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Deaf Interpreters: New Focus on a Traditional Role

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.14.16 PM  Anna:

As long as there have been Deaf people on earth, they have helped each other by explaining or interpreting to     ensure that all members of the Deaf community have access to information. This often-overlooked facet of Deaf  culture is currently receiving much well deserved attention in a variety of settings. In a new book, Deaf Interpreters at Work: International Insights, published by Gallaudet University Press, four distinguished editors and 17 contributors document the historical roots and current practices of Deaf interpreters in Australia, Canada, England, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and the United States .

While the professionalization of hearing people earning their living as sign language interpreters has eclipsed the traditional role played by Deaf people within their own society, there is currently a momentum for Deaf interpreters (DIs) to reclaim this traditional cultural role and work alongside hearing interpreters in the hospital, courtroom or on the conference stage.

In the Introduction to Deaf Interpreters at Work, the co-authors acknowledge that while DIs and hearing interpreters both follow a formalized code of conduct, there are crucial differences between them, including “the fact that DIs are Deaf all of the time…[consequently] DI and hearing interpreters have dissimilar access to information; DI and hearing interpreters have a different relationship with Deaf culture in that the former have more confidence in their position in that culture than do the latter.” The authors also describe a division of strengths: “DIs have a better understanding of sign language nuances, hearing interpreters have a better understanding of spoken language nuances…” (Adam et al. 2014, 7).

Deaf and Hearing Interpreters Can Work Together Effectively

In my own work specializing in legal interpreting for the past 20 years, I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with many highly skilled and creative CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) in an array of challenging situations. I believe that this configuration can often achieve a deep accuracy not possible when hearing interpreters work alone.

For Deaf and hearing interpreters to work together successfully, however, they need training in a specific type of teamwork. Last week, I attended a three-day intensive conference in Denver which focused on Deaf and hearing interpreters working together effectively in the legal setting. The turnout at the ILI (Institute for Legal Interpreting) demonstrated a historical show of strength and a growing acknowledgement of the necessity for and power of Deaf interpreters. Of the 220 attendees, there were 54 CDIs from across the country. For more details see this post on Street Leverage.

Speaking of history, the attendees at ILI were treated to a fascinating presentation by Anne Leahy, a graduate student in Salt Lake City, who shared her historical research on Deaf interpreters being used in several court cases going back to the mid 1800’s. I look forward to Anne publishing these intriguing stories when her research is complete.

Recently, on the website Street Leverage, I issued a challenge to hearing interpreters to accept their pivotal position as “first responder.” When we are called to an interpreting assignment and must make the decision whether to halt the proceedings until a Deaf interpreter can be summoned, we truly hold the key to ensuring the most effective access to information for all parties involved. Here is a excerpt from my article:

Are Hearing Interpreters Responsible to Pave the Way for Deaf Interpreters?

Deaf interpreters are marching up the road to take their place as equal and valued professionals alongside their hearing counterparts. As more Deaf interpreters are trained, become certified and collaborate with hearing teammates, it will inevitably alter our way of working. We can welcome this evolving development and cherish the new opportunities it brings or dig in our heels and resist.

[Click to view post in ASL]

Two Street Leverage posts have addressed the gathering momentum of this movement. In Deaf Interpreters in the Blind Spot of the Sign Language Interpreting Profession, Jennifer Kaika documents the increasing numbers of Deaf interpreters and challenges us to support Deaf interpreters as “a long-standing and lasting part [of our profession], present since the inception of RID.” In Deaf Interpreters: The State of Inclusion, Nigel Howard, a Deaf interpreter himself, urges us to truly realize a team approach by “working together toward a shared and collaborative target language interpretation that is an equivalent to the source language.”

Recently, when revising my book, Reading Between the Signs, for a new edition, I added a section on Deaf interpreters. With the book’s focus on the cultural aspects of our work, it struck me that the resistance some hearing interpreters seem to feel to this “new” development in our field, might be rooted in cultural values (more about this later). First, let’s confirm the fact that Deaf interpreters belong to a tradition with deep roots.

