1. It takes patience and creativity to sign with people who know little sign language.
I have a new respect for Deaf people who take the time to sign with ASL students. Having more respect for Deaf people and more creativity in how I express myself is making me a better Deaf community member.
2. I’ve been doing it wrong.
Well, maybe not wrong, but there are things I never knew, such as that Y is considered a down letter; that is, Y is made by tilting the palm downward. I’m sure this is not a hard and fast rule; in fact, I can see even on the Signing Naturally DVD the language models do not always sign Y that way. Still, I never knew it ever tilted down at all. Now I see it in the way I and other signers spell the lexicalized #style and #yes. I also never knew that the sign WHEN meant what day, not what time. Again, I’m sure this is not a hard and fast rule, but I never knew it was a rule at all. Those are just two examples of several. Learning how to refine my signing is making me a better interpreter.
3. Now I see what my students have learned.
Since many of the interpreting students and working interpreters I teach have learned ASL with the Signing Naturally curriculum, I have a better idea of what they were taught. Knowing what my students have learned is making me a better interpreter trainer.
These are the slideshows from the series of three Interpreting Vague Language (VL) workshops I taught in July. I’m sharing these for people who are interested in vague language and how I teach it.
I recommend taking these three parts together as a Friday night, all day Saturday workshop. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 623-252-5171 if you are interested in hosting. Thanks!
The customer is the person we need, not the person who needs us.
At first glance, this quotation seems paradoxical. In truth, we need each other. But good customer service means forgetting, for the moment, the truth that the customer needs us, and focusing instead on the truth that we need the customer. People sometimes feel embarrassed and powerless when they need something from someone. As an interpreter, I serve customers who need my help to communicate with each other. I find that when I focus on the truth that I need my customers, my attitude improves and so does my customer service. I believe that when customers feel proud and powerful instead of embarrassed and powerless, they are more able to communicate with each other and more inclined to ask for me again.
“What about slang words and acronyms, aren’t they vague language?” Someone asked me this recently, and I wanted to say no right away, but I had to think about why. After thinking on it, I say no, slang words and acronyms are not vague language because they do not have inherently vague meanings; if anything, they are very specific. Vague words have inherently vague meanings– vague language is language you know, but can never be sure of. Take the word noonish– we know it means sometime around noon; we just don’t know exactly when. We also don’t know how late someone might be when they say they’ll meet you at noonish: 12:05? 12:10? What about quarter past– is that noonish anymore, or just plain late? I don’t think a dictionary, slang or otherwise, will ever tie noonish down to the hands of a clock. When people talk with each other in front of you in a language you don’t understand, they’re being cryptic, not vague. Or maybe you’re just being paranoid.
This Thursday evening, July 18th, from 6–9pm UTC -7, I will be presenting the first workshop of my three-part series on interpreting vague language. This training is appropriate for interpreters of all languages, and is presented in English. The second and third parts, held on Friday, July 19th from 9am-noon and 1–4pm respectively (UTC -7) are also presented in English, and are of interest to anyone who interprets into or out of English and wants to learn about how vagueness is expressed in American Sign Language. All three of these workshops — beginning, intermediate, and advanced — present the findings of my review of vague language literature and the study of vague language I conducted on an American Sign Language corpus. These workshops take my thesis on vague language off the page and into an interactive, hands-on learning environment. You may take any or all of these workshops online via Adobe Connect and get CEUs from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. Contact Amerigo Berdeski by email, email@example.com, or call +1-623-570-3394 to register. For more details on each workshop, download these fliers in PDF:
- A Study in Vague Language: Beginning
- A Study in Vague Language: Intermediate
- A Study in Vague Language: Advanced