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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!

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!!

At Disneyland where I work, they allow you to have a n extra little pin at the bottom of your name tag if you speak a language other than English.  I think the idea is that people from all over the world come to Disneyland and should you need extra assistance talking to anyone, you can just pull your friend aside who has a “Mandarin” name tag on and they can help you (or whatever language you need).  They’re really stringent about who they let have a pin.  You have to go and do a special test with a native speaker of that language.  If you pass the test, they put our name on a list, and only people with their name on the list are allowed to have the pin.

They offer an ASL name tag, but I’ve been holding off on getting one until I felt I knew enough sign to really help someone.  Besides, the guy I would be testing with is a CODA, interpreted for Hundreds of years at Disney World (OK, I’m exaggerating), and is now head of disability services for the whole park… very nerve-wracking.  I’m starting interpreting classes now, though.  I felt like this was something I should certainly be able to pass.  I also felt like this is just the first in a series of tests that I’m going to be taking in the next few years, so I better get used to it. 

Really, it ended up being super easy and a lot of fun.  The guy who tested me was extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  As soon as he started explaining what would happen, I knew I would pass no problem.  The test consisted of three parts:  Part one, he would give me a vocabulary work and I would sign it back to him.  Part two, he would sign a work or small phrase and I would tell him what he said.  Part 3 was a short conversation.  I don’t think I’ve taken a test so easy since ASL 1.  He was impressed that I knew the sign for “tickets” (super-easy!!!) and the hardest thing he signed to me was that he lost his 7-year-old daughter and explained to me what she was wearing.  The conversation part consisted  of the information you give to every deaf person you meet at any Deaf Event.  When the test was over, he told me that he thought it was the quickest he’s ever given, as he just skipped over the easy stuff.  Let me tell you, I felt great!!

The best part about the meeting, though, was all the information he gave me on Deaf Services at Disneyland.  He was saying that people will see my pin and expect me to be an expert, so he’d give me all the information he could.  Such cool stuff!! They have a little handheld Closed Captioning device that’s radio-tuned to the ride, so people on the ride can read what the overhead voice is saying in places like the haunted mansion.  They also offer interpreted performances four days a week, 2 days at California Adventure, and 2 days at Disneyland.  I have to say, I kinda want to ask for one of those Closed Captioning devices the next time I’m in the park.  It would be fun to see how accurate they are and how easy they are to read and use while riding the ride.  I’ll definitely have to do that and report back. 

The other thing we discussed that I thought was interesting is when I’m allowed to interpret and when I’m not.  It’s all stuff we’ve covered in classes I’ve taken too, but I thought it was great that he’s concerned about Deaf people having qualified interpreters when they need them.  All in all, I was very impressed with my Disney Deaf experience.  I can’t wait to try out their stuff for myself.  And in the mean time, I’ll be waiting for my pin to arrive!!

In the late 1600’s, an extended family from Weald, England settled on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in New England.  The family carried a strong hereditary deafness gene, and as they married and intermarried, the rate of deaf people born on the island rose steadily.  By the 1700’s almost everyone on the island had a deaf family member or two.  Because of the high rate of deafness, the society on the island was completely different from mainstream, mainland society.

Mainland New England at this time was generally a terrible place for deaf people to live.  Many people believed that deafness was a punishment from God.  While the families of deaf children may have developed home signs, mainstream society could not understand these rudimentary signs, usually only good for expressing basic needs and requests, and different from home to home.  Scholars debated about whether a deaf person could reason and learn like a hearing person.  There were almost no career opportunities for deaf adults.  The best they could hope for was to be trained to do manual labor for someone else’s business.

The prospects for deaf people on Martha’s Vineyard were completely different.  Many of the former residents of the island were interviewed, and they paint an idyllic picture of what it was like to live in Martha’s Vineyard during this time.  Because everyone had a deaf family member, everyone in the community knew sign language.  Deaf people were farmers, store clerks, anything they wanted to be.  Hearing people would sign to each other over the large expanses the island farms created, a deaf person could walk into a store and the clerk would always know sign.  Deaf people were even elected to high political office, becoming mayors and council members for the island, a thing unheard of in the rest of the country.  When telling stories about the community, the people who were being interviewed could only remember after much prompting if the people they were talking about were hearing or deaf.

The rare deaf/hearing equality experienced in Martha’s Vineyard is still remarkable today.  In a society where hearing people are ignorant about deaf issues and can be very rude, a place like Martha’s Vineyard seems particularly wonderful.  The equality that was shared by everyone, and the prejudices about deaf people that didn’t exist, make the little island community seem like the perfect place.  Many deaf people consider it the ultimate utopia.

Ironically, the opening of the first deaf school in Hartford, Connecticut was a big reason why the hereditary deafness on the island petered out.  Many deaf people from the island attended the school, met and married other deaf people who’s deafness wasn’t hereditary, and lived and had children near the school on the mainland of New England.  As more and more of the population moved away, less and less deaf children were born on the island.   In 1952, hereditary deafness died on the island with the death of Katie West.  Though the community is gone today, it’s signs live on.  Children attending the Hartford school mixed their signs in with the French Sign Language Laurent Clerc brought with him from Paris, creating much of the uniquely beautiful American Sign Language that exists today.

aturday was horrifically hot and awful.  It was over 100 degrees, and you could see the waves of heat coming off the macadam roadways.  Instead of staying inside like any decent person would, I worked Deaf West’s booth at DEAFestival LA.  Aside from the unbearable heat, I had an amazing time!