LONG TRADITION

Eileen Forestal, a Deaf interpreter who has been at the forefront of research and training, contributed a chapter to the new book, Deaf Interpreters at Work: International Insights. While awarding official certificates to Deaf interpreters may be a relatively recent development, Forestal writes that, “as long as Deaf people have existed, they have been translating and interpreting within the Deaf community.” It goes back to the residential schools, where “Deaf children, both in and out of the classroom, would frequently explain, rephrase, or clarify for each other the signed communication used by hearing teachers.” Once out of school, this supportive activity did not cease. “Deaf persons would interpret for each other to ensure full understanding of information being communicated, whether in classrooms, meetings, appointments, or letters and other written documents” (Forestal, 2014, 30).

MY EXPERIENCE

Researching the history of Deaf interpreters allowed me to look back at my own career and see it through different eyes. After discovering the Deaf World via theater in the mid 1970’s when I was an actress in Los Angeles, I found CSUN where I took all four(!) classes offered at the time: ASL 1 and 2 and Interpreting 1 and 2.

Clearly, I was not prepared to work as a sign language interpreter, but with encouragement from my Deaf theater friends, I cautiously began community interpreting. In hindsight, I recall that at several Social Security or VR appointments, the Deaf person I was supposed to meet brought a “Deaf friend.” And if my interpretations were not clear enough, the friend would succinctly convey the point, assuming the role of unofficial “Deaf interpreter.”

In the mid-1980’s, I got a full time job at a large TDD distribution center in downtown Los Angeles to handle the crush of new customers thrilled to get the latest communication devices. When walk-in customers arrived, my co-worker, a Deaf woman named Sue Lee, would greet them and demonstrate their choice of equipment. My job was to interpret the registration process between Deaf customers and the hearing phone company reps on-site. As LA is a city of immigrants, it often happened that the Deaf person and I needed some extra help going over the rules of the program. I’d ask Sue to join us and she would come up with a way to best convey the information. Once again, everyone benefitted from the skills of a “Deaf interpreter,” although we didn’t label it as such at the time.

After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, I continued community interpreting, but returned to CSUN in 1991 for a 6-week course in legal interpreting. Our class of two-dozen seasoned interpreters included 3 Deaf interpreters and we enjoyed figuring out how to best work together in the legal scenarios we practiced.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve specialized in legal interpreting and often team with Deaf interpreters (now CDIs). Most of my peak moments interpreting have occurred while collaborating with a Deaf interpreter to achieve the shared goal of optimal understanding. To me, it feels like dancing with the perfect partner. Having the benefit of teaming together repeatedly, we can often anticipate each other’s needs and intentions and seamlessly move as one.

For a new chapter in my book, I interviewed five very skilled Deaf interpreters with whom I have had the privilege and pleasure of working in court: Linda Bove, Daniel Langholtz, Priscilla Moyers, Ryan Shephard and Christopher Tester.

WHAT WE FOUND…

“Article originally appeared on www.streetleverage.com. Reprinted with permission of Street Leverage.”

For more information on Deaf Interpreters check out the Deaf Interpreter Institute: http://www.diinstitute.org

FREE Resource for ASL, Deaf Culture and Interpreting Instructors

FREE Resource for ASL, Deaf Culture and Interpreting Instructors
RBS Workbook now available Free

RBS Workbook now available Free

Anna:
In conjunction with the October release of a new 3rd edition of my book Reading Between the Signs, the  publisher and I decided to make available as a FREE Ebook, the companion Workbook which was published several years ago.

