Note From Uncle Dale: ASL to Spoken “Hearing.”

The new school year begins and I get to teach one of my favorite courses this semester (I know I say that a lot, and every time I say it, it is true!), ASL to Spoken English or as I like to call it “Spoken Hearing.”

Yay!

This is the first in what is meant to be a two-part course of study. The second being “Visual Linguistic Analysis.”

Now, I say meant to be because ideally you should take ASL to Spoken English (Hearing) first and then Visual Linguistic Analysis. But you can take either as a stand alone class because each focuses on different skill sets.

Many of my students will tell you if you take them both, in the expected order, you can learn to interpret from ASL to Spoken English and make it pretty and work with the confidence that the Deaf community should, but rarely does, expect!

Think about it. How many members of the Deaf community expect an interpreter with whom they have never worked to have the skills to understand ASL let alone interpret it into English at a level they can trust; I mean trust at a level where they just feel free to say what they want without constantly checking on the interpreter?

That is my goal for students who graduate from the program I oversee; to be known for their strong ASL analysis skills. If a Client knows their interpreter came from my program I want them to immediately feel free to express themselves in a way that is natural, not in a way they hope the interpreter understands.

But, as the title of my future memoir says, I digress.

If you want to learn to work from ASL to Spoken English your first hurdle is to be comfortable speaking in your own first language, getting used to the sound of your own voice.

My students will tell you I rarely use the term spoken English in class. I say “Spoken Hearing,” as in, “say that in hearing.” Because the only place “proper English” exists is in texts books about English.

Step one: get over the sound of your own voice, in hearing.

Stand up and say concepts, ideas, and words that are not your own, out loud, in front of other people.

Think of the movie “inception.” Your brain will rebel against saying words or concepts out loud that do not originate from within your brain. Specifically when phrased in first person. It will totally fight you!

So, we start with poetry. Long form poetry. Yes, I mean we read long form poetry out loud.

I know. You are out there saying, “POETRY? Not a fan!” And that, it turns out, is the reason it works so well as a teaching tool. Your brain must deal with familiar words in an unfamiliar format.

Moreover, I believe this world can be divided into people who love poetry and people who don’t know who Robert Service is.

Here. Enjoy this (I’m not kidding, I’ll wait…)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46647/the-ballad-of-blasphemous-bill

Here is what I need you to do. Read it out loud and don’t be constrained by the rules you learned in school. Read it like you were telling a story. A story of someone who agreed to take on a job that they did not think through, and how they did the job… but not exactly in the way Bill hired them to do it.

Find the meaning. Find the story, not just the words that the story is built from. Most important? GET IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

Get it out of your mouth in front of another person. Get over the sound of your own voice!

Step Two: GET IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!

If you want to learn how to work from ASL to “Hearing” the step after poetry is to work with something dynamic. Something that vanishes (because the words on the page are always there any time you look). So we move on to cartoons.

Old ones.

Old black and white Betty Boop cartoons work fantastically well for this.

Have someone put their back to the screen, turn the sound off and, using full sentences, describe this:

Remember you cannot say things like “the dog walked over to the table…” because, which dog? What table?

If you give too little detail it makes no sense. Too much detail? You lose the thread of the story.

Say what you see. Even if what you see is impossible (how did you handle the fire truck going around a corner?).

Most important? GET IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

Step Three: we move on to silent movies. Dealing with implied and sometimes stated dialogue. How do you handle conversations? How do you keep participants separate?

“WAIT! WAIT UNCLE DALE!” I hear you saying, “what about ASL? We are three assignments in to this semester and you have not even touched on ASL!”

Nope. You still have a couple more steps before we get there.

These are the skills you need to master before we clutter up your head with the process of interpreting from one language to another.

Think about it this way. If you can’t clearly and with full sentences describe what happens when Pudgy the Dog runs into the burning building how would you possibly do it if we laid the mental process of interpreting on top of it?

Build the foundational skills first, get over the sound of your voice, GET IT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, in complete sentences, then move on.

