Thanks to Joy Marks at the Desert Valleys Regional Cooperative for taking this photo and for providing the logistical support and classroom, and thanks to Joy and ACDHH for providing the promotional materials and CEU sponsorship. Thanks also to the 15 people who attended. We all had a good time and I do believed we all learned a lot- including me as I did my research in developing the workshop!
My workshop title was Speak & Spell: How to Pronounce & Spell Foreign Names & Words, and it involved a comparative survey of the phonologies (sound systems) and orthologies (spelling conventions) of a variety of the world’s languages. I mixed lecture with interactive exercises that encouraged participants to spell, pronounce, talk about and explore international names and words. Our focus in this workshop was the mastery of foreign spelling and pronunciation in our ASL-to-English and English-to-ASL interpreting.
I’m happy to say my workshop was a success! I’m now going to spend the next two months developing my next workshop, “Just What They Said: Retaining Ambiguity When Interpreting Vague Language” on Saturday, September 19 from noon to 5:30 PM (location TBA).
I’m teaching my next workshop at the Desert Valleys Regional Cooperative on Wednesday, July 15, from 5:30-8:30 PM. I designed this workshop to help ASL interpreters to recognize foreign names and words when they hear them so that they know how to fingerspell them, and to recognize foreign names and words when they see them fingerspelled so they know how to pronounce them. The workshop examines the phonologies of various languages and gives participants tools for further study so they can increase their knowledge of foreign spelling systems. For more info, download this flier / application form.
In my first column, back in June 1998, I wrote about how we as sign language interpreters for the Deaf are also “spoken language interpreters for the Hearing.” I emphasized the importance of brushing up on our English so that we could do justice to our clients—both Deaf and Hearing—when we voice-interpret. But is English really all we speak when we voice-interpret? Consider the following scenario:
You are interpreting for a Deaf man who is teaching a Deaf Culture class about the origins of ASL and how it differs from signed languages of foreign countries. How many foreign words and names, from how many different countries, are you going to need to pronounce? How many different speech-sound systems, or phonologies, do you need to have at least a passing familiarity with in order to successfully complete this assignment? How many phonemes will you be able to “pull out of your hat”? (Phonemes are the smallest units of meaningful sound in a language, for example, the sounds “f” and “th” [IPA
Θ] which make the difference between “deaf” and “death”—a distinction I’m sure many of us wish more people understood!)
In the above scenario, I guarantee you’ll be pronouncing such venerated French names as Abbé de l’Epée, Jean Massieu, and Laurent Clerc, and such mouthfuls as
La Langue des Signes Quebecquoise. You may even have to pronounce words like
chercher which sound nothing like they are spelled (the French verb to search,
chercher, is pronounced SHARE-SHAY, with the phoneme “r” pronounced as though you were gargling). Then, of course, there are the Spanish names like Ponce de Leon (which is pronounced more like PONE-SAY DAY LAY-OWN than PONTZ DUH LEE-ON, and which is much easier to pronounce than common names like Jorge Villapeña, which contain at least ten (10!) special phonemes that are unlike English). On top of that, you may have to pronounce phonemes from Japan, Italy, China, Africa, Russia, and the Czech Republic! Maybe, just for kicks, this teacher watches a lot of Seinfeld, and he’ll throw in some Yiddish along the way. And you thought all you’d have to speak was English? Oy, were you wrong!
No, my friends and colleagues, the wonderful truth is that Continue reading