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Category Archives: Deaf Culture Values

YOUR NAME WHAT? YOU FROM WHERE?-Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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This is the twentieth 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 was released in June by Gallaudet University Press.

Making connections is a critical aspect of Deaf culture. In this chapter, Naomi Sheneman states that if interpreters do not incorporate certain cultural conventions, like introducing themselves in a culturally appropriate manner before beginning their interpreting work, they send a message that they do not understand or respect Deaf culture. Consequently, Deaf people may have trouble trusting them. What is necessary is to specify their first name, last name, and the name of the agency that sent them. This is to make it easy for Deaf consumers to provide feedback.

Ignoring this custom perpetuates the conduit model and promotes a growing disconnect between the Deaf and interpreting communities.  If interpreters cannot begin by introducing themselves properly, Deaf people would worry whether they are capable of facilitating cross-cultural communication. Sheneman calls on interpreter educators to educate future interpreters on ways to build a stronger connection with the Deaf community, including making culturally appropriate introductions.

The Ingredients Necessary to Become a Favorite Interpreter — Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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This is the eighteenth 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 was released in June by Gallaudet University Press.

Marika Kovacs-Houlihan draws a parallel between identifying ingredients needed to prepare a delicious meal and essential characteristics for an interpreter to become a favorite of Deaf people.  She focuses on three critical ingredients: relationship, expertise, and humanity.

Expanding on these three ingredients, she adds that any good relationship requires active communication and dialogue, which takes time. Expertise she sees as a combination of life experience and academic training. Humanity is a matter of being honest and vulnerable. For example, the Deaf person needs to admit when they feel oppressed by the interpreter’s behavior. And the interpreter needs to acknowledge their hearing privilege.

She closes with a recommendation that ASL students need early exposure to the Deaf community in order to develop understanding and respect. She sees this best realized through service learning.

 

 

On Resolving Cultural Conflicts and the Meaning of Deaf-centered Interpreting — Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

DEOnIbookpageThis is the seventeenth 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 was released in June by Gallaudet University Press.

Wyatte Hall makes the case that cultural conflicts are the basis of many of the problems between Deaf people and interpreters. While interpreters feel that they are following professional standards, Deaf people feel insulted that their cultural norms are being violated. For example, each group has a different perspective on the concept of “neutrality.” To Deaf people, neutrality means that an interpreter should work in a way that elevates the position of Deaf people to a level where they could truly function as equals to hearing people. But to most interpreters, neutrality means to treat both their Deaf and hearing consumers the same.

To improve the interpreting experience for Deaf people, Hall proposes that interpreting models need to evolve to a more on Deaf-centered approach. This model would address: feedback, pacing and partnership among other topics. His basic message is that interpreters should work WITH Deaf people, not FOR them.

 

 

Harnessing Social Media as a Tool of Empowerment and Change — in Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpageThis is the eighth 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.

As Leala Holcomb discusses in the clip above, although information sharing has always been an important feature of Deaf Culture, it is no longer restricted to in-person discussions at Deaf clubs or schools. The emergence of social media has created an important source of support and information that can counteract widespread negative messages and encourage shared strategies for overcoming discriminatory barriers.

As the only doctoral student in a university setting, Holcomb gives the example of a common discriminatory practice, the dreaded two-week advance notice requirement that prevents Deaf students from participating in impromptu meetings arranged by their professors. This advance notice requirement is illegal as this two-week advance notice requirement for such meetings is not expected of any other students on campus. Leala also challenges interpreters to be more aware of unconscious oppressive behavior on their part and the policies imposed by the Disabled Student offices and urges them to learn directly from Deaf people’s experiences by following them on social media.

 

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.

Nyle DiMarco Embodies Deaf Cultural Values

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The Deaf community has gone wild about Nyle DiMarco. Not only because of his stunning dance routines on Dancing with the Stars or his winning the competition as America’s Next Top Model last February.   And not even because of his handsome looks or perfect physique. Rather, it is the ways in which he projects a positive and inspiring image of the Deaf community, demonstrating what Deaf people are capable of, regardless of their speaking or listening abilities.

12106741_1681736582063046_5381670987293833556_nVisit his website to learn more about Nyle, the collectivist nature of the Deaf community, the richness of a signing family, and some of his passions, including spreading the word about talented Deaf performers (#DeafTalent), the importance of Deaf owned companies and Nyle’s current priority: Deaf children and their families.

Strikingly, instead of just basking in his own success, Nyle has vowed to use his unique opportunities to bring attention to critical issues affecting Deaf people. In this way, he exemplifies the Deaf cultural value of giving back to the community. He is fully cognizant of the fact that most deaf children do not have the same privileges he had to become a bi-lingual individual with a healthy sense of self as a Deaf person. Because of this, he is capitalizing on his fame to support the work of the Deaf community, such as the Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (Lead-K), the National Association of the Deaf, and Gallaudet University, with the goal of helping parents of deaf children understand the value of raising a deaf child who is bi-lingual in ASL and English, as opposed to trying to restrict the child to an English-only environment at home and school.

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To further his goal of making the world a better place for all Deaf people and their families, Nyle has established The Nyle DiMarco Foundation, whose website states “Nyle and the Foundation are guided by the principle that every child deserves love and language ” and adds that “the key to unlocking a Deaf child’s future is acquiring language at an early age.”

The Foundation’s aims include improving “access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition–specifically, the bilingual education approach. Through the early intervention process, the child’s language and literacy development should be the focal point.”

Check out this website to learn more about his work. This is what Deaf Culture is all about. No wonder the Deaf community is wild about Nyle!

 

 

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!!