Ruminations of a Sign Language Interpreter

via Daily Prompt: Rube

I was standing at the corner early one morning, waiting for the go ahead to

city-cars-vehicles-street.jpgcross the busy city street.  The corner was packed full of people. It was raining and foggy out. I stood there patiently waiting with my black pok-a-dot umbrella, sipping my luke warm coffee.

A few people sauntered up to the crowd and started debating something. I couldn’t decipher the words until the conversation got a little louder. I kept looking straight ahead as though I heard nothing, something I am accustomed to doing mostly when I work in the city.

As I waited, I starting paying attention to the variety of umbrellas and rain boots people were displaying as they shuffled off to work. I stopped hearing the conversations around me, lost in my observations & thoughts. I got jilted back when a woman lost her temper shouting, “You know, you’re nothing but a rube! You have no idea what you are talking about! So naive, I can’t even stand another minute talking to you. I’m walking to the next block. Don’t follow me!!”

“A rube, ” I thought, “what is that?”

The sign changed and we all quickly walked across the street with our poker faces in place. A couple of men passed me speaking Russian, a guy flew past on his rented City Bank bike, splattering street water on some executives.

I had no idea what a rube was but I knew I’d google it later and that it was clearly not something I’d ever call someone. Still, it’s interesting how just walking a mile and a half to work can broaden your vocabulary.

Later on in the day, back at the train station, I read the train schedule for the Hudson Line and walked to track 13. I found a seat and called my mother to see if she could bring my daughter to Girl Scouts that night. While we were on the phone, the conductor made an important announcement informing us that they had to “change some equipment” on our train and that we needed to board the train at track 33 instead. As I power walked to track 33 with everyone else,  I overheard a couple of people reading Metro North news on one of the TV screens in the station, “Now there was a fire on the train somewhere?” Strangely, it didn’t phase me. These trains are more than 30 years old.

It struck me that if I was deaf or hard-of-hearing, I wouldn’t have gotten that message from the conductor. I would have seen everyone on the train getting up and exiting quickly, wondering in this day and age, what in the world was going on. I would have followed the group from my train car, paying close attention to if they were mostly all going to the same place. That is, if I wasn’t sleeping. We (people who can hear) take information that we so easily receive for granted.  And most of us don’t stop to think about the people who are not getting that same pertinent information.  We don’t always do it on purpose. We just make this subconscious assumption that we’re all on the same page.

Then, I thought about that woman losing her temper and calling someone a rube. I thought about the vocabulary that I’ve acquired from reading and hearing other people in their conversations. We take incidental learning for granted. Countless hours are spent teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing kids things we all learn without trying because we just happen to hear it. It made me think about an elementary school student I work with every week and all of the vocabulary that comes up in lessons that she isn’t familiar with.  She remembers the things that she learns with her eyes and the way it feels to talk about things in American Sign Language and she’s just learning to read.  She’s not hearing any of these words, we are showing them to her on a page, then showing her how to sign the concept and use it in signed conversation.  It requires a lot more work for a deaf child to retain English vocabulary than it does for kids who can hear & hear it often.  Also, remembering how to use new vocabulary words in ASL is much different than being able to recognize the written word & remember it’s meaning.

Just some random musings of a Sign Language Interpreter at the end of her work day…

 

What Does Freedom Look Like?

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This morning, I was thinking about what freedom looks like to a believer and how we live out our freedom in Christ. I think we get stuck sometimes, thinking about the meaning of this from only one perspective. When we become believers, we learn that we are new creations in Christ, that our sins have been washed away and we have a clean slate with God. The chains have been broken and we are no longer tied to the “old man” that dictated how we live our everyday lives and we now experience freedom in the presence of the Lord, to follow Him and in essence, get a do-over. We have freedom to love and serve others sincerely as God guides us. We have freedom to be who God made us be without our past mistakes bogging us down. We have freedom to choose a godly lifestyle which really frees our spirit.

