As a sign language interpreter for Peninsula College I believe that creating an environment of awareness, with regard to Deaf culture, on the PC campus, increases the value of students’ college experience. With this in mind, I recently developed and taught two trainings here at PC: Deaf Culture and ASL, and Using Interpreting Services. Below are a few highlights from each.
The Deaf community does not view being deaf as a disability, but as a culture, much like being raised in France makes a person native in French culture and language. The Deaf community includes Deaf, hard of hearing, children of Deaf adults, (CODA) hearing family members, and Sign Language interpreters.
A capital ‘D’ refers to culturally Deaf, and a lower case ‘d’ refers to audio logically deaf.
A person, deaf or hearing, who has culturally Deaf parents, grows up naturally, culturally Deaf, just as being raised in France, makes you naturally culturally French. Also, Deaf people who grow up with hearing parents, but attend a school for the Deaf, are likely to grow up culturally Deaf.
Some people who are audio logically deaf are not culturally Deaf. Some examples are, not born deaf; born deaf, but grew up in a hearing culture; born deaf and grew up around other Deaf individuals but chose not to participate in Deaf culture.
Like all cultures, Deaf culture includes history, traditions, values, literature, poetry, storytelling, celebrations, clubs, and organizations. One example that is a part of Deaf culture is, when meeting someone for the first time, introductions can be lengthy because a lot of questions are asked. Honesty is valued during these exchanges.
Deaf culture can be what hearing people call ‘blunt’! For example, it would not be uncommon to hear, “I don’t like your new hair style,” or “You look like you have put on weight since the last time I saw you.” In addition, when chatting, even casually, it is common to provide detailed and somewhat personal information.
Saying goodbye can also be a lengthy process. “Goodbye” includes information about what each person’s plans are for the next day, why, everyone involved, and what value those plans produce. It can also include additional information, just remembered, about a topic previously discussed.
The Role of Interpreters
Interpret and translate have two different meanings. When spoken and/or signed languages are involved, she/he is interpreting. When one or more of the languages involved are in text form, she/he is translating.
Interpreters are there to interpret for everyone present, hearing and Deaf, to provide equal access for everyone. Interpreters interpret from ASL to English and from English to ASL, which is why they are called ASL/English Interpreters.
Interpreters are legally and ethically bound to abide by the following:
Interpret, period. Facilitate communication.
Interpret everything spoken and signed.
Are not the parent, not the sibling, not the friend.
Are not there to tutor, and not to teach. The students using interpreting services are not the interpreters’ students. They are the instructors’ students.
Are not there to give one on one instruction.
Are not there to participate in the conversation.
If someone says “Don’t interpret that”, the interpreter will interpret “Don’t interpret that”.
Interpreters may stand or sit. In a classroom they usually stand or sit near the instructor.
In all situations, the best placement of the interpreter is to be near the hearing person, so the person who is Deaf can see the interpreter and the hearing person at the same time.
“Was she born Deaf?”, “Does he know other signed languages?”, and other questions about the person who is Deaf need to be directed to that person, not the interpreter.
For more information about Deaf culture, American Sign Language, or interpreting services, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Jennifer Drew has worked as an interpreter in a variety of contexts at PC since September 2011, and has been a professional interpreter for almost 20 years. She has interpreted in various settings including medical facilities, law offices, educational institutions, workshops, business meetings, graduations, weddings and family reunions. She holds bachelor degrees in ASL/English Interpreting, and History, both from Western Oregon University.