Clear, Direct, Blunt

Hearing people often notice that Deaf people tend to use clear, direct, and even blunt communication. Deaf people notice that hearing people often do not say what they mean, but tend to value wordiness and euphemisms. Examples of (H)earing vs (D)eaf word choices: The man is rotund (H) vs. The man is fat (D) – A plain woman (H) vs. An ugly woman (D) – The meeting went long (H) vs. The meeting was boring (D).

Why the difference? It seems that Deaf people value more clear, direct communication. Over the years there has been much miscommunication between the two cultures. When I, as a hearing person, have admitted to large groups of Deaf people that my Hearing culture tends to ramble and never say exactly what we mean, most Deaf people have strongly agreed. Hearing people should learn to be direct when speaking with Deaf people. Say what you mean!

Interpreters have the responsibility to help both groups understand each other. The definition of interpreting is to “give the meaning.” When the pastor says something very politely, the interpreter must choose an appropriate but direct way of signing the same concept. When a Deaf person signs something that might be offensive when spoken (when no offense is intended), the interpreter must choose polite words to voice the same idea to the hearing listeners. Instead of signing the hearing person’s words, “Joe went to meet his Maker,” sign, “Joe died.” Instead of voicing the Deaf person’s signs “Church boring,” the interpreter might voice, “I don’t care for church.”

An interpreter must “mediate language and culture.” Sign language interpreters use what is called dynamic equivalency. Words and signs are not as important as the intended message. In fact, signing the words or voicing the signs can actually change the intended meaning and cause MIS-communication. Blunt can be good. Think about it.

The Silent Word

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