My shift at the booth was supposed to start at 2:00, but I hit the inevitable LA traffic.  That, coupled with a 3 car accident on the side of the road, served to make me a bit late.  As I pulled off the freeway, I saw with relief the little sign procaiming DEAFestival parking, and a blue arrow pointing the way in.  Murphy’s law tends to work out so that whenever I’m running late, I usually get lost too.  I was excited that didn’t have to worry about that today.  I drove down a dusty road while a volunteer pointed me to park in a vast expanse of dustiness.  There was a bus, shuttling people from parking lot to festival, so I retrieved my purse from the back seat of the car, straightened my new blue “Deaf West” shirt, and trudged through the dust to the bus stop.  I was excited when I knew one of the volunteers helping people park!  She also volunteers at Deaf West sometimes.  We chatted a little before I took my place in the shade to await the bus.

It probably took less that 15 minutes for the bus to arrive, but the opressive heat made it seem like much longer.  My little Disney Heat Index trained self was telling me to drink water NOW or suffer the consequesces.  Too bad I hadn’t brought any with me.  As I waited, I caught snippets of conversation from the others waiting for the bus.  I think that’s the first time I’ve understood parts of ASL conversation without trying too.  Evidence I’m getting better?

The bus dropped us all off underneath a line of tall pine trees, next to another field of dustines.  Blue Easy-ups stretched out in the vast expanse of brown dirt while people bustled here and there.  I joined them, determined to rush around and find the Deaf West booth as quickly as possible.  As soon as I joined the crowd, a woman stopped me.

“Hi!  You work for Deaf West?” she asked, signing with a very student accent.

“No, I’m a volunteer.” I signed back.

“Are you hearing?”  She asked me.

“Yes.”

“Oh thank goodness.”  She said to me in English.  She wanted to know about volunteering at Deaf West.  I told her that I considered it an amazing experience, that they needed people for just about everything, and that she could go on the website and fill out their form if she was interested.  We exchanged names, and I went on my way.

I found the booth pretty quickly, in the middle of the middle aisle.  Ty, the Deaf West representative was chatting with someone in front of me.  “Hi!” I signed to him, ” I’m volunteering today. I’m soooo sorry I’m late!”

“Don’t worry about it.”  He signed back to me, and I took my place behind the counter.  The next two hours were great.  I chatted with people in my bad ASL, handed out forms, asked them if they wanted to win tickets, explained the shows that were coming up, and all together had an amazing time.  They even had bottles of water for us to drink so we didn’t get dehydrated!  The other girl who was volunteering with me was an ASL 2 student, and she did so well!!  I don’t know that I would have done as well as she did when I was in ASL 2.  We made friends fast,  and exchanged numbers at the end of our booth stint.  Several Deaf people asked me my name, several more decided to tease me (which I always enjoy), and I saw a lot of funny t-shirts.  “I laughed my ASL off” was one of the t-shirts I really liked, but my favorite by far was “Don’t Scream, I’m not that Deaf.”  I also saw a LOT of people I knew milling about in the crowd.  It was exciting to know that I was recognizing people and becoming a part of the community, slowly but surely.

When my booth stint was up, I wandered around for a few minutes.  I decided several months ago that my dream interpreting job would be to work for GLAD (Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf), so I was excited to see their signs.  I took a bunch of fliers, figuring I would peruse them later.   I also walked around to see if there was any ASL merchandise I wanted to buy.  Sadly there were only two booths selling things, and they were things I really wasn’t interested in.  The other thing I really missed was the TTY museum.  Maybe they decided not to attend because all their antique machines would be outside in the dust.  Aside from all the booths with Deaf themes, booths from the city of Los Angeles were there too. The Democratic party had a booth, the water district had a booth, and so did one of the candidates for city council.  It was nice to see people who aren’t part of the Deaf community trying to participate.  I commend them for trying, but it didn’t seem like many people were interested in what they were doing.  To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in what they were doing either.

I had an appointment that evening, so after I strolled leisurely through the rows of booths, I took the bus back to my dust-covered car and went on my merry way.  It was a great day!  I think my ASL stood up really well to the challenge of explaining things, I got to meet neat people, and I got to spend time with the Deaf community.  What could be better than that?  Not a whole lot.

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.

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.

ast year when it was so hard to get classes, my husband cheered me up with Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” (for a transcript, go here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/TenWays/story?id=3675954&page=1 ).  Evidently, it is a tradition that college professors who know they will be dying give a last lecture on what matters most to them.  Randy’s was amazingly inspirational and has garnered him a bit of fame.  In it, he explains that obstacles are there for a reason: they let you prove how much you want things.

I must really want to be an ASL interpreter.  I went through another horrible week of being turned away at every class.  The worst part is, I didn’t get the class that’s the prerequisite to everything else.  If everything goes well in the future, it will now take me double the time I thought it would to graduate with an ASL degree.

I do have a backup plan.  I need a BA anyway, so I’ll transfer and go to a “real” school while I’m finishing up my AA in sign.  I just feel so defeated right now.  I’m at a school I hate, fighting an uphill battle, for absolutely no gain.  I am so tired of loosing the fight against the California State budget cuts.

I’ll cheer up in a little bit, I promise.  I’m not giving up.  After all, if I work hard enough this year my ASL should be AMAZING by the time I get into those interpreting classes.  It will make my journey easier in the long run, right?  Hopefully? Maybe?…

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