The Workbook contains 22 exercises that help readers develop an intercultural perspective, undertake cultural self-examination and illuminate major contrasts between American Deaf and hearing cultures. Activities may be done either alone or in small groups. It complements all 3 editions of the book. Here is the link to download the whole book:

http://www.nicholasbrealey.com/Reading%20Between%20the%20Signs%20Workbook.pdf

Or you may get a FREE Kindle Version from Amazon 

Here is a sample exercise called: YOUR POLITE IS DIFFERENT FROM MY POLITE

Directions: Read the statements below and decide if they describe an attitude more often found in mainstream American (hearing) culture or in American Deaf culture. Put an H (for hearing) or a D (for Deaf ) in the spaces provided.

______ 1. Sharing personal information benefits us all.

______ 2. The “grapevine” shows people care about each other.

______ 3. Name-dropping is pretentious.

______ 4. Graphic descriptions of bodily functions and surgical procedures often make people uncomfortable.

______ 5. Describing your ties to well-known community members can demonstrate your trustworthiness.

______ 6. Stories regarding your own and others’ illnesses and medical treatments are important to share.

______ 7. Passing along the latest news about mutual friends is considered “talking behind their backs.”

______ 8. Softening a critical comment often makes it easier for the other person to accept.

______ 9. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

_____ 10. Some topics (such as money and bathroom habits) are off-limits in polite society.

_____ 11. You owe it to your friends to inform them if a new hairstyle is unbecoming.

_____ 12. If you have a criticism, tell it straight.

Draw lines between pairs of sentences above that express opposite messages.You should end up with six pairs.

Remember that these are generalizations of tendencies within each group.Individual members of either group may subscribe to the attitude expressed by a particular statement to a greater or lesser degree. (Suggested answers to this exercise appear in book on page 120.)


Please share this free resource with any ASL, Deaf Culture or Interpreting instructors that you know. Thanks!!

Paddy Ladd Unveils Outline of New Book

Anna:

Last week, I joined the warm crowd who welcomed Dr. Paddy Ladd at the California School for the Deaf in Fremont, California, where he treated us to a sneak preview of his new book that challenges the prevailing methods in Deaf Education, which have been invented and promoted by hearing people.

Dr. Paddy Ladd at CSD Fremont, October 8, 2013

Dr. Paddy Ladd at CSD Fremont, October 8, 2013

His presentation, co-sponsored by CSD and the Deafhood Foundation, A Final Frontier: Can Deafhood Pedagogies Revolutionize Deaf Education? was live-streamed by the Deafhood Foundation, which promises to make the video available at a later date, but Dr. Ladd’s Power Point slides can be found on their website now.

Ladd provocatively engaged the audience with, “We’ve been colonized!” and continued, “Books on Deaf education are written by hearing people, and our perspective is not incorporated in the curriculum. This has the consequence that Deaf children show poor results. Then the blame is placed on the parents, on the child, on sign language–everywhere other than where it belongs.”

“Why not trust those who have been successfully educating Deaf children for generations,” Dr. Ladd proposed, namely Deaf educators. This topic, which Dr. Ladd has been researching for many years, is the focus of his new book, a 300+ page volume he hopes to have finished next year, tentatively entitled,

SEEING THROUGH NEW EYES: Deaf Pedagogies and the Unrecognized Curriculum.

Dr. Ladd acknowledged the inspiration and support received from Dr. Hank Klopping, retired CSD Superintendent, and CSD teachers Laura Peterson and Dee Kennedy. He praised CSD’s Bilingual-Bicultural approach and its excellent teachers. He also recognized his co-researcher on the studies that form the basis for his new book, Dr. Donna West, a hearing teacher, who “helped him see things he otherwise would have missed.”

Now that his Department of Deaf Studies at the University of Bristol is closed despite a public campaign to save it, Ladd cited the upside of having more time to write and finish this book.

Against a background of “Cultural Holism,” Ladd outlined six overlapping Developmental Stages, from ages 0-5 “Developing the Cognitive Engine” to ages 7-18 “Teaching how to live in Deaf and Hearing worlds.” One cultural point I especially appreciated was his suggestion of contextualizing “Deaf bluntness” or “Straight Talk” as it shows Deaf children that you care and that they are loved.”

