Rules for Media Interviews

Thank you Timpfest and the Deseret News.

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/900030152/asl-interpreters-have-to-think-fast-on-their-feet-with-their-hands-at-utahs-timpanogos-storytelling-fest.html

Now…

years ago I was interviewed by The Today Show. A very wise attorney told me, “prepare your talking points before you start. Never rely on the interviewer to give them to you.”

Check.

“The Media never prints what you mean, only what you say.”

Yep!

“No matter how much you enjoy the story (article) someone somewhere will be offended by it.”

With those bits of wisdom in mind:

1. My wife is way ahead of you in pointing out that the article is kinda “The Uncle Dale Show!” It makes me laugh that they found the video of my Biggest Liar win and linked it (that is Chip interpreting);

2. They wanted to do an article about the interpreters, I suggested they interview a person who is Deaf for a cultural perspective (love Kristi!! She is fantastic!) and they still quoted me on Deaf culture (the quote is actually something I told the writer as an idea of the kinds of things to ask Kristi! Oh well);

3) That last paragraph? I was specifically discussing storytellers who use colloquial language (Read it again with that caveat in mind); and,

4) It’s a fun article, it won’t change the world but it may make it more fun.

In the end. I needed a little fun right now. Hope it makes you smile too.

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.

Rule 599

…[The British] have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.

George Bernard Shaw in The Canterville Ghost

Anyone who has studied the culture and languages of people who are Deaf from these two great nations will agree, truer words may never have been written!

(The quote by Shaw is more commonly stated:

Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language.

I have heard it attributed to many different people including Winston Churchill and pioneering reporter Mallory Browne. The quote by Shaw appears to be the earliest reference and at least two other persons to whom the quote has been attributed in turn attribute it back to Shaw.)

Thank You, and An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda

People keep coming to my door and telling me, “I don’t know what to say.” That is because there are no words. There is only love. It is only you that we needed. We needed you, and here you are.

I cannot express how completely my family and I have felt your love. Emails, texts, cards, calls, flowers, visits and food (so much food). Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So many people have shared with me their own stories of grief. I could never have anticipated how deeply comforting it is to hear these stories and to realize the teller is still breathing in and out, getting out of bed, going to work and the store each day. It will be possible to do the mundane and everyday tasks of life, I know that because others who have walked where I am walking are doing it. They told me their stories and so I know it’s possible.

I know I am just at the door of grieving and that it will sneak up on me in months and years ahead and take me out at the knees when I least expect it. But I also know I have a community around me ready to raise me up when I stumble.

Now.

I promise I will return this blog to the purpose for which it was intended, but you may have noticed I write when I am sad or angry or confused or happy or… you get it.

I wrote the following letter a couple of days after my son died and I have been asked to share it here. At the time I was sitting in the darkness and just felt compelled to write. After I sent it to Mr. Miranda’s Facebook page I wondered why I did it. Looking back I remember an episode of M*A*S*H where Dr. Sidney Freedman is writing letters to Sigmund Freud to help himself to understand his own feelings.

I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m a writer and a sometime actor. I don’t write to Dr. Freud. It appears I write to Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Dear Mr. Miranda,

I find myself writing to you in this strange public forum because it is the only place I can imagine right now to reach out to you. I could not find an address to send a letter or email.

I have no actual expectation that you will ever read these words, but, gratitude, like forgiveness, is much more for the giver than the receiver. Even if this never reaches you it is still vital for me to say it.

My 13-year-old daughter is a fan of your work, specifically Hamilton, to a point that can only be adequately described as “with the love and obsession possessed by a 13-year-old girl for a piece of art that speaks to her soul.” Thus I have had the opportunity to not only see your masterwork live when it toured through Salt Lake City, but before and after that inspiring performance to hear the soundtrack on an almost daily loop playing in my home and car.

I therefore became a fan as well.

I am compelled now to write you, to thank you for all your work, but specifically for the song It’s Quiet Uptown. That song has played, not in my home or car, but in my head since Tuesday of this week when my eldest son took his own life.

