Random Thoughts From Uncle Dale: Interpreterisms

https://youtu.be/13DvXLdr_H4

You know them. You’ve said them. Usually with the same vocal inflection employed by Bob the Tomato when he says, “like butter on a bald monkey.”

Interpreterisms are always best when it is just possible that they are accurate interpretations.

Some of the best I’ve heard:

“It takes a mighty big dog to weigh a ton.” (It was said with such conviction).

(Misunderstanding a local sign for ‘prefer’) “aaaaannnnnd then a squirrel jumped up and bit me on the head?”

“I couldn’t wear the ice cream home or my mother would know I’d been with a boy.”

“It’s a kind of, it’s a thing where, it’s, it’s, it’s a, I don’t know what it is.”

“And then I wondered if I… swallowed the… Er… ate the… soap?”

What are your favorites?

Rule 669

Eventually every interpreter will take one, for the Team. Today it was my turn. You’re welcome. Tomorrow it may be yours. Thank you in advance.

Rule 661

If your team is walking backwards while interpreting for a tour, it is your responsibility to make sure they don’t trip over anything, fall down any stairs or smash into any walls.

Note From Uncle Dale: Because You Have Been Given Much You Too Must Give.

The title of this Note actually comes from a song I learned in church as a child.

Now, if you are concerned that I’m going to get all religiony or preachy with you, don’t worry. The religious song is just the framework, the structure upon which I can hang my point. As for preachy?

Well, preachy is a matter of personal interpretation.

One persons preachy is another persons useful advice (I think it depends on how the “advice” pokes your heart and mind. If it assures you, that’s one thing, but if hurts a bit or makes you think of a habit you already knew you needed to change, that is what most people call preachy).

Before you give into the temptation to think the title of this Note means I will be telling you that you need to volunteer more, of course you do; but that’s not exactly my point.

The first verse of the song talks not about giving as in giving away, but about giving as defined as sharing:

My glowing fire, my loaf of bread, my roof’s safe shelter overhead that he too may be comforted…

Share.

Share what you have been given. And make no mistake, you have been given much.

Sometime, somewhere, someone pulled you aside and said, “I have something I can teach you that will make your journey smoother than mine, let me share it with you. It will not make everything easy for you, but if you let me share it with you it will make the path easier for you than it was for me.”

That mentor, hearing or Deaf, was given much and so they gave. Because they gave to you, you now have something to give.

It takes nothing away from you to help another interpreter get better at what they do. Knowledge, wisdom and skill are not finite resources. When you give of your time, energy and experience to lift another it improves the profession as a whole and opens doors for the Deaf community.

In the end sharing always makes you better at what you do. You never really have a skill, it is never locked down for you, until you teach it to another person.

Develop a true desire for the next generation of interpreters to be better, more skilled, more able than you ever hoped to be, ever dreamed of being, and you will achieve more than you can imagine in your own time.

You may think, “but I am just getting the hang of this myself…”.

You have something to offer even if you think you don’t.

I make a joke when I teach, “what is the difference between a teacher and a student?”

One chapter.

You have something to offer. Even if it seems like a little, it means a lot.

You have been given much and so you have something to share.

…I will give love to those in need, I’ll show that love by word and deed, thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

Give back to the community that has given you so much. Give back in large and small ways. Give back in word and deed.

“Now,” you think, “now he is talking about volunteering.” Well of course you should volunteer. But that is still not exactly what I mean.

Think about where your skills and abilities are needed most and then take them there.

I think reader (and now friend) Xenia Fretter said it best. “Sometimes,” she said, “we should choose to take the 2 hour appointment where our skills are needed over the all-day appointment, that pays better, but doesn’t require any specific skill or experience.”

Because we have been given much, we should consider where we are needed most, not just what pays the most.

We must seek for a Deaf-heart. If you know the term but don’t know exactly what it means then that is your next mission. Learn its meaning, and then live it each hour of each day.

…because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…

Each of us, at one time or another, has been sheltered and fed by the good care of another.

I will never forget, so many years ago, when I showed up at an appointment and realized very quickly that I was in over my head.

Then my team showed up.

I took a risk and shared my fears with this wonderful, kind, experienced interpreter. She looked at me and asked, “why do you think you’re not ready for this? If you think you don’t know enough ‘Signs,’ you do. It’s not a vocabulary test. If you think you don’t have the skills, you do. I’ve seen your work. I asked for you as my team. What you don’t have yet is the experience. You get that today. So, take a breath and do your best work. I’m not going to let you fall on your face. That would not be fair to the Client or to you.”

