Voice? or No Voice?

Question: Should a hearing person using ASL also use his voice to communicate at the same time? Consider several things in making the decision. Sign language by its very nature is a visual language. It has its own grammar, including its own sentence structure and word meanings. ASL grammar uses facial expression, hand movement, and use of the space to accurately create meaning. Even ASL mouth movements are different than English words. For example, signing the word “success” often uses the mouth movement of “pah,” which makes it impossible to both sign and pronounce the word at the same time. (Try saying “success” and “pah” at the same time!)

Because of the many differences between SPOKEN English and SIGNED ASL, it is impossible to consistently create grammatically correct English and ASL at the same time. Simultaneous Communication (SimCom) is somewhat of a compromise of both languages. SimCom speakers must be aware of its weakness or they will miscommunicate in both.

Some hearing ASL signers wrongly think that their ASL improves when they do not use their voice. But, to be clear in ASL, the message must be planned, and practiced in ASL. Using ASL clearly (without voice) also demonstrates a respect for Deaf culture. It is very difficult for hearing people to ignore what they hear. But, when communicating in ASL, it is culturally appropriate to disregard audio signals, such as noises and voices. It is rude to abruptly switch from ASL to a spoken language. Instead, it is more polite to ask to be “excused” from one conversation before entering another. Hearing people may never become “deaf,” but they can use common sense and respect deaf culture when communicating with Deaf people in ASL. The answer is, “It depends.” Let common sense prevail.

Finger Tips For Interpreters

Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism

(Part 2 – Recent Workshop at SWM ASL Institute)

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35

Most people seem more comfortable giving feedback to others than receiving it. However, properly giving feedback can be very difficult. Here are some helpful suggestions….

How to GIVE Constructive Criticism

1. Only give feedback when it is appreciated and accepted.

2. Honor the other’s experience and seniority. Use respect when “helping” a more experienced person. Use caution when critiquing someone who is very inexperienced. Wrong or poorly-timed words can hurt rather than help.

3. Allow others time to relax before you offer any comments. Commenting immediately is usually bad timing.

4. Arrange the method and time of feedback in advance, when possible. Avoiding surprises helps avoid misunderstanding.

5. Preface your remarks with a polite comment such as, “Are you open to suggestions at this time?”

6. Limit the number and duration of your comments. Offer more compliments than critiques. Most people can only work on one or two areas needing improvement at a time.

7. Share only your most significant comments. Never be trivial or nit-picky. Never use your comments to make you feel better, but always genuinely seek to help others.

8. Allow others to stop your comments at any time. Always only share appropriate amounts of critique.

9. Always use common sense. Listen to your heart when it tells you to wait or hold feedback. You will be glad you did!

More next issue: Practical suggestions
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Finger Tips For Interpreters

Giving and Receiving Constructive Criticism

(Recent Workshop at SWM ASL Institute)

Accepting constructive criticism, or feedback, can be one of the most difficult lessons interpreters must learn. Here are several helpful ways to make this process less painful and traumatic.

How to RECEIVE Constructive Criticism

1. Learn to identify constructive criticism. Sometimes you may think a person is trying to hurt you, but he may be simply trying to help in the best way he knows how. Realize that when someone gives you feedback, he probably did not mean it as a personal “attack” or offense.

2. Develop an attitude of excellence to continually improve your skill. Never be satisfied with “good enough,” but willingly accept feedback, even when it is hard to do so.

3. Pro-actively seek feedback. Ask friends, interpreters, and Deaf people for their suggestions and help. But also realize that when you ask, they will give it. Do not be offended, but realize that their comments can help make you better.

4. Immediately apply what you learn. Think about the suggestions and comments. Ask yourself, “How can I change for the next time?” Seek opportunities to try the new way or new information. For example, when you learn a new sign, use it several times the next week.

5. Forgive those who are ignorant of the proper way to share feedback. Sometimes seemingly harsh words are not intended that way. The person may just be trying to help. A good rule of thumb is, “Do not take offense when none is intended!” v More next time: How to wisely GIVE constructive criticism

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Fingertips For Interpreters – Directional Signing

Directional Signing

Good advice: When you put something somewhere, remember where you put it!

Computer Advice: When you put something into memory, remember where you put it!

Interpreter/Signer Advice: When you place a person in the signing space, remember where you put him.

Spoken languages do not need to use space. They use time, inflection, and other methods to make their point. However, sign language, because it is visual, uses placement, references, indexing, and other elements of space to make communication more clear.

In the religious setting, it is helpful for all interpreters to place certain people or places in the same locations. For example, when pointing to God the first time, if the signer points up to the right, then points up and to the left the second time, this actually shows two different individuals, which can be confusing. Standardizing locations can help Deaf congregations more clearly understand. Follow these recommendations:

God / Jesus / Heaven – Sign up and to the right. It is best not to place them too high, but at a 45-degree angle up and 45 degrees to the right of center. Always point or look at the same certain spot on the wall or ceiling.

Devil / Sin / Hell – Sign down and to the left. Again, it is best to use a 45-degree angle down and to the left. Choose a spot on the floor at which to look or point.

Jesus on Cross – Sign slightly up and to the right.


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