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The Heart of Interpreting from Deaf Perspectives — From Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpageThis is the fifth weekly installment featuring highlights from the 20 chapters in the new book, Deaf Eyes on Interpreting, edited by Thomas K. Holcomb and David H. Smith which is scheduled to be released in June by Gallaudet University Press. This chapter, “The Heart of Interpreting from Deaf Perspectives” was written by Kim Kurz and Joseph Hill.

In the video above, Kim Kurz describes the motivation for conducting research with Deaf Professionals to discover their expectations and concerns regarding interpreters. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, they interviewed 10 Deaf professionals to identify what they would consider as “the heart of interpreting.” After analyzing their data, they found some common themes and concerns. These include:

1) A lack of bilingual skills (English and ASL) among interpreters  2) A less than effective use of fingerspelling to support the Deaf professionals  3) Skill in employing the elements of depiction in ASL, such as the use of space, classifiers, constructed action, and role shifting were found to be sorely lacking among many interpreters. These areas of concern, the authors feel, may be due to changes in the formation of interpreters from traditional cultural immersion to more emphasis on academic settings.

Providing ASL Interpreters in College Classes Does Not Ensure Equity —— From Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpageThis is the 4th weekly installment from the 20 chapters in the new book, Deaf Eyes on Interpreting, edited by Thomas K. Holcomb and David H. Smith, which is scheduled to be released in June by Gallaudet University Press. This chapter, American Sign Language Interpreting in a Mainstreamed College Setting: Performance Quality and Its Impact on Classroom Participation Equity, has three co-authors John Pirone, Jonathan Henner, and Wyatte C. Hall.

As John Pirone describes in the video clip above, their research shows it is an illusion to think that providing an ASL  interpreter in mainstreamed college classes provides equity for the Deaf students. He enumerates several areas of concern regarding interpreters’ skills and actions, including lack of ASL fluency, less than adequate ASL receptive skills, intercultural incompetency and lack of professionalism. In the full chapter,  the co-authors propose solutions to this troubling state of affairs for Deaf students in interpreted college classrooms.

Accountability and Transparency: The Missing Link in Ensuring Quality from Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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This is the third weekly installment featuring highlights from the 20 chapters in the new book, Deaf Eyes on Interpreting, DEOnIbookpageedited by Thomas K. Holcomb and David H. Smith, which is scheduled to be released in June by Gallaudet University Press. This chapter, entitled Accountability and Transparency: The Missing Link in Ensuring Quality in Interpreting, has three co-authors: Chad Taylor, Ryan Shephard, and Justin “Bucky” Buckhold.

It focuses on how the new “professional” relationship between agencies, interpreters and Deaf consumers has resulted in a lack of accountability and transparency. Interpreting agencies assign interpreters to jobs without much attention to quality. Interpreters accept jobs without any accountability for their work. These facts have resulted in less than satisfactory experiences for many Deaf people involved in interpreted sessions. Expert interpreters are often embarrassed by the unprofessional, subpar work of their poorly qualified peers. The authors argue that both interpreters and interpreting agencies must be held accountable for their work and that increased transparency is long overdue for this profession. Chad Taylor, in the video clip above, suggests that using crowdsourcing reviews can return to Deaf people the decision making power and control they deserve when it comes to hiring interpreters, instead of just having to accept “a roll of the dice.”.

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Deaf Dream Team: The DEAM Approach from Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpageThis is the second weekly installment featuring highlights from the 20 chapters in the new book, Deaf Eyes on Interpreting, edited by Thomas K. Holcomb and David H. Smith which is scheduled to be released in June by Gallaudet University Press.

In this chapter, Thomas K. Holcomb coins a new term, DEAM, which is a play on three English words: Deaf, Dream, and Team. He discusses how both interpreters and Deaf individuals often leave interpreted sessions feeling less than satisfied, even with the best interpreters involved. He proposes that the current standard practice is not adequate for Deaf people to fully understand the interpreted message and participate well in mostly hearing groups and suggests several ASL discourse techniques that interpreters can incorporate while interpreting lectures by hearing presenters.   He also questions several long traditions in the field of interpreting, such as the 20-minute switch rule. Tom encourages both Deaf people and interpreters to explore these issues in depth to come up with solutions that will result in better experiences for both Deaf people and interpreters.

