Video I made of ASL sign vocabulary re: coronavirus (COVID-19)

I made this video for my ASL students, as we are only together online now, and I decided to share it publicly in case others may benefit from it.

Because I began learning ASL at age 21 rather than at birth, I like to point my students to Deaf language models. Here are two videos of Deaf people signing about COVID-19:

There are many more videos out there! Please learn what you can to prevent the spread and talk about it in whichever language you choose.

Remembering a black substitute teacher who taught us about Black English Vernacular

I don’t remember the scholar’s name, but she was a black woman who substitute taught at our school (the Mabel E. O’Farrell School of Creative and Performing Arts in Southeast San Diego, which was a black neighborhood) one day in AP English in 1985. Although her last name escapes me, I remember when she introduced herself she said she was “Doctor [so-and-so]” because she had earned her doctorate studying what she called Black English Vernacular (BEV). Funny the things I remember from 35 years ago!

I recall how she explained that there was no voiced th (eth) sound in the African languages the slaves spoke, so that is why they said “dem” and “dey” and why black people still do to this day— or at least still did in 1985, when she gave us her marvelous lecture. She also explained that if a girl says “When my daddy come home, he be tired,” the girl is using the verb to be in its habitual aspect, which slaves learned from their white enslavers in the 15- and 1600s. She also explained how “I done been sick” means “I have been sick in the past but I am no longer” and “I been sick” means “I have been sick lately and I still am.” What she told us is that BEV is not English without rules; in fact, its grammar — influenced by that of the English, Dutch, and Scottish white settlers and slaveholders — has even more rules, including some tenses it might be nice if present-day English had. Funny thing is, all these decades later, the “[pronoun] be like [refer to picture]” meme is all over the Internet to be appreciated by — and proliferated by — not just black people but everyone.

I may have forgotten Doctor lady’s name, but I have never forgotten her pride in her studies and her culture, and her generosity and motivation in sharing them with us so that we could appreciate more about our own language and that of the people we live with. This is my last-minute, leap day Black History Month recognition of a scholar who taught me a lesson I have never forgotten.

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Tried literally cutting and pasting

Printed and cut sections of my long syllabus, taped together

I was having such a hard time ordering the sections of my syllabus on the computer because I just couldn’t see the whole picture. I decided to do something I’ve never done before— print the document, use scissors to cut the sheets of paper into sections according to headings, move the sections around as seemed logical, and tape them together. I then took these sheets of paper back to the computer and cut and pasted the screen text into the order of the printed text. Even ordering the sections physically was agonizing for this indecisive perfectionist, but at least seeing them in real life I was able to see them all at once and organize them. Cutting and pasting on the computer was even more busy work, but at least I had a reference to help keep everything in line. Would I do it again? Probably.

2019 Preview

Here are some of my resolutions and plans for 2019:

This evening I started teaching my beginning course of American Sign Language, ASL I or SLG101 as they call it at Paradise Valley Community College. After teaching at the Maricopa Community Colleges during the day for the past five-and-a-half years, I am finally teaching an evening class. It will be interesting to see how it goes. One benefit will be that it will not interfere with my interpreting schedule. One change I notice is that I do not have as many concurrently enrolled high school students as I get during the day; I have a few of them, though, and the rest are very young, with one or two exceptions. I am looking forward to teaching this course through May. I do not know whether I will be teaching an ASL II course this summer to immediately follow through with my ASL I students or I will be teaching both ASL I and ASL II next fall. Usually we teach ASL I in the fall and ASL II in the spring, but my division chair wanted me to teach an ASL I class in the spring, and it is just about full! Obviously students don’t care whether it’s the fall or the spring; they just want to start learning ASL. I look forward to another good year of teaching in 2019.

I plan to continue giving workshops in 2019, including all the workshops I have taught before plus a new workshop I have developed to introduce people to trilingual (English-Spanish-ASL) interpreting and the special demands of interpreting in Spanish-influenced settings. My goal is to educate those who are in charge of hiring interpreters for these settings as well as interpreters who already work in these settings or are interested in doing so. Having done a fair amount of bilingual interpreting with Spanish-English interpreting partners as well as trilingual interpreting on my own and with other trilingual partners — and having attended the trilingual interpreting track at a conference last year — I feel ready to share what I have learned with those who can serve our Deaf clients, their Spanish-speaking loved ones, and the English-speaking people they communicate with.

In terms of trilingual interpreting, I will retake the Test of Spanish Proficiency and, if I pass it (which I think I will), the Trilingual Interpreting Exam. I believe I might actually pass it after one or two tries this year. Wish me success! (I would say luck, but it’s really all about hard work.)

On the friendship front, I am so happy to say that I met a guy at the end of 2018 who I have gone out with several times over the last three weeks. It is new and exciting, and although a long-distance Spanish conversation partner of mine told me not to get my hopes up, I told him I am going to enjoy this moment. I know that not all relationships last, but I also know that all we have is the present. There are never any guarantees that our loved ones will be with us in the future; they could die at any moment or leave us for unforeseen reasons. For instance, I know our old dog will die in the not-too-distant future, and it grieves me to think about it, but I shut it out of my mind and enjoy every sweet moment with her while she is still with us. I will likewise enjoy every fine moment with a friend, come what may.

Travel will come later this year with a South American cruise. We booked today, and will be joined by our dear friends from Quebec. Aside from the cruise we met on, it will be our first cruise together; actually it will be the first cruise we’ve ever taken with friends. I am sure we will not always want to do the same things for two weeks on end, but I look forward to all the good times we will share.

As far as resolutions are concerned, I would have to say that something I resolved to do last year, say less and mean more, is a continuous goal. I will also continue to work on being a good friend and having a good friend (or a few good friends).

Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best possible 2019.