Seek the World: Kochi, India

Found this great Deaf travel vlog. Check it out!

Perfect for advanced receptive ASL practice! Doesn’t hurt that Calvin is really cute, too. 😉

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Should Hearing Interpreters Adopt Deaf Kids?

image from huffingtonpost.com

image from huffingtonpost.com

According to my friends with Deaf parents (CODAs), if hearing sign language interpreters adopt Deaf children, they tend to put those children on a pedestal. The interpreter parents think their Deaf children can do no wrong, because they are the epitome of everything the interpreters value and want in this life. Through the children, the interpreters can get a glimpse of what it’s really like to be Deaf, which is something that normally, they’d never get a chance to experience to that degree. Suddenly, the interpreter is incontestably a part of the Deaf world. Their child is their ticket to legitimacy.

image from momsxyz.com

image from momsxyz.com

Readers, what do you think? Is this always the case? Is this attitude wrong, or can it have positive outcomes? What are your experiences of hearing interpreters with Deaf children?

CLASSES!

Image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/125749014565863941/

ASL classes finally started this semester! I could not be more excited. 🙂

I’m taking:

  • ASL Essentials
  • ASL 3
  • Intro to Fingerspelling

ASL Essentials is pretty much a hodgepodge of grammatical lessons from ASL 1-4. I’ve only had one class so far, and it involved a lot of facial expression drills, so that’s a taste of what I’m learning. Basically, our teacher is taking simple concepts from ASL and expanding on them, giving us more nuance and really pinning down meanings. Also, we get to make complete fools of ourselves by making incredibly exaggerated facial expressions. Part of the learning process, I guess!

ASL 3 is about what you’d expect. Just the next level on the path to fluency. We’ve started by going over how to describe floor plans. Apparently, this section is going to take quite some time, actually. We’ve had two classes of it thus far, and we may have two or three more after that, plus a presentation. Seems like a heck of a lot on one subject. My boyfriend was like, “When do people ever talk about floor plans?” I thought, sure, he had a point. The funny thing is, we went out with some friends the other day, and what did we talk about? Floor plans.

Intro to Fingerspelling is also what you’d expect. Lots of drills of letter combinations. First “ab, ab, ab,” then “at, at, at” and all other possible two-letter vowel/consonant combinations, and then you move onto “cab, cab, cab,” “cat, cat, cat,” and so on. It’s not so tedious if you do it while watching TV. We also have physical exercises to do before and after we start fingerspelling. They’re pretty important — I don’t want to get any repetitive stress injuries.

Overall, I’m really loving my classes, even when I’m doing basic exercises. It’s a safe environment where I can sign awkwardly, correct myself, and be fine. It’s much less embarrassing to participate in class than when I’m around native Deaf signers. When I’m at my meetups, I try to participate, but sometimes I just lapse into silence. Or whatever the ASL phrase for that would be. “Sometimes my hands just fall to my sides…” I’ll always respond to the things people are signing about, but usually by using facial expressions or very simple sentences. I’m thinking next Monday, though, I’m going to make it a point to tell at least one story.

Also, take a look at the awesome turtle art I used as my featured image. That’s the ASL sign for turtle!

That Rough Patch Before Fluency

Have you ever learned a second language?

With my first one, Spanish, I was so insecure about my ability to communicate in it, I mostly stayed silent and tried to learn by listening. I only spoke when asked a direct question, and it was nerve-wracking to come up with a decent response.

Then, after four months living in Chile, forced to speak Spanish to live, I got fluent. That level of ability where you know you can actually get by. You’re not pausing for 10 seconds composing a sentence in your head before you speak. Things are actually leaving your brain. They might not be eloquent, but at least you’re not stuck. Talking is somewhat bearable. It flows like mayo. Gloopy, slow, sometimes in bursts or squirts, but it flows.

Then, three months in Spain with intensive grammar lessons, and I was actually fluent fluent. As in, I could have a conversation about anything, no matter how abstract. I wasn’t a poet, but I could do much more than just get by. I could write academic papers, and they were good — logical, cohesive, coherent.

Now, learning ASL as my third language, I’m in that intermediate stage again before true fluency. But this time, it’s very different. When Deaf people talk with each other, sure, I’m still only getting maybe 30% of what they’re saying. When they slow down for me, la pobrecita hearing lady, I understand between 50-80%, depending on the topic. But yet…that fear isn’t there. I’m willing to look like an idiot for the sake of learning.

Again, I’m not a poet. My vocab is sorely lacking, even with my ASL apps and video dictionaries. I have a ways to go before I can understand even 75% of most daily conversations. Watching vlogs by Deaf people is still like watching movies on mute. Body language, short phrases, the gist of the scene, okay, I can get those. But I’m missing so many details. And yet…I can make myself understood pretty well.