At that moment she literally took ahold of my chin and gently turned my face and looked me in the eyes. “You go and do your best work. Not good work or great work. Your best work. Work harder than you have ever worked. I will take care of the rest.”

I ran into this great interpreter a few months ago at a conference and asked her if she remembered that day. She laughed and said, “I gave that speech to you? You? I’ll take your word for it because I gave it a lot, but I don’t remember giving it to you” (then she laughed and said, “when you use this for your blog don’t mention my name, it will ruin my reputation as a mean ol’ lady.”

You’re secret is safe. Mean mean mean that’s what you are. Grin).

I have been sheltered and fed by the good care of so many others. In that way I have been given much so I too must give.

(Ok I totally have to digress here. A while ago I was in court as the attorney and in walked the interpreter; one of my former students. She stopped and this look of fear crossed her face. I greeted her and she was obviously nervous. I pulled her aside and asked if she was ok. She stammered our that she did not expect it to be me she was interpreting for. I gave her a version of the speech above tailored to her current situation.

I ended by reminding her that she was not interpreting for witness testimony, the Client was in the gallery watching me argue a motion on their case and I knew she had the skills to do this BECAUSE I TAUGHT HER TO DO IT!

She did a fantastic job.

When the hearing was over I talked with my Client for a minute and looked around but the interpreter was gone. I walked into the hallway found her sitting on a bench in a secluded corner near the restrooms, crying.

I sat down and put my arm around her and said, “you were fantastic! I’m so proud of your work.”

She looked up at me and said, “you were so mean! I’ve never heard you speak to people like that. It was so mean!”

Um. You can’t prepare them for everything I guess. Even at the time I didn’t remember the hearing being particularly contentious, but Lawyer Uncle Dale is apparently different from Professor Uncle Dale.)

Because I have been given much, I too must give. Thank you for reading this Note. That simple act, reading my thoughts, is helping me to give.

That is my last point.

Part of giving is receiving. People can’t get the benefit of giving if we are not willing to receive.

Let people serve you.

For many of us that is the most difficult thing I ask in this Note. Let others grow through their service to you.

Let your peers lift you up and support you along the way. If you do, you are really helping them as well.

We need each other. Now more than any time in my memory we need one another.

We need to serve and accept service. If the horrors of the recent months of my life taught me anything, they taught me that point over and over. Sometimes the best service we can give is to accept service from others.

We must give. We must give if for no other reason than to show thankfulness for all that we have been given.

And make no mistake. Each of us, every one, has been given much.

Note from Uncle Dale: A Gift For You-This Is Water

I’ve needed to write this Note for a while so it’s about time I did!

In several of my Notes, like Happiness for example, I quote an essay by one of my favorite authors, David Foster Wallace, called This Is Water.

Prior to being an essay Mr. Wallace gave This Is Water as a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005. Someone in the audience recorded it and it was traded around like a Grateful Dead bootleg until someone transcribed it and published it.

Now with the magic of YouTube you can find the original recording online.

I cannot begin to explain to you the power of Mr. Wallace’s brief comments on that day in 2005. For me to lack the words to explain is saying something, because words, words I give freely, to both the willing and the resistant. Both intentionally and obliviously I am well known for educating people against their will. But, if I tried to explain why you should take the time to get to know This Is Water any words I chose simply would not match the words already there.

So I will just say this:

It did not change my life, it changed how I chose to understand and interpret the experiences of my life.

Oh, and it made me a better interpreter.

Since I posted my Note called Happiness I have seen that several people reposted just the David Foster Wallace quote on social media. And well they should. That quote is worth sharing.

However…

That is just a few lines from a greater masterwork. There is so much more there!

All that being said, if I haven’t convinced you to read This Is Water, (if you take any number of my classes sooner or later I will make you. Because I’m the teacher and I can) then I will offer you first an appetizer and then the full meal.

The Appetizer: Someone made a short film of a heavily portion of the 2005 original recording at Kenyon College. It is heavily edited but still quite amazing.

https://youtu.be/XHefxlDUinE

I hope watching that entices you sit down to The Full Meal: The full 2005 Speech.

The full meal so very much worth the price of twenty minute of your life.

Both links are captioned fairly accurately.

Rule 644

When you feel so frustrated with the interpreter you’re mentoring that you just want to scream, instead, close your eyes, take a deep breath (in through your nose out your mouth) and remember these words:

“Oh. So this is what my mentor felt like.”

Rule 643

A professional expects payment. A volunteer expects gratitude.

Either may get both, but no one should ever expect both!