Three lessons this interpreter is learning from teaching ASL

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.

I’m watching the Community Forum – Conversations Today Shaping Our Tomorrow

I’m not at RID 2013 in person, but I’m watching the Community Forum – Conversations Today Shaping Our Tomorrow live streaming at http://rid.org/content/index.cfm/AID/266. I’m live tweeting with others who are there and watching it streaming as well.

That was fun, participating online!

Deaf Heart, confidentiality, vagueness, and transparency

There is currently a discourse within the American Deaf community about the resignation of two Deaf members of the board of the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID). The members who resigned, Lewis Merkin and Naomi Sheneman, say that the confidentiality agreements they signed when they joined the board prevent them from discussing in detail what happened that they felt they had to resign. They say, vaguely, that they were reprimanded for something they did that was a trifling matter within the norms of Deaf culture, and that, in general, they do not feel the RID board has a Deaf Heart. The resigning members, and others who support embracing the values of Deaf Heart and Native View, demand more Deaf leadership in RID and more transparency from RID.

In an attempt to understand the term Deaf Heart, and to catch up on the conversation regarding Deaf members of the RID board, I sought, watched, and collected a playlist of videos about Deaf Heart on YouTube. I also Googled ‘Deaf Heart’ and read and listed two articles below (actually, I had read one of them when it came out last month, and I’m still not sure I understand). I’m sure this is not the complete discourse on Deaf Heart and the Deaf RID board member resignations; this is just all I was able to find. If you know of any other vlogs or blog posts I should add, please let me know. In the meanwhile, I hope these references help others who want to get the news and listen to the discourse.

Each of these videos touches upon the concepts of Deaf Heart and/or Native View, though none of them defines it. The first video in this playlists seeks clarification from the diverse membership of the Deaf community (including Deaf people, interpreters both hearing and deaf, people with Deaf family members, social service providers, and others) about Deaf Heart. Deanna Donaldson, the author of this first vlog, requests answers to four questions about Deaf Heart, and invites vloggers to make additional comments for up to two minutes. Her invitation goes out to Houston, Texas, but as it is on the World Wide Web it is a good prompt for vloggers everywhere, and I encourage people to post video responses. I would like to see what people have to say about this thing called Deaf Heart.

An observation that might make for another whole blog post is the vagueness in which these vloggers couch their discussion of these confidential issues. Anyone who thinks ASL is not a vague language, or there is no vagueness in ASL, will see that people can in fact use ASL to be vague. I invite those who know ASL — which, by the way, you have to do to be able to watch these videos (sorry) — to note the vague language and tell me what you see.

Related Articles

Certified Medical Interpreter: A title in your future?

Medical interpreting certification: An ASL/English interpreter’s perspective

Medical interpreting is a specialization, or at least it can be. Yet an ASL/English interpreter who interprets in medical settings is not required to hold a specialist certificate. RID doesn’t have one and never did. Recently, though, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI), an independent division of the International Medical Interpreters Association, created a certification called Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI). They already certify English/Spanish interpreters , and have tests for several more spoken languages in the works. Asked about certifying American Sign Language / English interpreters, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters FAQ says “The National Board is consulting with the RID to determine how to include ASL interpreters in this process.” According to their website, the NBCMI began developing the CMI certification way back in 1986. They first awarded certificates in late 2009. As of this writing, there are just under 500 CMI’s in the NBCMI registry.

Is it worth it to specialize in medical interpreting? To become a Certified Medical Interpreter?

I think it depends how much medical interpreting work you can get in your market. If you can get a full-time job interpreting in a hospital, then by all means it behooves you specialize. If you can get a fair amount of medical interpreting work, it is wise to specialize not to the point of excluding other kinds of interpreting work, but at least to focus some of your professional development on taking workshops and independent studies in medical interpreting. You could even seek a mentor who is a skilled medical interpreter. At some point, I believe that altruism is a motive to specializing and becoming certified so you can lead by example and raise the bar in the your interpreting community. Teaching workshops on medical interpreting is another great way to bring up interpreters who want to become better medical interpreters, and in researching and lesson planning, you will learn so much more (I know I always learn when I develop my workshops).

Should the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf partner with Certified Medical Interpreters?

I believe so. It wouldn’t be the first time RID gave “certified” status to members who scored admirably on a test developed by another organization. The Boys Town National Research Hospital developed the Educational Interpreters Performance Assessment (EIPA) for ASL/English interpreters in K-12 settings in 1991. In 2006, The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) began granting the “Ed:K-12” certification to interpreters who had scored 4.0 or higher on the EIPA, whose maximum score is 5.0. It took 15 years for RID to accept the EIPA, but it finally happened.

Granted, the EIPA is an “assessment,” not a “certificate.” Still, the fact that RID set a precedent for certifying interpreters who have scored favorably on other organizations tests tells me that they might be willing to grant something like an SC:Med (“Specialized Certificate: Medical”) to those who have a CMI. Then again, even if they don’t, ASL/English interpreters/transliterators could still claim the CMI an extra credential, and add it behind their name like “Daniel Greene, MA, NIC, CMI.” Why not? Even before RID recognized the EIPA, there were RID certified interpreters who took the EIPA with the commitment to specialize in K-12 educational interpreting, lead by example, and increase the level of competence in not just themselves but the interpreting field. Yes, there were interpreters who only had their EIPA score to tout, and there are still interpreters who only have the RID Ed:K-12, but the point is that they specialize, and employers recognize this.

Would a CMI for ASL/English interpreters lead to a break with RID?

I seriously doubt it for several reasons:

  1. There is not enough work for most ASL/English interpreters to make a full-time living solely as medical interpreters. They would have to supplement their income with non-medical interpreting jobs, and for non-medical work they would need a generalist certification.
  2. It would not be in RID’s best interest to exclude medical interpreters from the larger ASL/English interpreting field.
  3. RID has already demonstrated a move toward inclusion with the recognition of EIPA and partnerships with the National Alliance of Black Interpreters (NAOBI) and Mano a Mano.

Do you specialize? Would you certify?

I can only speak for my experiences in the San Diego and Phoenix markets. What about where you live? Do you get enough medical interpreting work to specialize to the exclusion of interpreting in other settings? And, even if you couldn’t work solely as a medical interpreter, would you test to become a Certified Medical Interpreter? I would; that’s my position. What’s yours?

WordPress themes not showing author bylines explained

The other day, I expressed my concern on the WordPress Support Forums that my author bylines were gone from my posts in this blog using the Twenty Twelve theme. Today I got a response from staff explaining that, because of feedback from the WordPress community, they started using CSS (the style markup that composes the themes) to hide the author byline on some, but not all, themes. This makes the byline invisible in the normal, theme/CSS-enabled view, but if you view the page without the theme/CSS you will see the bylines.

Screenshot courtesy of Josh, a WordPress Happiness Engineer
Screenshot courtesy of Josh, a WordPress Happiness Engineer

This means the search engines can read the bylines and verify authorship. I checked this with Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool and found the search engine did, in fact, read my byline and verify my authorship. This is good to know!

For anyone who knows HTML and CSS and is curious, here is the HTML:

<span class="by-author"> by <a title="View all posts by Daniel Greene" href="https://danielgreene.com/author/danielgreene/" rel="author">Daniel Greene</a></span>

And here is the CSS that does the trick:

.by-author&nbsp;{display:&nbsp;none;}

If you are interested in viewing the code on your own blog, there are various ways to view source code.