Then, I was thinking about the Mercy Me song, Happy Dance. Have you heard it? I just heard it for the first time a couple weeks ago. It’s such a great song! The message of the song is that sometimes as Christians, we get so caught up in doing the right things & perhaps coming across as always having it together, that we forget that freedom we also have to dance, to be goofballs & joke around, laugh and enjoy life like a kid! I love this song because it reminds me to not always take everything so seriously that I’m afraid to come across as anything less than perfect.  God is perfect. Human beings are not. While I strive to be more Christ-like, that doesn’t mean that I should never let my guard down or constantly look like a go-getter who’s never short on wisdom.

So, did you notice my wacky picture at the top of this post? This is me, mostly when I’m at home or working with my giggly deaf student at work. This is me being free to be funny, believing that I can be a true servant of the Lord AND let my quirks and sense of humor show.  I don’t want to live in fear that someone may notice my weaknesses or shortcomings.  God knows the real me and He knows who you really are. And He doesn’t grow weary of us. He loves us and is aware of how much we seriously need Him.

This is what freedom in Christ looks like!

Daily Prompt: Tardypants and the Pickle Guy

via Daily Prompt: Tardy

When my daughter and I walked through the doors of the gymnasium, the kids were warming up, practicing their serves and laughing. We were ten minutes early for volleyball clinic. Parents and their children kept trickling in after the designated start time of 6pm.  I was happy to be early. There were plenty of seats to choose from which was much better than arriving even ten minutes late and having to sit on the hard floor.  I don’t have much of a butt anymore with my diet change and training for a half marathon. It’s kind of strange for someone who’s never been lacking in that department.

As I was watching the girls do sprints and run around the gym, my eyes scanned the room. Where was my neighbor friend Gina? She bailed on me. When she shows up tardy for volleyball practice, I’ll have to ask her if she got caught up talking to The Pickle Guy at the grocery store. That guy was unusually passionate about selling pickles. Don’t get me wrong… We enjoy pickles with our chips and sandwiches but he liked them so much he talked abt them everyday, all day for a living. It kind of makes me wonder if he secretly despises them at this point.  Or if he’s sick of being referred to as “The Pickle Guy” like I am when people call me “The Signing Lady”.

 

 

Playing the Telephone Game with a Deaf Child

Have you ever watched a group of people play the Telephone Game during a professional development conference? It’s a great ice-breaker game and can be pretty comical as you watch the expressions on the people’s faces, knowing the message is getting muddled and people are perplexed by what they’re hearing. At the end, the last person announces the outlandish message they received and everyone is cracking up laughing.

Well, let’s put a spin on this game and add a Deaf person to the group of mostly people who can hear with only a couple of people who can sign. Imagine a group of children sitting on the carpet at an After School Program. There’s one student who is deaf and assigned a Sign Language Interpreter. The teacher starts out the game by whispering a message into the first kid’s ear. He smiles and leans over to his friend to pass it on. That kid giggles, cups her hand against the side of her mouth and whispers into the next kid’s ear and it goes on and on. The boy who’s deaf is watching the new game play out. Do you wonder what he’s thinking? Maybe he’s trying to figure out why these strange people are so amused? His interpreter keeps positioning himself near each “whisperer” and signing what he hears. The deaf student is watching him sign but sees how each of the kids play the game. Now, it’s his turn. The interpreter signs what the last kid spoke into the deaf boy’s ear. How does the boy respond? He leans over to the next kid, cups his hand like the other kids and pretends to tell her a secret the same way everyone else did. And what happens? The deaf boy starts laughing and the child who can hear laughs too but there’s clearly a different kind of communication breakdown. His Sign Language Interpreter smiles, shaking his head and tells him, “C’mon, silly. SIGN!” And, he does so that whatever transformed message was given to the kid before him, could be passed to the next through the interpreter who whispers the message like the other kids. It’s an interesting perspective, isn’t it?