This was not an act which followed a long struggle with depression or crippling mental illness. It happened in a moment when all the ingredients for such a terrible event were present: anger, an argument and a gun. In a moment that he could not take back he let those three elements take him away from his wife, family, brothers, sister and his mother and I.

I was not there when it happened but that does not prevent me from screaming into the past and begging him to stop and breathe and think for just one more moment. That breath and thought will never happen and all I am left with when the screaming grief and tears of his mother and siblings and I fade, is quiet. Quiet in desperate search of peace.

Though it is quiet outside, in my mind I still beg to hold him. I beg to trade his life for mine. But I am left in the end with quiet-where I try to push away the unimaginable. Where I try to live with the unimaginable.

I am searching Mr. Miranda. Next to me is my wife, we are together walking through the unimaginable.

My gratitude to you is for giving me the words, your words, the ones you gave to Alexander Hamilton and to Eliza Hamilton, that you unknowingly gave to my wife and I as well. Those same words you gave to all who are pushing through the unimaginable.

Now I must find my quiet place, my uptown, where I can do the unimaginable and find that grace too powerful to name.

I know it’s there. Because you told a tale that is rooted in truth. Somewhere there is peace. Somewhere there is grace. But right now it seems unimaginable.

I know it is not impossible. I feel the grace of eternity fighting to find a place in my heart. The faith I learned in church from my childhood tells me there is a place of peace beyond this, though I can’t see it now.

The lyrics that, I can tell you, were whispered into your heart by a loving father in heaven, speak to so many people, too many people, who must find a quiet place to look into the void and learn to live with the unimaginable.

Thank you for listening to that still small voice Mr. Miranda. Thank you for following where that voice inside led you. Thank you for giving those words to all of us pushing through the unimaginable. I know it can’t just be me that needs them.

I felt such a great need to tell you that, to express my thanks knowing that you may never hear it. That you may not know I wrote this does not matter when it comes to gratitude. Gratitude must be expressed.

Our great love to you,

Dale H Boam and family

(Thank you for reading this. I’ll get back to the whole interpreting thing now.)

Rule 582

Dear Interpreter in the Audience,

It is obvious my processing time is longer than your comfort zone.

Thank you for yelling your support.

Shut up.

Love,

The Interpreter in the Chair (you know, the one holding the microphone).

Random Thoughts by Uncle Dale: Birthday Edition

It’s my birthday and I’m taking the day off. Please enjoy these photos of me playing Snoopy in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown (thank you Pepperfox photo).

Tickets on sale at http://centerpointtheatre.tix.com/m/Schedule.aspx?OrgNum=3197

Note from Uncle Dale: The Parable of Uncle Dale’s Shirt.

It’s finals week!

Now start the days when I get all the questions that students probably should have asked long before now!

For some reason this is also the time of year that I hear from former students. I hear about their successes and fears and big transitions.

This week I got a knock on my door and opened it to a bright and talented interpreter who was one of the first to complete my program start to finish, from ASL 1010 all the way through Applied Interpreting: Legal, and then on to graduation and certification.

Now she is mentoring a few of the newest potential interpreters as they prepare for certification.

She came to talk to me about one of these potentially great interpreters in particular (there is always one in particular) who is exhibiting a habit near and dear to the two of us. This potential interpreter will push on with an interpretation long after she realizes it is an error and try to avoid embarrassment by smoothly finding a way to get back on track or worse just persists in the error if no smooth fix presents itself, rather than admit to herself and her client that she made an error.

Now, this was not a frequent occurrence because she had good training and a strong base of skills. But it has happened more than one time while my former student has been mentoring, so it needed to be addressed.

The reason I said this issue was near and dear to the two of us is, back in the day, this particular former student was the MASTER at, “if it looks like it makes sense, even though I know it’s not accurate, that is just as good… right?” We had finally cured it and so she wanted some guidance on how to approach the issue.