Wax on/Wax off.

Paint the fence.

Sand the floor.

Note from Uncle Dale: Meeting A Hero

You know when you hear the story of an event over and over, or tell the story of that event as an example or to support your point over and over, but you have never actually met any of the players involved.

And then you meet one of them.

Meeting the person you have talked about for what feels like your whole life, having that person is right there in front of you, it’s a weird feeling.

If the reason you tell the story is highly significant to your work or culture or personal interests, but not to people in general, it’s hard to explain to the “uninitiated” why you are so excited to meet a person they may never have heard of. They just don’t get it.

It’s like trying to explain a meme to your grandma.

So, this happened yesterday:

If you do not know who this is, you should. It was a moment where two of my great passions, Deafness and the Law, came together.

This is Amy June Rowley.

I have said her name and told her story easily a thousand times in classrooms and court rooms for the past 20 years.

Now, like I said, if you don’t recognize the name, as an interpreter or a member of the Deaf community, you should. Take a minute and read this.

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/458/176/

I’m an advocate. I was born that way. My mother encouraged my journey down that road. This case has always made my blood boil.

I disagree with the decision. I disagree with the reasoning for it.

But, I have always loved the idea of Amy Rowley. She has always occupied the same place in my mind as Linda Brown (who recently passed away).

https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/347/483/case.html

I can’t think of one without the other. Proud and strong little girls standing up before a system that is ultimately unfair to proud and strong little girls who stand up to the system.

When I thought of Amy Rowley I saw this iconic image in my head:

But now I will see this:

I will see a brilliant and strong woman who, unlike Linda Brown who was vindicated by nine white men, was disappointed by nine hearing justices but did not allow that moment to define who she is.

That is the most important thing I learned from meeting Amy Rowley, Board of Educ. v. Rowley, is part of her history but is not who she is.

That is when Amy Rowley changed in my mind from a character in a story to a real live hero.

Amy June Rowley is a hero not because she and her parents stood up against impossible odds and lost. Amy June Rowley is a hero because the best revenge is a good life and she has done just that!

She is a proud and strong mother who is Deaf of proud and strong children who are Deaf. She is a hero because “Dr. Amy June Rowley is the Coordinator of the American Sign Language Program in Modern Languages and Literatures department. She completed her dissertation in 2014 in Second Language Education in Urban Education from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee which focused on American SignLanguage Advanced Studies Programs: Implementation Procedures and Identifying Empowering Practices. She holds a professional level certification inAmerican Sign Language Teachers Association (ASLTA). Her research interests are systemic and hierarchal structure of American Sign Language programs in postsecondary institutions; and relationships between students/interpreters and the Deaf community. She has published articles related to Audism, oppression and special education experiences. Prior to coming to Cal State- East Bay, she was the coordinator of the American Sign Language Program at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee for nine years” (from her bio).

Just as the Supreme Court had the chance to clean up its own mess in Plessy v. Ferguson with its decision in Brown v. Board of Education it took a positive step in redeeming itself for Board of ed. v. Rowley with is recent decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County.

http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/endrew-f-v-douglas-county-school-district/

It’s nowhere near enough, but it’s a start.

Anyway.

If you get a chance to attend a lecture or presentation by Dr. Rowley don’t miss it. Afterward please shake her hand and let her know she is the hero we all need. Not because she stood up to injustice and was knocked down, but because she got up and became the person she is without the permission of history.

That is what a hero does.

Rule 575

Today I replaced the fly-wheel and belt on my swamp cooler.

Where did you learn how to do that?

(Crap) Um, you know, you pick things up… where does anyone learn to do anything…?

Random Thoughts by Uncle Dale: Do Something Fun Just For You!

Like this post for example! Who you are is so much more than, “The Interpreter.”

http://centerpointtheatre.tix.com/m/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=3197

Rule 568

We’ve all been there.

“My interpretation would have been more accurate if I had signed what [the hearing presenter] actually said.”

Actual quote from a student’s self-evaluation, reprinted with permission.