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 612

You learn a great deal about medical interpreting by being a patient.

The same must be true about interpreting for the police, but don’t.

Rule 611

When a Doctor’s Office tells a Deaf person, “you have to bring your own interpreter,” I just want to ask the name of the wheelchair user they required to build that wheelchair-ramp in front of their building.

Rule 610

Every VRI and VRS Interpreter eventually espouses Resistentialism.

(Look it up and you will agree. I’ll wait.)

Note from Aunt SuperTam: Real Talk with SuperTam

If you did not know it by now reading this blog, I married an incredible and profound person.

Many people have asked me to share the talk my wife gave at my son Harrison’s funeral.

PLEASE DON’T STOP READING! This is an uncomfortable topic, but we need to accept this discomfit because it is literally about life and death.

I am sharing only part of her longer remarks because it is vitally important. You can find the full transcript on my Facebook timeline.

I am happy that it touched so many people and hopefully opened up some much needed dialog on the topics of both mental illness and suicide.

Please remember that these are the words she spoke over my son’s coffin, in a room with about 600 people watching and listening. I say that not only as a kind of trigger warning, and as a way of letting you know the power and strength possible in the human spirit, but also to highlight the sacred nature of her words.

Please share this. Share her full remarks. Share them with people you love or people you just met, but share this message.

Excerpts of remarks given on July 28, 2018, at the funeral of Harrison T Boam by his mother Tammis R Boam.

“…Harrison asked me to say it like it is today. So, we are going to have what I’m calling Real Talk with SuperTam, (because that’s my nickname).

Harrison killed himself. Very few people want to say that. People don’t want to talk about it. People do want to talk about it but they don’t know how. It’s an unbearably painful topic. People keep telling Dale and myself that we are so brave to talk openly about what Harrison did. We never considered any other option. It didn’t feel brave to either one of us, just truthful. When a person dies of heart disease or cancer or pneumonia, we all grieve, but we don’t fear talking about why they died. Mental illness carries a heavy stigma in our society and I believe we share an obligation to have more productive and proactive conversations about a really scary and difficult topic. Mental illness is physical illness. It happens in the brain. Just like MS or Parkinson’s disease; it can be a chemical imbalance, a failure of synapses to connect properly, or an underdeveloped portion of the brain that limits its proper function. It is not different than any other illness. But it is sooo taboo. When the term ‘Mental Illness’ is mentioned, people think in extremes; severe debilitation, psychosis, the inability to work or leave the house, erratic behavior, frightening delusions – scary, scary words, yet mental illness usually doesn’t look like that. It’s depression – from mild to severe, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Anorexia, Post Partum Depression, Autism Spectrum – it can be an illness or a disorder or a dysfunction. Everyone in this room knows someone who deals with a mental illness every single day. It is often silent and very subversive, and people can feel isolated or hopeless.

Nearly every single person that I talked to, or Dale, or my parents or in-laws or our friends knows someone who has had suicide effect their family. The heartbreaking thing is that suicide is on the rise amongst our youth. Our children are dying and we are afraid to talk about it because it is uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable for me to stand here today and talk about it.

But I am willing to open the conversation. I am willing to answer questions. I will listen to fears and pains, and I will try to offer comfort. I know I’m not the only one willing to do this, but I think one of the problems we collectively suffer from is fear.

Dale and I always try to teach our kids that the devil dwells in darkness and the gospel spreads light. So they should base their decisions on whether or not they have to hide what they do in darkness or if they can do it openly in the light. This is a good foundation for teaching decision-making. However, people often hide in darkness. Not because they are dark themselves, but because they are afraid. We need to learn how to recognize people who are hiding. We must practice seeing what people in pain look like. We need to commit to ourselves that we will be the person. The one who offers succor, in whatever form that takes. We need to ask questions and develop relationships that allow people to open up and be unafraid… The Lord is asking us to be is hands and help his children. We need to seek the one, and we also need to be the one. Be the one who looks. Be the one who asks. Be the one who sees. We have the power to heal.

Our family has been terribly, irrevocably wounded and changed. We are in agony. But we are being ministered to, every second of every day. Because of that, we are already beginning to heal. We have a long road ahead and we accept that, because we do not walk that road alone. The Savior walks that road with us. And so do every single one of you every time you do something that is motivated by love. The road that we walk, the same road you walk, is the path of the gospel. It guides us towards our Father in Heaven…

He did kill himself, but he also died because he suffered from an illness. We do not need to be ashamed of that or hide that fact. Harrison made a choice I wish he had not. He took an action he can’t take back. I know he would if he could. I know he didn’t mean to do this. But we are the ones who are left with the results of his actions. What do we do with that? Do we live within the atonement of Christ? Do we refuse to let fear keep us from speaking when speaking is necessary? Do we reach out, see a person, offer love and provide acceptance? Do we hide in the darkness, or do we shine in the light? I know what Harrison would have us do, and I know what the Lord would have us do.

Harrison, I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”

Rule 603

Terms For Things All Interpreters Understand:

Reverse Tennis:

When you are working from ASL-to-Spoken English and the Client suddenly signs, “YES, EXACTLY YOU RIGHT POINT GOOD,” you have no idea what “point” a different Deaf person, who is behind you, made, and let’s face it “TRAIN-GONE,” but you still reflexively turn your head toward the second Deaf person and, whoops, “TRAIN-GONE” what the Client is saying NOW, so you quickly snap your eyes back to the Client only to realize, by the look on the Client’s face, that the Deaf person behind you is making another comment…

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.)