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Category Archives: Deaf Culture

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.

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.

 

 

ASL Head Movements: Critical Features in Interpretation — From Deaf Eyes on Interpreting

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DEOnIbookpageThis is the sixth 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, “ASL Head Movements: Critical Features in Interpretation,” was co- written by Keith Cagle, Sharon Lott, and Phyllis Wilcox.

Can a simple nod or shake of the head contribute to misunderstanding of interpreted messages? Yes! As Sharon Lott explains in the video clip above, head movements are an essential prosodic feature of ASL, but ASL curricula typically do not devote much attention to their study.  The authors contend that interpreters need to understand the different roles and functions of head movements in ASL in order to do their work effectively. Otherwise, Deaf people will continue to be confused by their interpreted messages.

 

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.

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.

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.