Announcing an Important New Book: Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpage

Tom: Have you wondered if we need something better, something different when it comes to our interpreting experiences?  Have you ever wished that interpreters could do their work in a way that would make it easier for us to understand the message, easier for us to participate in “hearing” environments,” and easier for them to interpret our signed words more accurately.

Good news!  Dave Smith and I just completed editing a book that addresses this very topic.  It is called Deaf Eyes on Interpreting and will be released by Gallaudet Press on June 30, 2018. Over 30 Deaf people shared their perspectives, ideas, and solutions on improving the interpreting experience for everyone involved.

For the next 20 weeks, we will be sharing one chapter each week from the book by showing a five minute video summary in ASL.  The goal is to generate discussions among Deaf people, interpreters, and others on issues relevant to our experiences with interpreting.

To begin, Trudy Suggs explains the value of storytelling from her chapter, The Importance of Storytelling to Address Deaf Disempowerment.  

Can Writing About Food Spread Understanding of Deaf Culture?

Anna: These days, everyone is obsessed with food, posting photos of practically every meal they eat, cook or fantasize about on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Besides being an interpreter, I am a freelance writer and focus my magazine articles on the intersection of food and culture in order to increase Americans’ sensitivity to people from various cultures. I trust that the subject of food is so fascinating that while readers learn about “exotic” dishes from around the world, they may unconsciously absorb some cultural knowledge as well.

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Culinary Arts instructor, Vernon McNece, shares a moment with his students in the F.E.A.S.T. program at the California School for the Deaf – Fremont (photo: Nick Wolf)

But could this strategy work to sensitize Americans to the elements of Deaf culture as well? I think it definitely can. Although Tom and I have written books and produced videos to educate people about the features of Deaf culture, our consumers are usually ASL students or interpreters and not members of the wider public. So whenever I have the chance to write a food article and give some exposure to a Deaf chef or restaurant owner, I consciously include some relevant details that I hope will reveal aspects of Deaf culture to the general public. My initial chance to do so was when I  profiled my friend Betty Ann Prinz, the first self-identified “foodie” in our local Deaf Community. Besides teaching ASL, she cooked, catered, taught wine classes and became a trusted authority whom other Deaf people could go to with food-related questions. After recounting her life journey for my article, Betty Ann added some tips about which are the best seats for Deaf restaurant patrons (depending on the shape of the table, lighting and a non-distracting location). I am sure many hearing readers never considered this before.

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Melody and Russell Stein, owners of Mozzeria in 2011, during their construction phase (notice paint on Russ’ hands)  before their opening night. (photo:Anna Mindess)

The biggest challenge came when I interviewed the owners of the now acclaimed Deaf-owned San Francisco restaurant Mozzeria, Russ and Melody Stein. My meeting with them occurred a couple of weeks before opening night and Melody informed me that she definitely did not want me to give away any secrets about their up-coming menu (like their signature Hoisin duck pizza). So what could I write about for a food-focused website if not the food? The day I visited their not-yet opened Italian restaurant in a historic 1908 building, there was a lot of preparation going on: hammering, sawing, drilling.  Speaking with the Steins, I learned that they had hired Deaf wood refinishers to bring out the warm luster in the old floor, a Deaf electrician who was Melody’s classmate at CSD and a Deaf woodworker to design and make their door, tables, shelves, seating and marble-topped counter. So I mentioned: “As is the custom in collectivist Deaf Culture, the Steins looked first for Deaf artisans and laborers to fill their needs.”

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Deaf food fans on Edible Excursions’ ASL tour of the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto get a lesson in local butchery. (Longtime foodie Betty Ann Prinz is in the center) (photo: Ken Arcia)

In another article, I wrote about a local food tour in ASL for the many Deaf Bay Area food lovers who aren’t chefs themselves, just regular people (software developers, college professors, actors and retired folk)  who are obsessed with trying out new places and learning about the food history of Berkeley’s “Gourmet Ghetto.” As the tour leader, I knew I would be breaking a rule of politeness in Deaf culture. Due to our tightly planned schedule tasting tidbits at nine places in three hours,  I was going to have to rush the group from one spot to another. In Deaf Culture, I wrote, (despite the advances of email, video phones and texting), face-to-face communication in expressive ASL often has top priority and thus it is considered rude to interrupt signed conversations.

