Should Hearing Interpreters Adopt Deaf Kids?

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image from

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

image from

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?


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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! 🙂

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 via Google Images

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

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!

The Myth of 10,000 Hours and the Lure of ASL

Hey, fellow WordPressians!

So, I was watching a TED talk the other day, and as will happen with Internet browsing, one video led to another, the videos led to an article, and finally I hit upon something truly fascinating. I discovered that the whole “10,000 hours to become an expert” thing is a myth.

That’s right. A myth.

Welp, as you can imagine, that news was pretty startling to me. I had embarked on this major project to learn how to bellydance, following this idea that it’d only take me 10,000 hours of practicing on my own. Turns out, practicing 10,000 hours on your own may or may not accomplish anything. You could practice something for twenty years and never become much better than a novice at whatever it is you chose to study.

The main predictor of success is deliberate practice — persistent training to which you give your full concentration rather than just your time, often guided by a skilled expert, coach, or mentor. (Full article)

from via Google Images

Chart from via Google Images

In order to actually become an expert at something, you have to practice not only with concerted, single-minded effort but also with tons of feedback from someone who is actually a master at it. Otherwise, you may end up practicing mistakes for 10,000 hours!

My whole plan was to learn to bellydance using YouTube videos. As it happens, YouTube can only give you a limited amount of instruction. It can’t give you any feedback whatsoever. Self-assessing and self-correcting your mistakes just won’t cut it, it seems.

So my whole blog idea went up in flames. But that’s okay, really, because I found something that I can realistically find a good teacher for, and which I’ve loved ever since I took my first class on it…

American Sign Language!

from via Google Images

Image from via Google Images

You’ve read a couple articles where I mentioned my all-consuming passion for this language and talked about how I wanted to become an interpreter. Well, now that’s my new goal.

Given that ASL and Deaf culture are very visually-oriented, and ASL is not a written language, it seems an odd fit to have a blog about ASL and Deaf culture using written English. It’d be way more appropriate to have a vlog. Video is definitely the medium of choice.

from via Google Images

Image from via Google Images

But — having learned something about Deaf politics, I think it’d be pretty unwise of me to start a vlog before I’m fluent in ASL. When hearing people get popular on YouTube using ASL, and especially before they’ve learned to use it well…boy, can that blow up in their faces! (Google the song-signing controversy if you’re interested in learning more about this.)

Blogging about interpreting, however, seems pretty reasonable. That may be what this ends up turning into: a sign language interpreter’s blog. It could either get very academic (with book reviews), or very political (with controversial opinions), or be just an emotion-laden memoir of a lady trying hard to learn a new language and avoid pissing people off in the process.

Who really knows? I certainly don’t seem to be able to predict the long-term aims of my blog. But maybe, by staying true to this topic that fascinates me to my core, I can keep up a regular writing routine.

Belly Dance + Hip Hop = Belly Hop?

This Fusion Friday, we have a saucy sampling of belly dance / hip hop fusion!

Picks up after the 2:00 minute mark when they actually start incorporating hip hop moves. Great moment: when they start miming double dutch. *shakes head and laughs* They’re not flawlessly coordinated with each other 100% of the time, but their routine is undeniably entertaining.

What do you think of the costumes? I’m not thrilled with the raggedy, seaweed look of the things trailing from their hips. Their decision to have four green and two red costumes is a nice touch to keep them from being too homogenous. But then they have rainbow tops… It’s a little all over the place, am I right?

Good choice of music, though. It’s not too fast, and it has a lot of interest. Dynamic with a really solid beat.

Countdown to Belly Dance Mastery: 9,979 hours

Made it to 20 hours of practice! (Technically 21!) Woohoo!

When This Lil’ Wyvern Grows Up

Photo from

Photo from

Learning ASL (American Sign Language) is becoming my new life-changing, time-consuming passion. In terms of this blog, and my belly dancing practice — no worries! Nothing has changed. Regarding my feelings of self-worth and self-satisfaction, however…this is epic.

Image from

Image from

Now I’m not just watching episodes of Switched at Birth. I’m watching online ASL lessons by Dr. Bill Vicars every single day. I’m looking for Deaf meetups in my area. I’m searching for good sign language programs in local colleges. Someday, several years from now, I’m going to be an interpreter.

Right now I’m working on entering the field of public relations (PR). It’s a field where I can make good use of my passion for storytelling and writing. What I’m dreaming about is a career where I can combine both PR and ASL. Maybe I could promote Deaf cultural events with PR, and then interpret for the people who attend!


Anyway, here’s a funny video of an extremely awkward conversation. It’s acted out in sign language, and it’s set to the song “Jenny” by Flight of the Conchords.