It is a common misconception that raising your voice will make a Deaf person able to hear you. Shouting does not make communication any clearer. Also assuming that a Deaf person can read your lips is wrong; reading lips is extremely difficult. Certain sounds look the same on your mouth, for example “B” and “P”. Deafness is a range. Some people may be able to hear environmental sounds (fire truck, ambulance, thunder), others may be able to hear speech, while others may have no hearing at all.
When many people think of sign language interpreters, they often have an image of hearing interpreters signing and voicing for their clients. But there is a slowly growing group of Deaf interpreters joining the field.
Deaf interpreters are an amazing addition to an interpreting team because they understand the Deaf culture and can expand and change the language to best fit their client. They can also communicate with a variety of types of Deaf clients. They can produce ASL ranging from pure ASL to more signed English, communicate with Deaf clients from different countries, in a highly emotional state, and others that strictly use home signs. They can match their communication style to provide successful communication to any Deaf client.
RID was developed in 1964 and it’s great to see how the interpreting profession has changed and grown!
This Saturday marks the anniversary of a huge event that took place in Deaf history. April 15, 1817 was the opening of the first permanent school for the Deaf in the United States of America and the beginning stages toward the creation of American Sign Language.
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet met Dr. Mason Cogswell and wanted to discover a better technique for educating Cogswell’s daughter, Alice. Gallaudet traveled to Europe and met a Deaf educator, Laurent Clerc at I’Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris, a school for the Deaf in Paris, and brought him back to the United States. Together they founded the American School for the Deaf.
They brought in Deaf students using Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, village sign languages, and incorporated them with French Sign Language. This joining of languages, lead to the creation of American Sign Language. Since this time American Sign Language has been accepted as an official language with its own linguistic components.
Interpreters may sometimes experience situations that bring them face to face with a difficult choice. It is important to not allow the futility illusion to guide you through your interpreting practice.
Futility Illusion: If I don’t take this job, someone else less qualified will.
Interpreters should only accept jobs that they feel prepared and qualified performing. Many times this involves attending workshops and trainings to gain specialized skill sets and knowledge needed for the job.
Interpreters working with Deaf students in the beginning years are also the student’s language model. They need to be aware of the importance of using proper ASL structure and syntax and modeling these features to their students. Only the most experienced interpreters should be taking jobs with younger students. Students in 8th-12th grade and post-secondary levels are already comfortable and knowledgeable of their language and can therefore have less seasoned interpreters working with them.