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Students Maribel Vargas and Milana Boren work on their entry for the Deaf Culinary Bowl, while Vernon McNece enumerates the tasks left to do in their timed practice. (photo: Nick Wolf)

My most recent article to pair food and Deaf culture came about when a mutual friend, –who knew we were both food-obsessed —  introduced me to Vernon McNece. Vernon had just moved back to California to become an instructor in the F.E.A.S.T. (Food Education and Service Training) program at the California School for the Deaf – Fremont.  It just happened that the day I visited Vernon’s classroom with a photographer, he and his students were preparing for the 8th Annual Deaf Culinary Bowl. That subject gave me a chance to describe the long tradition of diverse competitions in the Deaf community, such as the National Deaf Academic Bowl, the Deaflympics and even school football games and neighborhood bowling leagues.

Vernon also shared his story of working in a Food Lab, but as the only Deaf employee.  It was a frustrating experience for him, because although he had exceptional talent in creating formulas in record time, his hearing co-workers couldn’t even tell him how well he was doing.  When I turned in my article to the editor of Edible East Bay magazine, she expressed her appreciation of learning so many new facts about Deaf culture and her certainty that her readers would be equally enlightened.

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Vernon McNece explains to Maribel Vargas how to plate her salad to impress the judges. (photo: Nick Wolf)

Here is the full article about culinary instructor, Vernon McNece:

http://edibleeastbay.com/online-magazine/fall-harvest-2017/deaf-chefs-compete/

So if any of you are experts in something, pick your topic: be it sports, dance, art, cars, business and find a Deaf angle to write about. You may be doing a service by educating a new community of readers.

Visit Two Deaf-Owned Restaurants: Taipei’s Lotus and Bravo

Visit Two Deaf-Owned Restaurants: Taipei’s Lotus and Bravo

Anna Mindess 

As the waitress gently places the closed bud of a lotus flower in my pot of boiling broth, it slowly unfurls to show off its bright purple petals. CAN EAT? I sign to my new acquaintances around the table in this Deaf-owned restaurant. I see a chorus of nodding heads. It’s my first night in Taipei, but I’m already feeling quite at home thanks to the warm welcome from a half-dozen Deaf people and a couple of hearing interpreters who have come to dine with me at Lotus hot pot restaurant.

“Hot pot” refers to a classic Chinese DIY dinner, in which diners cook a variety of thinly sliced meats and a garden of vegetables in their own bubbling pots of broth. But Lotus hot pot is a bit different – and not just because its owner and many of the restaurant staff are Deaf – it also features an extra-healthy menu of organic vegetables, therapeutic broths with your choice of “Chinese medicine base” plus a salad bar of wild mountain herbs “to help remove toxins from the body.”

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I look forward to meeting the owner of Lotus and learning his story, but right now, he’s busy in the kitchen. So, it’s time to eat. The server brings out platters of assorted cut-up veggies, sliced meats, fish balls, plus the shellfish I ordered. And here‘s my next challenge. After being an American Sign Language interpreter and hanging out with Deaf people for over 30 years, I am used to one of the consequences of a culture that values face-to-face communication above almost anything else: eating cold food. Sure, the food comes out of the kitchen hot. But since a bit of juicy news or a good story needs to be appreciated in its entirety, it would be impolite to interrupt signed remarks for something as basic as enjoying hot food. The food will still be there, albeit a little cooler, when the story is done.
img_5058In the case of a hot pot restaurant, however, each diner must cook the various ingredients in their broth and carefully remove them before they overcook, so that the vegetables don’t become mushy and the meat doesn’t toughen up. As a novice, I am attempting to juggle my chopsticks, the unfamiliar green botanicals and some slippery shellfish while simultaneously trying to converse with a tableful of guests who know varying amounts of ASL. The woman sitting next to me, Ginger Hsu, a hearing Taiwanese Sign Language interpreter who speaks some English, has been looking up on her phone the English words for unfamiliar ingredients. Once she notices that my timing is off and the vegetables in my pot are becoming limp, she volunteers to help cook my dinner while I chat away. What impressed me most during my two weeks in Taiwan was the caring kindness of strangers.