His book draws parallels with other indigenous peoples and minority communities such Maori, African-American and Native American and he gave special recognition to Dr. Marie Baptiste of Canada, her work with Indigenous Knowledge and her assertion that cognitive imperialism by “others” inflicts “soul wounds.”

The anticipation is high for Ladd’s new book after the huge impact his first book Understanding Deaf Culture:In Search of Deafhood has made around the world.

Deaf Way II panel, 2002, with L to R: Thomas Holcomb, Theresa Smith, Anna Mindess, Ben Bahan, Paddy Ladd.

Deaf Way II panel, with L to R: Thomas Holcomb, Theresa Smith, Anna Mindess, Ben Bahan, Paddy Ladd.

A personal note: I first met Paddy Ladd in 2000 in Amsterdam at the TISLR conference (Theoretical Issues in Sign Language Research) where we both presented. My book had just come out and he was still working on his. We connected against the backdrop of extremely theoretical papers because both of us hoped that our work would result in practical changes. Then in 2002, at Deaf Way II, Tom and I were honored to be invited by Paddy to join him in a panel he chaired called Researching Deaf Culture, Liberating Deaf Community (with Ben Bahan and Theresa Smith). Here is a very old picture of us all.

And I just found that Gallaudet recently made available online a video of the entire panel presentation at:

Part 1: http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=15318

Part 2: http://videocatalog.gallaudet.edu/?video=15319

Please be advised that Paddy signs in BSL (the rest of us in ASL). The video includes voice interpretation, but no captions.

My Enriching Encounters with Japanese Deaf People

ASL class for Deaf Japanese people, near Osaka, Japan

Anna visits ASL class for Deaf Japanese people, near Osaka, Japan

Anna:

I recently returned from a trip to Kyoto and Osaka Japan, where I had food adventures like this lesson from a sushi fanatic. Also with the help of connections, I got the chance to meet and chat with some deaf people in Japan. Since JSL is very different from ASL, it was lucky for me that many Japanese deaf people are motivated to study ASL because they enjoy traveling and socializing with foreigners. I got invited to visit a few classes in Kyoto and Osaka.

Natsuko and Maru co-teach an ASL classes at night (while teaching JSL by day). Coincidentally, they had met Tom six months ago when they visited Ohlone College to observe teaching methods. Their students were excited to have me visit and asked me to spend the first part of the class introducing myself and my work. They seemed especially interested when I told them that I work mostly in the courtroom doing legal interpreting. The situation in Japan is not what deaf people enjoy in the U.S. So there is not yet legal training offered to JSL interpreters. I stressed the importance of having interpreters with legal training and also told them that working with CDIs (Certified Deaf Interpreters) is often the most effective approach in court. I suggested that if they are in a position to set up interpreting protocols for court, that they begin by having deaf interpreters be part of the process, instead of trying to add them in later, as is the case here.

After that discussion, Natsuko told the class to break up into two teams to play a game. I thought I would just sit and observe, but it turned out that the object of this guessing game was to make ME guess the answers. Each team turned over pictures that Natsuko had prepared and had 2 minutes to huddle and decide on 3 ASL signs to convey the subject of the picture to me. (Of course they were not allowed to use a sign for the name of the object). The first round, the signs they gave me were JAPAN, FAMOUS and HIGH. Hmmm…it took me a minute. I couldn’t think of a Japanese counterpart to the iconic Eiffel Tower or Leaning Tower of Pisa. Finally, I had a thought. “Is it Mount Fuji?” I asked, doubtfully. The team exploded with cheers and high 5’s. Another round produced: JAPAN SPORT FAT. “Sumo wrestling!” I answered confidently. Again, high 5’s and cheers. I had a blast because I love games and I realized this one was also a test of my knowledge of Japanese Culture. After the game, with a close score of 4 to 5, we all went out to an izakaya to drink and eat!

