Fall 2021

2 devices is not the answer

1 October 2021

Hello and welcome again to my bilingual ASL-English vlogBlog. My last blog was about the problem with the phrases “sign language interpreter” and even “ASL interpreter.” Now I’d like to talk about another issue that was brought to my attention recently. And my feeling about this suggestion is absolutely not!

Before I get into that, I want to talk about something seemingly off-topic: the TV show Queer Eye. Maybe many of you watch, and like that show. I enjoy watching it, seeing them interact with different people in different cities. I’m brought to tears in just about every episode. As you do.

One mini-series was set in Japan to interact with people there. Something I noticed about this series is that it seemed like the Queer Eye team would speak English, and the Japanese people would speak Japanese, yet magically (and puzzlingly) they understood each other. But how is that possible? At some point later in the series they explain that an interpreter was there for these interactions -- behind the scenes -- and they’d interpret between English and Japanese, but in the editing process, the interpretation portion was deleted. The result is that on screen, it appears as if a fluid conversation is happening between people who do not share the same language.

Poster of the Queer Eye "we're in Japan!" mini season

That relates to today’s topic because what recently came up on my radar was a suggestion that, in this age of covid and Zoom, etc., we should adopt the 2 device model for interpreting. This means that if a deaf person joins a meeting with hearing people on Zoom, they’d use a 2nd device to connect with the interpreter. The interpreter listens through the deaf person’s computer and interprets into ASL. Then when the deaf person wants to add something, they do so, and the interpreter (off screen) interprets into English. The thought is that this will create a more smooth interpreting process in which it’s like the interpreter isn’t even there, not at all part of the interaction. There are some who feel this will help address issues like hearing people calling the deaf person by the interpreter’s name (which did happen to me twice this week).

But my feeling is this will create more problems than it will solve (and perhaps it's done more to placate hearing people who wish interpreters weren’t there rather than actually solve issues of access). Taking the interpreter out of the equation isn’t the solution. It does remind me of a quote that’s been going around lately from Alexander Den Heijer: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”

People need to get used to working with interpreters, and they need to understand the role of the interpreter and need to understand how the dynamics of an interpreted interaction are different in a meeting. Removing the interpreter, or creating the appearance that the interpreter has been eliminated, doesn’t solve anti-deaf discrimination, it just perpetuates issues of communication by making it seem more smooth than it really is.

Communication is always messy. We’re complex beings and the ideas and feelings we want to convey are complex. Adding an interpreter makes it more complex because the interpreter has to take in (messy) information in one language and put it out in another (remember how I stressed that interpretation is between two languages?). Again, removing the person from that interaction is not the answer. I hope as we move forward with our Zoom + some in-person events, I hope that we can remember that interpreters -- while perhaps a bandaid -- are a necessary bandaid for (more) equitable access to information, until the systematic issues can be addressed.

What's wrong with saying "sign language interpreter"?

30 September 2021

Hello and welcome to my bilingual ASL-English vlogBlog. Today I want to talk about something that’s been on my mind lately and came up in a recent Twitter thread. I want to talk about the use of the phrase “sign language interpreter” or “ASL interpreter.” These phrases may not be as “informed” as one might think. I’ll see if I can do justice to these explanations.

Let’s tackle “sign language interpreter” first; what could possibly be wrong with that? The first problem is it fails to specify which sign language is in question! Shouldn’t we specify which language we’re talking about? Give the language a name. Saying “sign language interpreter” perpetuates the misconception that there is only one sign language worldwide (a topic I covered in a recent Instagram post).

Ok, so, I said “name the language”; then what’s wrong with “ASL interpreter”? It makes it seem like all of their work is one-way, that they only interpret into ASL. But this isn’t always the case (as was the case with the Tweet noted above and why I commented on it on Twitter). While other countries and even have the UN may have different models, here in the US, most ASL-English interpreters are just that, ASL-English interpreters who work between both languages. When we say “ASL interpreters” we’re perpetuating the misconception that (signing) deaf people never present (and the OP of the Tweet admitted to this bias). Of course they do, and when they do, the interpreter is not interpreting into ASL, they’re interpreting into English.

We have to adjust our framing when we talk about interpreters. Interpreters work between two languages, and we need to name both. So, going forward, I hope we’ll all do our best to remember this, and specifically, I hope that interpreters will not call themselves “ASL interpreters.” My hope is that doing this will help people not only better understand the profession but also not erase the possibility of a (signing) deaf presenter. I hope this results in more language parity.

Setting Boundaries

3 September 2021

Happy Fall 2021 semester, to all my fellow faculty here, there, and everywhere. This is my first vlogBlog produced in my office! I started this endeavor during early covid, so obviously I did not film in my office. Anyway, this is my new office and I love it!

Now accepting masked visitors 😊

I want to share two techniques I’m trying out this semester to help me with boundaries. Since always, I’ve had email on my phone. Actually, when I first started working at Sac State, it took several days to set up email on my phone and I remember feeling really stressed about that.

But now, entering my 6th year as faculty, it’s time to reexamine my boundaries. So my first technique is making a point to not do email on my phone. Maybe down the line, I’ll even be brave enough to delete work email from my phone, but I’m not there just yet.

The second technique -- and maybe many of you are already doing this -- is blocking time off to grade. One thing that tends to happen, especially later in the semester, is I’m grading at all hours. I’m hoping that by blocking time off during the work day, I’ll be better able to close the computer at a reasonable time and stop work.

Is this a perfect system? Probably not. Will I struggle to stick to it? Probably. But I’m going to try because boundaries and self-care are important.