Letting go of the fear, signing freely, using my emotions (but not my voice!), finger spelling what I can’t define… It’s working. I have so far to go, still, but I can at least be engaged in conversations.

The Deaf people I’ve met have been so gracious. They take time out to explain to me what’s going on. They fingerspell slowly. They ask me questions about my life and truly take an interest.

I have an in-joke with my favorite Deaf friend, Tom. He always asks if my boyfriend cooks dinner for me, making sure he isn’t acting like a chauvinist. It’s hilarious, because of course my boyfriend is the best partner I’ve ever had. We share everything, especially chores. Made that priority #1 to work out when we moved in together. Get the responsibilities down, and then we can relax and enjoy each other’s company with the ease of lifelong soulmates. But I digress.

I have a great deal to learn still, but I think having that prior experience learning a second language…it helps a lot. I have that bilingual brain to give me a head start. It doesn’t matter that Spanish and ASL are so different. (In fact, it helps me avoid getting them confused.) What matters is that I know I can learn a new language. I’m ready to do whatever it takes.

Electronic Glove Detects Sign Language

Awesome! Wave of the future. Someday, I hope motion detection gets advanced enough that we can sign to our computers and surf the web in ASL! (Without the fancy gloves, if possible, or just with slim and sophisticated ones.) That’d be neat.

Maybe we could even have drawing / graphic design programs that understand sign. Gives “finger painting” a whole other dimension! 🙂

Hackaday

A team of Cornell students recently built a prototype electronic glove that can detect sign language and speak the characters out loud. The glove is designed to work with a variety of hand sizes, but currently only fits on the right hand.

The glove uses several different sensors to detect hand motion and position. Perhaps the most obvious are the flex sensors that cover each finger. These sensors can detect how each finger is bent by changing the resistance according to the degree of the bend. The glove also contains an MPU-6050 3-axis accelerometer and gyroscope. This sensor can detect the hand’s orientation as well as rotational movement.

While the more high-tech sensors are used to detect most characters, there are a few letters that are similar enough to trick the system. Specifically, they had trouble with the letters R, U, and V. To get around this, the students strategically placed copper tape in…

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Skype and the Deaf

Doesn’t surprise me in the least! Skype is a great service, for hearing and Deaf alike.

By BitcoDavid

Skype Skype (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Video Relay is a godsend for the Deaf community. It allows those who cannot speak or hear, to engage in phone conversations with those who can. And it does so with far greater ease and speed, than its predecessor, TTY. But Video Relay has its drawbacks as well. It’s slower than full duplex communication, because an interpreter must relay the data back and forth. It requires subscription to a service. That subscription may or may not be free to the Deaf user, but a service is required nonetheless. Lastly, Video Relay requires specialized equipment – a Videophone.

The Internet has offered a number of alternatives to Video Relay, but so far, few of them have been widely accepted. Most of these services and sites are designed around Hearing users, but can be modified or adapted for use by the Deaf. This…

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In Dire Need of Interpreters

It’s incredible how important good communication is in a hospital environment. Without it, you could sign away your health, or that of your loved ones, without even realizing it.

There are so many stories — too many stories — about deaf people getting screwed due to a lack of qualified interpreters.

How hard is it to offer an interpreter? - Image from aslservices.com via Google Images

Qualified interpreters do exist. Hire them, hospital staff. It’s the law! – Image from aslservices.com

I was just reading this book, Seeds of Disquiet, which briefly mentions some medical horror stories, featuring uninformed consent and misinformation as the most devastating problems:

  • A deaf man’s mother was very ill and in the hospital. He had to sign papers to authorize her surgery, but he had no idea what the papers said, because he had trouble reading them, and there was no interpreter available. He later found out that the documents also made him responsible for paying all of her medical expenses out of pocket! “I never forgot the anguish in his eyes when he told me about all the things his wife and children had to do without while he paid off his mother’s medical bills.” (p.160)
  • One woman was devastated to find that she had unwittingly signed papers authorizing a hysterectomy even though she desperately wanted more children.
  • Another woman was given a suppository, but because she didn’t understand the instructions the nurse gave her, she took it orally instead. Her health worsened dramatically.

Another book I read described a man whose deaf father had to be rushed off to the hospital alone. Because there was no interpreter available, and the hospital staff were so totally out of touch with deafness, his father had no way of communicating with them, either to make decisions about his medical treatment or to notify his family. He was moved from room to room, with little idea of what was happening to him and no way to contact his son.

Finally, his son figured out what had happened to him anyway and rushed to the hospital. He tried desperately to figure out what room his father was in, and to demand a professional interpreter, but the hospital staff refused to provide one. By the time he found his father, he had already died. He had no chance to say goodbye.

Stories like this break my heart and make me sick at the same time.

I’m starting to feel a major pull toward becoming a medical sign language interpreter. I don’t want anything like this to happen again, especially when it is so. easily. preventable!