If I ever start to complain about being too busy and having to run from appointment to appointment, I remind myself that the alternative is bored and broke.
If the night shift at the Emergency Room knows you by name you are either a hypochondriac, a drug addict or an interpreter.
See how quickly you can find the Main Idea of this Note. Not the Point of the Note, the Main Idea.
Here’s the thing, about this time each semester I start reviewing for finals with my classes. My worst fear each time is that I will ask a review question and be met with nothing but blank stares.
This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
Truth be told, I prefer the the blank stares to the alternative, namely, more than half of my students tumbling headlong into the abyss when they try to answer the question on the final.
I have a Rule (no pun intended) about such things. If one or two students fall flat on their faces when attempting to answer a question that is there own damn problem. Pay attention in class. Take better notes next time.
If, however, IF more than a handful of students stumble off into the brambles when attempting to answer a question on the final, I need to take a moment to review how I phrased the question; did I write it in a way that is somehow unclear or misleading?
And IF half or more of the students give an answer that is, lets describe it as “untethered” from the lesson or off the topic, well, that’s on me (though it can be fun, in my class on applied medical interpreting the students are to watch videos of doctors explaining, for example, how the heart develops or what the kidney does-which is freakishly interesting by the way- or how the lung inflates. I always ask a question on some fascinating point near the end of the video to make sure they have watched the whole thing.
At midterm I asked “how is a buffalo’s chest cavity different from a human?” The answer is human lungs are housed in two separate vacuum sealed cavities in the chest, but a Buffalo’s lungs are both are contained in the same undivided space-so if you shoot an arrow into its chest it dies. One of my students answered “the Buffalo had a larger heart than a human.”
Nothing we had ever discussed…
So I had to give her full credit for the answer, and change the question for next time. That wording was on me).
What was I saying? Oh yeah!
If more than half of the students miss a question then I was somehow less than effective in my presentation of that principle in class. I have to take the hit on that one, not my students. I toss the question.
What’s my point? Grin.
This week I got the blank stares on a concept I mentioned during the review for the final.
I remember teaching this principle. It was way back at the beginning of the semester. I remember teaching it well in fact. However, I must acknowledge that blank stares are like hips; traditionally truthful.
I asked my students to identify the Main Idea of a text, and they gave me The Point. They all gave me The Point.
The Main Idea and the Point are two very different things.
Never mistake The Main Idea for The Point.
As an interpreter The Main Idea is very useful and The Point is, well, the Point. You have to get there but it will not help your journey.
Don’t get me wrong, The Point is tremendously important to the story, it’s just not all that useful to the process of interpreting the story.
Why is The Main Idea so vital to the process? The Main Idea is the glue that holds the whole story together for an interpreter. It’s a path the interpreter can follow in order not to get lost in the ambiguity of signs with multiple possible interpretations.
The Main Idea can usually be determined very early in the process. Pay attention to key words or phrases that the presenter repeats.
The Main Idea can usually be stated in a genre or grouping, usually requiring only a word or two but becoming more defined as the interpretation progresses.
“It’s a school story, it’s a dorm school story, it’s a dorm school practical joke story…”
“It’s a sales pitch, it’s a software sales pitch, it’s a database indexing software sales pitch…”
The Main Idea becomes your first line of back-checking your interpretation. If you run into an idea that has two possible meanings, one that lives under The Main Idea and one that does not, you have a clear path to follow.
I hear some of you out there yelling, “Wait! What if the speaker wanders out from under The Main Idea? What if the speaker goes on some kind of tangent?”
Oh. If only the world were a perfect place, yet it is not. Sure that happens. But the chances that The Main Idea will steer you in the right direction are greater than the chances the speaker is off on a lark.
Finding The Main Idea helps in myriad ways both working from spoken English to ASL and ASL to spoken English.
It gives you guidance when trying to figure out what the Client is fingerspelling by limiting the possibilities to those that make sense under The Main Idea.
The Main Idea helps you figure out if that thing the speaker keeps saying is the word they mean or jargon with a completely different meaning.
What’s The Point?
The Point is the point.
The Point usually comes at the end. It’s the moral or the story.
The Point says, “and so you should buy this software program from my company…”
Sometimes. Only sometimes. The Point never shows up at all.
But this time is did.
Find The Main Idea and it will get you to The Point.
A mash-up of real conversations with directors, artistic directors, casting directors and stage managers of theaters and production companies both large and small:
Theatre/Production Company: We have an interesting issue and we’d like your advice.
Uncle Dale: Ok.
T/PC: We just had auditions for [Insert the name of a production, famous or new] and a girl who is hearing-impaired auditioned.
T/PC: Excuse me?
UD: Deaf, not hearing-impaired. You can say Deaf. You should say Deaf. It’s alright, she knows she’s Deaf.
T/PC: Riiight. But I’m trying to be, you know, culturally sensitive.
UD: Then say Deaf.
T/PC: That doesn’t feel comfortable to me.
UD: Do you say Negro?
UD: Then say Deaf.
T/PC: What? Really?
UD: Yes. Go on to the issue.
T/PC: Well this, um, Deaf? Heh. DEAF girl was, fantastic! Her audition was transformative!
UD: Ok. Waiting for the “issue.”
T/PC: We are not sure what to do.
UD: Cast her?
T/PC: But the character is not written as Deaf. We are not sure how to square casting her with the fact that the script and original story don’t say she is Deaf.
UD: Is there any thing that says she is not Deaf?
UD: Issue resolved. Glad I could help.
(Gave info on finding a good Deaf consultant)
Things interpreters may think but probably should not say (an on-going series):
This hospital is like the world’s worst hotel.
The patient’s job is to sleep and get better.
But the nurse’s job is to wake the patient up every hour!
When students tell me they are frustrated and thinking about giving up on interpreting I always say:
Frustration is the doorway to enlightenment.
Frustration is your brain’s way of telling you it’s bored with what it can do and wants to try something it can’t do yet!
We gotta decide on one format!
I’m not sure how many more video apps my phone can take!