Friday, July 19, 2013

Playing with the Interpreters

I always try to arrive early and make sure the pastor knows to expect me terping away down in his peripheral field of vision.1 And maybe2 even get any available outlines, key points, or possibly even full-text printouts I can get my hands on. It's especially important when there's a guest speaker who's may not be used to having an interpreter.

1 Of course, those weeks when I teach 2nd/3rd immediately before worship, occasionally running over, the timing is a little more "interesting", but that's beside the point.
2 Hopefully. Blessedly. OK, I never expect it. But I'm delighted when I get it.

ASL is a conceptual language and interpreting is not a word-for-word deal. But you have to work within "contact sign", which is to say, know your audience. The Deafies I interpret for in church now grew up oral deaf (lipreading and voicing), and in a church context. So they know both the English language and the language of the church.3 I don't have to explain concepts near as much as if I were working with new believers. But they think in English, so I use English word order far more than ASL grammar.

3 It does put me at a disadvantage when I interpret theater, however. The vocabulary I use the most is sermon vocabulary, not scat singing nor British poetry, to name a few.

But they understand metaphoric thinking and the visual nature of ASL. Like the song "His Eye is on the Sparrow". It's based on part of Matthew 6, part of Jesus' the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus encourages his followers not to worry.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
So when my then-co-terp did the song in rehearsal, it was concept for concept. She signed about God watching over and caring for and knowing and loving his people even more than he did the tiny birds.

But when it came right down to it, her audience wasn't who we expected. That morning we had one deafie who was very much a word-for-word gal. All English all the time. Contact sign, right? Know your audience. OK, how to turn this around, on the fly, signing live...

There were eyeballs all over. There were birds everywhere. There were eyeballs on birds. (Remember, "His eye is on the sparrow.") It was kind of like a bloody horror story, too gruesome to watch, but too captivating to look away. And I was there in the pew, ready to feed the terp in the hot seat if she needed it.4

4 Not really ready. I was ready with the concept for concept watching, keeping, caring, knowing, loving. No one could be ready for that melee.

But that individual, having grown up in the church, knew the song and probably had sung it when she was a kid, back when she had more hearing. And she understood eyes and birds and probably even sang along in her heart because the words on my co-terp's hands matched the words to the song that deaf woman remembered.

Here's another example from the world of wordplay. When the Bug Man and his wife speak, the story can be from anywhere in the entire world, but one thing that is guaranteed is a twist ending. Like the time they brought an intricately carved wooden stool that a particular people group used as a pillow. I signed CHAIR (Vanna5) BED P-I-L-L-O-W.

The Bug Man loved the stool-pillows and asked if they could get some more samples. The tribe knew that the Bug Man was a collector of many things and dutifully set about collecting "stool samples" from not the pillow end.

5 Flourish at the stage, meaning "lookit".

The pastor of the church I grew up with was big on memorable mneumonics. Sometimes rhyming, sometimes alliterative... Not so much in ASL.

If I had actually done any interpreting there, I would have better examples. But I can tell you from growing up there that the Abrahamic covenant is "Seed and Deed" and Ephesians is "Sit-Kneel-Walk-Stand". That concept would take to ASL better, although a given week in that sermon series was only on one posture of a disciple. BTW, if your hearing child isn't paying attention to the worship service, rest assured, their ears don't turn off, it goes in regardless. Not so with a deaf person. Think about it.

I suspect my current pastor receives a "word of the day" and tries to use it in that day's conversations. It makes for fun interpreting, especially when he says, "Anthropomorphic! Glad I don't have to spell it but..."

I stopped cold, turned around, and interrupted the sermon with voice and sign, "But I have to!"6


Honestly, if he hadn't said "spell", I would have explained "anthropomorphic" as "CHARACTER PERSON GOD APPLY"7

7 Applying the characteristics of a person to God.

Which of course falls into this heading:

source: Becki's Book Blog

It's always good for speakers/performers to interact with the friendly neighborhood interpreters, but it's really funny when you play with their heads.

Of course, in such situations, a professional will soldier on boldly... but the speaker offering a nice drink afterwards is often appropriate.

P.S. Today I learned how to make dividing lines in html! And lines come in different sizes, too. Also, I remembered how to make block quotes without having to look it up. I'm growing as a person.

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