This is my reflection, in ASL, of my latest interpreting sample. I had interpreted a recorded video from a speech class called COM111 to a deaf friend of mine who was kind enough to let me interpret to him so I could make the practice more authentic. This work sample reflection was a homework assignment for my master of arts in interpreting studies program.
I feel I have improved in my facial expressions, yet I wrestle with mouthing– when to mouth English, when to mouth ASL mouth morphemes / non-manual markers, when to mouth glosses (like SUPPOSE for the sign that means if, imagine, suppose), etc. I also grapple with where to sign on the diglossic continuum between English and ASL. Signed languages tend to have what is called “contact language” because they are used by deaf people surrounded by and immersed in the majority spoken/written language. Because of this language contact, and because of deaf people’s various degrees of hearing and speaking, there is the tendency to mouth the words of the spoken language, spell words from the spoken language, and sign in the word order of the spoken language. Signed languages have their own grammar and mouthing; e.g., in ASL a small “oo” mouth may be used when describing something thin and a “th” interdental tongue thrust may be used for something slippery; however, depending on the nature of the narrative, one might simply mouth “thin” rather than mouthing “oo” in conjunction with a depiction of something thin. There are many other factors that determine whether to mouth English or ASL, such as setting, audience, topic, constructed action vs. constructed dialogue, etc. This is an area I am still working on.
It was interesting having someone watch my interpreting practice this time. Oddly enough, I noticed I made more false starts and lost my place more often while interpreting to my deaf friend than I have noticed when interpreting to a camera alone. I don’t know why that is; perhaps it is nerves. My friend noticed my nerves, too. I have interpreted for him before (we have one of those social/professional relationships that are common in the deaf community), and I think I make fewer mistakes when interpreting in an actual situation— I don’t know though. The truth is: interpreters make mistakes, no matter who they are or where they are working. Since I was focused more on skill development than conveying information, it was natural to make more mistakes than when the stakes are higher. It is very important for professional development to have safe places to work on skills and make mistakes, and this was one of those places.