  Bringing Brian to Deaf Nation turned out to be one of the best things ever.  I’m naturally shy and won’t ask people things, even if I’d like to know.  Brian always wants to know, and isn’t shy about marching up to people he’s never met.  Because I was his “voice” that day, I ended up asking people all sorts of things that I never would have thought of on my own.  I got a lot of really neat information, too.  Did you know that the first TTY machines actually communicated using Morse Code?  I didn’t either.  I guess the first model that Robert Weichtbreit and James Marsdon put together was a machine that would either take in the Morse Code and translate it to English or take the English and translate in into Morse Code, depending on which way the information was flowing.  Cool, huh?  And I never would have known if it hadn’t been for Brian.  Even though he didn’t know ASL, he ended up enriching my ASL experience.  He’s so great like that.  🙂

This is the first time I’ve been out in the Deaf community that I’ve acutally seen people I know in droves.  At past events, I might run into one of my classmates at a large event, but for the vast majority of the time I’m alone with no support.  This time, I saw a ton of people I know.  Other students from my classes, people I know from Deaf West, old teachers, everyone was milling about in that giant building.  For the first time, I felt like I could maybe be considered a part of the community.  It was great.

I think most importantly, though, it left me wanting more.  I haven’t been able to attend all the weekend Deaf Events in Southern California because I’ve been working at Deaf West, but once the show is over I definitely need to start doing those things again.  I miss being out in the community and chatting in ASL with people I just met.  I’m starting actual interpreting classes (not the pre-interpreting stuff I’ve been doing) in 6 months.  I need more practice fast!  That means I’ll be doing everything I can to get into the community and chat more.  See you around.

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