She laughed that my curse on her had come to pass (someday you will work with a team or a student who does this, and when you are sitting in my seat you tell me if it’s ok).

We both laughed actually. Hard.

Then she said, “I know what I need, I need a ‘shirt,’ but I need my own ‘shirt’ not yours.”

I agreed. We set to work finding her ‘shirt.’

If you’re lost don’t worry, I’ll explain.

The Parable of Uncle Dale’s Shirt.

Aunt SuperTam and I met back in high school. From the day I met her I have been impressed with her ability to sew (her current job is as the supervising costume designer at a beautiful theater).

I say I was impressed, but not as impressed as a should have been. You see, my mother sews, expertly, and I have seen her do it and, to my shame, taken it for granted my entire life.

So in high-school when I asked AuntSuperTam to go with me to an event that night and she made a dress to wear that day, I was impressed, but only “ish.”

Until my freshman year of college.

At that time I was a theatre major. In in my first term I had to take a costume design class. On the first day of class the professor announced the final. Each of us would have to sew a shirt with a collar and a pocket. He gave us the pattern, and told us we could make some specific modifications if we desired but it would have to match the general specifications laid out in the syllabus. Oh and we could do it any time we wanted as long as we turned it in by three o’clock on the day the final was scheduled.

Of the 15 students in the class all nine of the women and two of the men had completed the final project by midterm.

The rest of us waited until the week of finals. Well. The day before it was due.

I was not worried. I had seen my mother and my girlfriend whip something like this out in a matter of hours.

To her credit AuntSuperTam sat with me the full 22 hours it took to complete the shirt.

She was mostly quiet, even when one of the other arrogant, procrastinating students threatened another with a seam ripper for changing the thread on a machine while he was in the bathroom.

She guided me, mostly with side-eye, through laying out the pattern and cutting out the components. But as the hours dragged on I started to get more and more frustrated.

Finally, she could stand it no more and she said, “Dale?”

WHAT?

“I need you to stop and look at your shirt.”

I AM LOOKING A MY SHIRT! I’VE BEEN LOOKING AT IT FOR HOURS!

“Ok, but stop right now and really look at it.”

So I did. I looked.

She continued, “what do you need that to look like when you finish?”

I grabbed the envelope which had held the pattern, it had a drawing of a smiling man wearing a short sleeved shirt with a collar and a pocket.

LIKE THIS! IT HAS TO LOOK LIKE THIS!

In a calm voice she asked, “if you keep doing what you are doing right now will it look like that?”

I blinked back tired tears and said, no.

“No,” she said while handing me a seam ripper, “if you know it won’t look like what need it to look like in the end, no matter how far into it you are, you have to stop, go back to the last place you know you were doing it right, and start again.”

****

It did not take very long for this bright young interpreter and I to find her “shirt” (we all have one).

We all have a moment where we realize that if we keep going the direction we are going we are not going to get to where we want to be. A moment where we realize that no matter how inconvenient, or embarrassing, or frustrating or exhausting-if we want our interpretation, or career or life to look like we need it to look-it’s time to stop. It’s time to unpick the seems or walk it back to that point where you were on track, and then start again.

Sometimes that can be as simple as taking a breath and fixing an interpretation. Sometimes it means going back and saying no to something you knew you should not have said yes to in the first place. Sometimes it means putting down the project or decision or job or life you have in front of you right now and doing something completely different. Maybe for a while. Maybe forever.

Whatever IT is, ask yourself, “if I keep doing what I am doing right now will it look like what I need it to look like when I get to the end. If the answer is no? Then stop and start again.

By the way, I got a B+. I blame the pocket. The pocket I blame on being left handed (AuntSuperTam let me wade through that small detail myself because it was not fatal to the whole). The fabric I blame on the fact it was 1989.

Oh! And from that day forward I have given the proper respect to AuntSuperTam’s mad skills! No “ish” about it.