Another evening, I met Danny Gong, an American CODA who now lives in Japan and teaches ASL with DEAF JAPAN . He also makes cute videos, like this one comparing the ASL and JSL signs for SUMMER. Culturally speaking, it makes total sense that the JSL sign looks like a waving fan. (Boy, was it hot there the last few weeks too!)

I also was invited to present a lecture at Kansai Gaidai University for a class called Deaf World Japan, taught by Professor Steven Federowicz who has a blog called Visual Anthropology of Japan. His students are mostly American foreign exchange students, but also a few from other countries. Another day, I came back to his class to see a deaf woman, Ms. Morimoto, present. She told the story of her life with the challenge of dealing with an oral education, trying to learn to speak and lip-read Japanese, the physical punishments students endured at school when they were caught signing and her delight in using JSL.

It seems that there are divisions in the Deaf communities in Japan, some pushing for Signed Japanese, while others advocating for JSL. To demonstrate the difference to these beginning learners of JSL, Ms. Morimoto did a clever demonstration. She first showed the generic sign for EAT in JSL, in which one hand “holds the bowl” and the other uses two fingers to represent the action of bringing chopsticks from the bowl to the mouth.

Okinomiyaki, sushi and takoyaki - mmm...

Okinomiyaki, sushi and takoyaki – mmm…

Then she held up drawings of other specific foods and asked students to show how they would eat a SANDWICH, OKINOMIYAKI (a large vegetable pancake that one slices one piece at a time), SUSHI or TAKOYAKI (a snack of grilled octopus made into a ball that is speared with a toothpick to eat.) Of course, in JSL, EATING each of these foods would require a different sign, as the action required does not resemble bringing rice to the mouth with chopsticks. But, said Ms. Morimoto, Signed Japanese would use the generic sign for EAT + the noun form of each of these foods. I thought this was a great example and also tied back into my fascination with Japanese food.

Announcing New Resources for Instructors – sample curriculum and PowerPoint

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Tom and Anna:

We want to make it easy for instructors to use our materials and have just added a new feature to Deaf Culture THAT: a RESOURCE page where we will be adding items to give you ideas and support in making the most of our books and  DVDs.

To start, Tom has contributed a Sample Curriculum for an entire semester of a Deaf Culture class, utilizing his textbook, Introduction to American Deaf Culture and our Workbook and DVD set, A SIGN OF RESPECT.  He outlines 15 weeks of reading and homework assignments for a complete Deaf Culture class.

Anna is offering a Power Point Presentation entitled, CULTURAL SENSITIVITY FOR ASL STUDENTS that she presented at a national ASLTA Conference. It suggests exercises from her READING BETWEEN THE SIGNS WORKBOOK  and our DVD, SEE WHAT I MEAN.

We plan to add more resources soon and would welcome your suggestions. If you have used any of our materials in a successful class experience, please let us know and we may feature your ideas.

Please check out our new RESOURCES FOR INSTRUCTORS page.

Mourning the loss, celebrating the spirit of Dr. Nathie Marbury

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Tom:

We have lost a giant in the Deaf community.  Dr. Nathie Marbury was much loved and well respected by her friends, colleagues and students.   She was an inspiration to many, especially those in the Black community, and in the fields of ASL teaching, Deaf theatre, and Deaf education .  She also was a pioneer in analyzing and documenting Deaf culture.  We will miss her dearly.
 
For a brief biographical sketch of her life, click on this website..
 
 
To view her performance of “To Dream The impossible Dream”, click on this website
 
 
To join her facebook page, click on this website.
 
 
To view one of her discussions on the differences between deaf and hearing cultures, click on this website..  
 

Deaf and Jewish: A Deaf Rabbi’s Eloquent Story

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Anna:

Fascinating article by Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, a Deaf man from a Deaf family who realized his dream of studying at a yeshiva and becoming a rabbi, despite facing many challenges along the way. (Note: the article is sprinkled with Yiddish words, but even if you don’t understand them, Rabbi Soudakoff’s eloquence and spirit are crystal clear).

Hear Me Out article