The Importance of Meaning

Interpreting is essentially explaining, giving the meaning, and not just signing words. Interpreting is a learned skill. There are several levels of processing the interpretation:

Words (Lexical) – This is basically signing the words you hear. Sometimes a particular word is important. Example: If the word “justify” is the topic of a sermon, is used many times in that sermon, or appears in a visual presentation, it may be important to sign or spell that word more often.

Phrases (Phrasal) – Signing phrase by phrase is used especially when there is a particularly important phrase. The emphasis is on the phrase, such as in, “The just shall live by faith.” The phrase can be signed exactly as heard, and afterward interpreted for clarity, as needed.

Sentences (Sentential) – Signing sentence by sentence emphasizes small chunks of information. As a negative example here, some Deaf may say, “I understand what was signed, but what was the meaning?”

Message (Textual) – Reprocessing spoken words or signs to match the language expectations of the recipient. Sign language, “Me finish me, zoom,” may be spoken as “I’m out of here,” “I’ve had enough,” or something else, depending on context. English, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” could be signed, “Me awful sinner. Worthless. God give-me blessing. Awesome.”

Know the language and needs of the person to whom you are signing or voicing. Listen/watch for the meaning and sign for understanding. The message is often, but not always, more important than the words. Seeing understanding in the eyes of a Deaf person will change your interpretation forever! The interpreting miracle is knowing how and when to do the right thing!

The Silent Word

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