Thanks to the global network of Deaf connections, this evening was organized for me by Will Chin, a thoughtful Taiwanese Deaf man who lived in the US for nine years while he attended Gallaudet, the University of Maryland and later taught.

The chain of Deaf acquaintances that led me to Will started with Melody Stein, who with her husband, runs San Francisco’s famous, Deaf-owned Mozzeria restaurant, which I wrote an article about on the eve of its opening in 2011. A couple of years later, when I was planning a trip to Hong Kong, I remembered that Melody was born there and asked if she had any friends in Hong Kong who might know ASL. She did and made the connection for me to the wonderful Jenny Lam, who had also attended Gallaudet. Jenny organized a dinner for me, much like this one, with a dozen Deaf people who had spent time in the US. Later, she took me an elegant dim sum restaurant because she knew I was writing an article about dim sum. When planning my trip to Taiwan, I contacted Jenny to see if she knew anyone in Taipei who might know ASL. She introduced me to Will Chin. When I emailed him and mentioned that besides being an ASL interpreter, I also write articles about food and culture for magazines and websites, Will knew I would love to visit this Deaf-owned restaurant.

After we finish eating, Will takes me back to the kitchen to meet owner Lu Chia-Hsun and interprets for me between Taiwanese Sign Language and ASL.

Lu previously had an office job, but in 2009, he worked on the International Deaflympics in Taipei. He had become ill because, he tells me, because he ate out a lot and didn’t make healthy choices. After mingling with Deaf athletes from around the world, he realized the importance of good food. When the Deaflympics ended, Lu looked for another job but became frustrated when he was repeatedly turned down. On his travels around Taiwan, he visited the city of Hualien and discovered a healthy hot pot restaurant, Sakura. He thought that opening a branch in Taipei would meet with success, asked his family to support him in this venture, and they agreed. But when Lu approached the owner of Sakura , he was met with resistance. Other people had tried to open branches of this restaurant but they had all failed. And now a deaf person with no restaurant experience! Lu’s family members negotiated on his behalf with the owner, saying if Lu fails, we will take responsibility. The owner finally agreed.

Lu opened the Taipei branch in 2009 and initially, not many customers came. Then slowly, as word spread about this healthy version of classical hot pot, the spot attracted more and more customers. “Business is very good now,” Lu tells me, “except when the weather is too hot. But when it’s cold outside, we have a huge line!”

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Will Chin showed me Jiufen and two Deaf-owned restaurants

A few days later, after Will takes me to visit the quaint mountain town of Jiufen, we head back to Taipei for an afternoon coffee at Bravo, another Deaf-owned restaurant. This cozy café sports a sunshiny interior, from its butter yellow walls to its taxicab yellow coffee roaster and espresso machine. Since, like Lotus, this restaurant caters to both Deaf and hearing customers, the walls are decorated with illustrations of some crucial signs – especially for caffeine-deprived customers who need to get their morning fix in a hurry. While we wait for our drinks, I practice the signs for “Good morning, “Coffee,” and “Thank you.”

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Johnny Lo makes coffee at Bravo

Will introduces me to husband and wife owners, Johnny Lo and Mandy Chang. Lo tells me that when he decided to open a coffee shop, he was warned that it was a very competitive business. In order to achieve coffee drinks with an exceptional taste, he studied privately with a teacher for a year and a half. And it took six months of practice, he adds, to master the flowers, swans and heart shapes he fashions out of foamed milk to top his coffee drinks.

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His little shop attracts both Deaf and hearing customers. The busiest time is 8-10am for regular customers. Saturday is the most popular day for Deaf customers, who in Deaf cultural tradition, tend to stay all day. After their morning cups, they migrate outside to continue their conversations. On weekday afternoons, like today, there is usually a Deaf group around the table, who can sip and chat for hours. But if some new hearing customers come in, as I observe on this day, the Deaf regulars, quickly make space for them to be comfortable.

Lo and his wife, who are Bravo’s only employees, serve just coffee, cocoa and tea drinks plus waffles (in original, green tea and chocolate flavors). Since there are no hearing employees and Lo and his wife are both Deaf, they provide a large placard where customers can point to their drinks of choice.

As Will and I leave, I wiggle both thumbs to sign a big “Thank you” in Taiwanese Sign Language to Johnny and Mandy.

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